| By Greg Fisher
FICO credit scores were not, originally, meant for consumers. Today, Fair Isaac, the FICO creator, and one of the consumer reporting agencies provide the public with credit monitoring services that include, in effect, free credit scores. Consumers can sign-up for the services online and take a free trial. A credit card is required; it is charged after the free trial period. Cancel before the end of the trial, and your score is free.
Score Watch at myFICO.com provides your Equifax FICO credit score (twice), your credit report, and weekly score monitoring for one year. Alerts are sent via text message and email. If you cancel the service within 30 days, there is no charge. If you do not cancel, the fee is $89.95. An email reminder comes one week prior to the end of the 30-day trial.
Also included-- and perhaps, most importantly-- is access to the FICO Score Simulator. This tool provides direct, credible feedback on ways to improve the score, and comes with "best action" and "what if" functions. So, the good and the bad are explained. In other words: What to do and what not to do. What if I pay on time for 3, 6, 9 months, etc.? What if I reduce my proportion of balances to credit limits? What if I fail to pay on time? What if I open a $1,000 credit card? A car loan? A mortgage loan? The simulator approximates the score based on the action you take.
Two services from Equifax provide a FICO score with a free trial: Score Watch and Credit Watch. Score Watch has the same name as the myFICO service and is an Equifax trademark (Equifax and Fair Isaac have a long business relationship).
$99.95 per year with a 30-day free trial. The service provides the Equifax credit report and BEACON FICO credit score (the same score provided by myFICO Score Watch). The crucial Score Simulator is included. Monitors Equifax credit file daily and provides email and wireless notices of "key changes." Set a credit score goal, and get an email and text message when it is reached. You can even set a goal under the current score and get an alert as your score drops (perhaps, for high achievers ("alert me if it goes under 800"), or if you're just waiting for your foreclosure to show up. "Inactive Card Activity" alert reminding you to stay on the treadmill (no credit history, no score). Discount on credit scores after the initial two provided.
$14.95 per month with a 30-day free trial. One BEACON (Equifax) FICO score. Monitors Equifax, TransUnion and Experian REPORTS, but not scores. Alerts to key changes in credit file (not score). Score Simulator. Archives past reports for reference.
On 8/14/08, the page at http://www.equifax.com/free30daytrial/ offered a 30-day free trial with FICO score. The page links to https://www.econsumer.equifax.com/... which states, "You have selected: Equifax Credit Watch™ Gold with 3-in-1 Monitoring with FICO® Score, just $14.95 per month with 30 days free trial".