Bill Would Allow Consumers To Get Free Credit Score When Receiving Free Credit Reports

Right now, U.S. consumers can check each of their three credit reports — from TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian — once a year for free through AnnualCreditReport.com, but getting your actual credit score will probably cost you. Legislation introduced today seeks to remedy this issue.

The Fair Access to Credit Scores Act of 2013 [PDF], introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee, looks to amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act to require that when any of the three major credit bureaus provide a customer with his or her free credit report, they also include “a current credit score generated using the scoring algorithm, formula, model, program or mechanism that is most frequently used to generate scores sold to creditors, subject to regulations of the Bureau, along with any information in the consumer’s file at the time of the request concerning credit scores or any other risk scores or predictors relating to the consumer.”

Senator Sanders’ office says that one of the motivations in creating this legislation is not just to provide consumers with accurate, necessary information about their creditworthiness, but also to fight back against any number of the “free score” schemes that provide consumers with FICO scores, but only if they sign up for subscription credit monitoring services that can cost several times the price of just paying a credit bureau for your score.

The bill also wants the bureaus to provide scores that are the same or similar to what is provided to lenders. The score consumers can buy from a credit bureau are generally referred to as “educational,” and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently found that 1-in-5 people have educational scores that are significantly different from the scores being sold to lenders.

“Knowing your credit score is essential to managing your finances,” says Pamela Banks, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union. “Your scores have a huge impact on your life, but you typically have to pay for them, and the scores you buy may not even be the ones your lenders use. This bill would help consumers get the credit scores they need, and it would take some of the mystery out of the credit reporting industry.”

If you want to tell your federal legislators to support this bill, Consumers Union has launched a template that makes the letter-writing process easy. Since January, more than 60,000 consumers have used it to let lawmakers know they want access to free and accurate credit score.