Since credit scores are typically sold by credit reporting agencies separately from reports (which are free once a year), Wells Fargo's offer is great at face value.
But what are you really getting in return?
Instead of a traditional FICO score––the one that 90 percent of lenders use to gauge creditworthiness––the bank will generate a VantageScore for customers based on their Experian credit report.
"I like the idea of large reputable banks like Wells Fargo taking a part in giving consumers access to their credit scores," John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at SmartCredit.com, said. "I just wish the score that was being given away was the same score that they use when you apply for a loan with them. Still, it will help to educate consumers as to how their credit risk is seen by the lending community.
There's one big tweak to the VantageScore, however. While it typically ranges from 501 to 990, Wells Fargo asked them to adjust their model to more closely resemble the 300-850 range used by FICO.
Essentially, the bank is offering what people can already find online year-round––an estimate that, while not a true FICO score, is a nice way to monitor credit health throughout the year.
We can't stress enough that there is no way to get a free FICO score (don't believe any site that tells you otherwise). But there are a few alternatives.
"If you've got great credit reports you'll have great scores regardless of what model is used," Ulzheimer said. "Conversely, if you have poor credit then you'll have poor scores regardless of the model. Well-built scoring models, whether educational or those actually used by lenders, will be directionally similar because they're all based off the same credit reports."
Wells Fargo's offer ends Nov. 15. Visit a bank branch to receive access to your free score and report.
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