Do you know your credit score?
No need for you to announce it—the point is that you should be checking that three-digit number regularly.
But if you haven’t been, you’re far from the only one. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a watchdog group formed during the financial crisis, finds that fewer than 20% of Americans check their scores once a year, even though they are legally entitled to a free annual report.
Because the CFPB can’t lead individual consumers to their credit scores, the agency is campaigning to bring the credit scores to the consumers—via their credit card companies, Marketwatch reports. The agency would like providers to offer access to the scores either by posting them on consumers’ statements or making them available online.
CFPB Director Richard Cordray has requested that the country’s biggest banks follow the example of Discover, Barclaycard and First Bankcard, who already provide some 25 million cardholders with free access to their credit scores. Discover, for example, prints that score directly on the customer’s statement.
This request follows the Bureau’s discovery that the biggest credit-related complaint from consumers is inaccuracies on their report. Almost three-quarters of the complaints involved damaging errors that ranged from a misspelled name to delinquencies attributed to the wrong person. While the CFPB isn’t proposing that these mistakes appear alongside the consumer’s credit score, a suspiciously low number could trigger someone to check the details of his report.
Critics of the idea suggest that the variety of credit scores available could be a hindrance to consumers, because there isn’t one “right” score for consumers to reference. There are actually two major candidates: the FICO score and the Vantagescore. Both calculate their numbers based on information from the three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian). Aside from those, there are a handful of scores promoted by various organizations and websites.
In addition, just because someone receives their score doesn’t mean they understand what the numbers mean. That’s why the CFPB is asking companies to provide resources for consumers so they can understand what their score entails.
If you’re not sure how to decipher your numbers—or you’re curious how to bring them up—use our checklist to monitor and improve your credit score.