Consumer Reports

What to Know About Credit Score Apps

A new Consumer Reports investigation might have you thinking twice before clicking to get your score

NBCUniversal, Inc.

A new Consumer Reports investigation might have you thinking twice before clicking to get your score.

Credit scores are used for everything from getting a mortgage to getting a job. So it only makes sense to know what your credit score is. But how do you get it?

Apps that promise instant access to your score are popular, but do they work? A new Consumer Reports investigation might have you thinking twice before clicking to get your score.

Credit score apps like Credit Karma, Experian Credit Report, and others promise instant access to credit scores, along with other features like score monitoring. Sounds great until you dig a little deeper. Consumer Reports revealed that five of these apps have significant drawbacks and few upsides.

The investigation showed that the apps can pose serious privacy risks, and what's worse, a survey of consumers who have used them revealed that in some cases the apps didn't even provide an accurate credit score.

Four of the five apps CR investigated often charged users for access to their credit reports, which consumers are legally entitled to free, while not providing access to the type of credit scores that most lenders use.

Several of the apps use VantageScore 3.0, which has limited value because many lenders don't use it.

A policy analyst at Consumer Reports said consumers should have a legal right to obtain a free, accurate credit score, and there's a bill in Congress that would require it, but so far it hasn't been scheduled for a vote.

Consumer Reports has a petition at action.consumerreports.org seeking to collect 40,000 signatures to send to Congress to ask it to work on this issue a little harder and a little faster.

Consumer Reports asked all five credit app companies about their consumer privacy, data collection, and data sharing practices. Each responded, saying that it takes consumer privacy very seriously and that consumer trust is paramount to their business.

Remember that there are ways to get your credit score without using a credit score app. Try checking to see if your bank or credit card offers you access. And you can also check your credit report weekly without charge through annualcreditreport.com.

Because your credit report has an impact on your credit score, be sure to review it regularly and dispute any errors in writing right away.

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