Question: My credit union advertises a free service that provides members with their FICO score each month. Will signing up for this service negatively affect my FICO score? Is there any other reason why I should hesitate to register for this service? Jason, Indiana, PA
Answer: It will not have a negative impact on your credit score. Indeed, my guess is that you're with the Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union which has negotiated a deal with Fair Isaac, the creator of FICO score, to offer its online checking customers free FICO scores monthly. "The Fair Isaac Scores on Statements program not only benefits our members by giving them a free view into their financial health, but it also helps PSECU by educating our members on the positive impact of responsible credit behaviors," said Gregory Smith, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union.
The free credit score is a service other financial institutions are offering their customers, too. It looks like a new line of business expansion for Fair Isaac, and I expect it will become more commonplace with time. With this kind of program the customer of the bank or credit union not only gets their FICO score but the factors that went into the score. Customers can then see where they may need to make improvements in their credit habits to boost their score.
I don't see any downside to participating in a program like this other than my general stance that people are paying too much attention to credit scores. Simply put, being conservative with your household finances will pay off in a more secure lifestyle and a better credit score with time. I don't really see any need to look at it monthly. Not everyone agrees with me, and their personal finance advice is tailored toward manipulating credit scores higher. I don't agree. The goal should be to break the tyranny of the credit score.