Q: My wife signed up for a free credit score last year but was auto-enrolled in a monthly membership that we had to jump through hoops to cancel. Would there be any way to get a totally free credit score without there being any credit card information required?
A: It’s amazing that these companies advertising free credit reports and scores are still going strong. Judging by all the TV commercials they run, it’s quite apparent that their “free” services must be making them a lot of money!
How the “free trials” really work
Like you said, they intentionally make the cancellation process tedious, because they know some people won’t bother to do it. Usually your window of opportunity to cancel before your credit card is charged is 7 days. After that, you will be automatically signed up for a monthly membership program that may run your anywhere from $10 to $20 a month.
Unfortunately when it comes to these free trials, you won’t be able to get your free credit score without credit card billing info being supplied during signup. Now you still can get a free score using those services, but you just need to make sure you cancel during the trial window.
3 important tips on how to get a free score without having your card charged:
1. Cancel the trial the same day you signup
I usually recommend you cancel the same day you signup, immediately after you see your score. That way, if they make an “accident” in processing your cancellation, you still have several days to straighten things out. Make sure you get an email confirmation from them which clearly states your account has been canceled.
2. Follow the cancellation instructions to a tee
Don’t be surprised if their cancellation instructions are a confusing multi-step process. Whatever the case may be, just make sure you read them slowly and carefully; both during the signup as well as when you cancel.
3. Contact your credit card company before the free trial is up
It probably won’t come down to this, because most free credit score providers wouldn’t try this because then they would have the FTC all over them. But if for some reason you do not get a cancellation confirmation email or run into some other obstacle during the cancellation process, then you should contact your credit card’s customer service before the trial period is up.
Explain to the fraud department the situation – i.e. “Two days ago I signed up for a 7 day free trial, but they are not confirming my formal cancellation request. I would like my credit card account notated in the event they try and charge my card after the 7 days is up.” That way if they do end up charging your card, at least you should have a stronger argument for disputing the charge, since you had the problem documented before the free credit score trial was even up.
An Alternate Option: Pay a Small One-Time Fee For Your FICO Score
When people say “credit score” they are usually talking about your FICO, which is by far the most widely used version. Although a free credit score without credit card enrollment isn’t possible, another option you have is to buy your score outright through MyFICO, which is actually owned by FICO/Fair Isaac Corp. They sell scores from Equifax and TransUnion for a one-time upfront fee through their “FICO Standard” program. After you buy it there’s no membership to cancel or anything like that, so you won’t have to worry about any of those games.
This post was selected for the Carnival of Personal Finance on PTMoney.com