Is MyFICO just another gimmick for “free” credit scores? Or is it actually the best deal? Here’s my unbiased personal review.
Like you, I’m sick and tired of all these credit score/credit monitoring offers which promise to be free, when in reality they’re a bait ‘n switch. What follows is my firsthand MyFICO review. They don’t peddle imitation knockoffs like many other scoring websites do.
Update: Previously there were only 2 sources where you could buy authentic FICO scores: MyFico.com and Equifax. They charge $19.95 each time you check. That can be expensive if you want to keep regular tabs on your score. I used to recommend them, but now I suggest you get a credit card that provides you free access to your real FICO score on a regular basis as an included benefit. As of now, Discover, Barclaycard First National Bank of Omaha and the Wal-Mart credit card give you free access to your FICO score.
What follows is my review of MyFICO but as mentioned, certain cards will give you access to your score for free.
Part One: The enrollment process
When you sign up, you are actually signing up for a ScoreWatch trial, which is their monitoring service.
Underneath are the details about how the trial works. The font is conveniently small, but I guess it’s not the tiniest small print I’ve seen.
On page one you will be asked some basic info to create your account. That includes your Social Security number. The reason that’s necessary is to access your credit report.
On page two you will enter your credit card info.
On page three you will have to verify your identity with a few multiple choice questions. For example, they might ask which company your auto loan is through and how much it’s for.
Part Two: Using the service
I’ll go over the features, but keep in mind some of them probably won’t be very useful if your cancel the MyFICO free trial (because they involve tracking your score over time).
FICO Score Alerts: You can set a target FICO score and when you reach it, you can receive an alert via email and/or text message. For example, if you’re currently at 729 and want to be notified when you hit 740, then enter that as the target.
Interest Rate Alerts: Looks useful, but I wonder if they will use this to peddle you mortgage/loan offers…
“What It Means To You”: When you click on this tab, you are taken to a page that really puts your current credit score in perspective. For example, it shows what interest rates you can expect to pay:
Underneath it talks about your “risk rate” which MyFICO defines as:
“The percentage of borrowers who reach 90 days past due or worse (such as bankruptcy or account charge-off) on any credit account over a two-year period.”
Mine was 2%… woohoo.
FICO Score History: This is a chart that shows where your score is over time. Unfortunately the starting point is when you begin your free trial – scores before that aren’t shown. So this feature will be useless unless if you cancel your free trial.
Credit Alerts: This is another feature that probably won’t be very useful during the 10 day trial. With that said, if you maintain a long-term subscription then I think this could be the most valuable feature, since it can help you stay on top of credit reporting errors and identity theft.
- New Accounts: If a new line of credit is opened in your name.
- Account Balance Increases: Alerts about increases in the balances owed on any of your credit accounts. You can control whether you receive alerts for both small and large balance increases (more alerts) or just large balance increases (fewer alerts).
- Newly Active Accounts: This notifies you when an inactive account suddenly becomes active again (i.e. you start using an old credit card).
- Account Changes:This is for “important changes” made to any of your credit accounts. So what’s considered important by MyFICO? They list late payments (and then catching up after a late payment), an account going to debt collections, an account being charged off (and then if you pay it back), and changes to the description of an account. All these factors would be useful whether you’re rebuilding credit or just trying to achieve an even better score.
- Credit Inquiries: When you apply for a credit card, loan, mortgage, or any other form of credit, a credit check (inquiry) is made. When it’s a so-called “hard” credit inquiry (which results from circumstances in which you’re seeking credit), it is recorded on your credit report and may impact your score. Too many inquiries in a short period of time can be harmful. So keeping track of these is helpful.
- Collections: If a new collection shows up on your credit report, you will be notified. If you already have collections on your report, Score Watch will also alert you if there’s a change in the collection agency, amount owed, account number for the collection, and its status (unpaid or paid).
- Public Records: This category consists of things like bankruptcies, tax liens, and court judgments against you for unpaid debt.
- Name Changes: Alerts if a different name shows up on your report (i.e. you get married and your last name changes). Even though this doesn’t affect your FICO score, an incorrect name could lead to other wrong information being associated with your credit profile.
- Address & Phone Changes: If these change, you will be alerted. I could see this being useful in helping to avoid identity theft.
Part Three: The Drawbacks
1 Free Trial Every 24 Months: Signing up for a free trial with MyFICO every few months sounds like a good idea, right? Well that’s what I was thinking too, but unfortunately that won’t be possible. You can only participate in the free trial once every 24 months.
The Costs: MyFICO offers a few different packages and the one that comes with the trial, Score Watch, will cost you $14.95 per month afterwards. If you’re actively re-building your credit I can see scenarios where this would make sense, but for someone who already has a high score, it seems like a lot of money to shell out since you probably would be using it mostly for error and fraud monitoring.
Only Equifax Is Included: What’s included in the Score Watch price is Equifax and you only get to run 2 reports with them per year.
However it’s worth pointing out that even though all three credit bureaus would be ideal, the truth of the matter is that the information is overlapping. For example, if something is reported to one bureau, the other two will pick it up usually within a month or two. So in actuality, just having an Equifax score should be sufficient for most people.
3 Month Minimum If You Don’t Cancel: As mentioned in the rules (pictured at top) “After your free trial converts, a 3 month minimum subscription applies.” So if you intend to cancel and forget to, you will have to pay a minimum of $44.85.
Is MyFICO a scam for doing this? I don’t think so, because they are upfront about it. But just make sure you are aware of this!
Part Four: The Cancellation Process
Their website lists two options for how to cancel the MyFICO free trial.
- By phone: 1.800.319.4433, Mon-Fri 6am to 6pm, Sat 7am to 4pm (pacific)
- By email: Although they call it email, you actually send the message through the MyFICO website (so it’s not exactly email).
I decided to cancel MyFICO membership at around 3:30 PM on a Saturday. Since the email form said it would take up to two business days, I decided to call (didn’t want to risk getting charged if it really did take two days).
After calling and pressing #4, a woman answered promptly. Though I was quite turned off by the first question out of her mouth “What’s your Social Security Number?” She didn’t ask me name, email, account info, or other information but rather my SSN. Then after that, she started asking me other information like my name and address. I wish instead MyFICO would go by account number, email, or some other non-sensitive information when you call in.
I reluctantly gave her my info and she said my trial was cancelled. Surprisingly she didn’t ask why I was cancelling, nor did she try and sell me anything (which was refreshing). I received the cancellation email about 5 minutes later.
Part Five: The Verdict
Is it perfect? No. But overall, I think MyFICO beats most of the other “free” credit score offers out there and here’s why…
1. You get FICO, not FAKO
You have to be careful because most free credit score offers give you VantageScore. VantageScore was created as a competitor to FICO. While it can provide you with a good snap shot of your credit health, it isn’t as frequently used by lenders.
Conclusion? Whether you like MyFICO’s pricing or not, they’re the folks to go to for FICO.
2. Good features
Not all the features will be useful to everyone, but overall, the program packs a lot of punch when compared to what competitors are offering.
3. Other pricing plans available
If you agree $14.95/month is overkill, then you may want to consider some of MyFICO’s other packages instead (assuming you want to go beyond the trial). For example, the quarterly package is $49.95/year and includes a TransUnion FICO score and credit report once per quarter.
Update: As mentioned I still am a fan of MyFICO since they offer real scores, but now that several issuers include a monthly FICO score with their cards for no additional cost, you’re better off going this route in my opinion if it makes sense to get another card. I certainly don’t need another card but even I applied because this is too good of a benefit to miss out on.
Updated August 2015