Your credit score is one of the most important numbers in your financial life, and Americans spend millions of dollars a year to find out theirs. But Consumer Reports says the score you get is not necessarily the one lenders use. That can be a nasty surprise when you apply for credit.
Consumer Reports took a close look at FICO, the company that invented credit scoring. FICO alone has dozens of scoring methods. And there are hundreds of others. They can all grade the same credit profile quite differently. So Consumer Reports doesn't think it's worth it to buy your credit score.
There's federal legislation pending which would require lenders to annually disclose for free the actual the credit scores they use in assessing loans. But it's not yet law.
Meanwhile, if you paid for a credit score that ended up being significantly different from a lender's you approached, Consumer Reports suggests demanding a refund, as you would with any defective product.
It is important, however, to check your full credit report regularly for possible inaccuracies. You can get your report free every year from each of the three major credit bureaus, Experian, Transunion, and Equifax, by going to annualcreditreport.com.
When you are applying for a loan, you should always ask to see the actual credit score that the lender is using, and if you think that it is too low, you should ask them to show you why. Another tip from Consumer Reports, because lenders can rate you differently, it's important to shop around for the best interest rates.