Free FICO scores on the way for Citi cardholders

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By Consumers Union on Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

Great news for those of you with Citi credit cards: starting in January, Citigroup will begin giving its credit card customers a free FICO score – the very same one Citi uses to set interest rates. This will give consumers free access to an important tool to better manage their credit. Keeping a good credit score is essential: a drop in your score can lead to you paying more for credit.

Getting your credit score also helps you look out for some types of identity theft. President Obama commended Citi in his Friday remarks at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), noting that “a sudden drop in your credit rating is one of the clearest signs that you’ve been hit by fraud.” For more information, check out Consumers Union’s advice on the steps you should take if you’re worried that your financial information has been compromised.

With the participation of Citi and others, 60 million credit card holders will have access to their free FICO scores in the coming months. Companies including Discover, Barclaycard, First National Bank of Omaha, and SLM or Sallie Mae already give at least some of their customers free FICO scores through the program. The CFPB has pushed for others to participate as well: in February, director Richard Cordray wrote letters to a number of banks, requesting they give customers of all credit products their scores for free.

It’s not always a snap to get a reliable credit score. There are hundreds of credit scores available to lenders, and a number of different scores are available for purchase by consumers. As we described in our recent policy brief, many consumers diligently obtain their credit scores, but find that their lender used a different score – which can compromise their ability to get credit. Consumers usually have to purchase FICO scores, which are currently the ones most frequently used by lenders.

But while we celebrate Citi’s decision, there’s still more work to be done. The program so far only covers a limited number of consumers – and we think all consumers deserve a free, accurate credit score! We’re in favor of the Stop Errors in Credit Use and Reporting (SECURE) Act, introduced last April, which would not only give consumers yearly access to a free reliable credit score, but would also require credit bureaus to do a better job of keeping credit reports accurate.

Have you ever gotten a credit score, only to find that your lender used a different one? If so, please share your story!

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