Since the end of 2012, I’ve been applying for credit cards every 3 months, or 90 days between each application. If you space it to 90 days or greater between each bank’s application, they’re more likely to approve you; <90 days gets flagged as having “too many recent applications”. And although many think that having too many applications can lower your credit score significantly, it really only lowers it 3-7 points per application. The amount of recent applications, otherwise known as new credit, only comprises 10% of your total FICO credit score.

Since the amount of credit owed, or utilization, is 30% of your credit score, and the best tranche to be in within that category is 1-10% of total credit utilized, your credit score actually increases the more credit cards, and therefore more credit you have, goes up. If you’re spending $2000 per month on credit cards, your credit score will be much higher if you have $50,000 of total credit vs $10,000, because in the first scenario you’re utilizing 4% of your credit, vs 20% in the second. Here is a decent rundown of the components of a FICO credit score, although I have to disagree with him on his assertion that you “should avoid opening too many credit lines at the same time”; myself, and many other credit card churners, have been opening many credit cards every year, and our credit scores have only been going up! They take a slight hit with every application, or for me every 3 months, but then go up, and are often higher by the next application round. You should avoid applying more often than every 3 months though.


There are many credit monitoring services out there, some free, but almost all the time they will charge you for giving you your credit score. Might I suggest 3 alternatives, all free?


The first one is CreditKarma, which provides your score continually, and never asks your for a credit card (although it does require your SSN), so is totally free. I’m not going to give a review, as there are many online; this one is decent. I’ve used it for over 2 years and been very happy with it. The credit score I find to be not completely accurate, but the main thing I use it for is their proprietary Credit Report Card, which goes over each of the facets of your credit score; I’ll give an example of 3 of mine.


The first is a credit score report card, which goes over each facet of your credit score:

Credit Report Card   Credit Karma.png

As you can see, because of my credit churning, I have a D in credit history age, and an F in number of credit inquiries; even with both of these negative scores though, I still have an excellent score.


I’ll go over one of my two derogatory areas, my account age:

account age.png

As you can see, the longer you have accounts open, the better grade your credit score gets. Because most of my annual fees are waived because of the SCRA, I will not be cancelling them as frequently as most card churners, and therefore will start to accrue a longer account age gradually. Also, account age only has a MEDIUM impact on credit scores, and number of inquiries has a LOW impact, so that is fortunate for churners.


Another way to get a totally free credit score is if you have a Barclaycard credit card, such as the Arrival. They offer a totally free FICO score whenever you request it, as a benefit of being a card-holder. Remember they waive annual fees. When you log in to your account page, the FICO score is usually located at the very bottom right of the account page:


When you click on it, it will automatically give you your credit score, no payment required!


The last way to get a completely free credit score is through US Bank, who waives annual fees. They, similar to Barclaycard, off a credit score anytime for free, but this time an Experian score, which is one of the three major credit reporters. When you log in to your credit card account, click on the following link on the left sidebar:

us bank1.png

It will take you through to an identity verification screen, where you need to enter your name, address, SSN, DoB, etc. After that, it will give you your Experian credit score, free of charge!

us bank2.png

And there you have it, 3 different ways to get 3 different credit scores! If any of you has any other tips for getting free credit scores, please comment!

Posted by glenn | 6 Comments

6 responses to “How to get a free credit score (and credit score breakdown)”

  1. ODTravel says:

    I think you need to make it clear that credit karma and credit sesame are not FICO scores. These “educational” scores are commonly referred to as FAKOs. Credit karma also has an additional wrinkle in they calculate your average age of open accounts while FICO formulas look at average age of all accounts. Bottom line, only FICO scores matter for lending decisions. While the others can help you trend, they are otherwise useless. Other than, discover, Barclays, fnbo, DCU, walmart card and psceu who all offer free FICO scores as monthly updates ( or less frequent with Barclays), all other scores are FAKOs even when bought directly from credit agencies. The exception is equifax who sells the beacon 5 score which is actually a FICO score. The usbank experian score mentioned here is also not FICO and once again useless for any real lending estimates.

    One more huge thing that everyone should know is that FICO has no memory. You score only matters at a particular moment. So a 10pt drop only matters if you apply for credit at that point.

  2. Jonathan says:

    The US Airways master card from Barclays will also let you see a FICO score the same way as the Arrival card

  3. Alex says:

    I did a two card churn in January, the Arrival and the Chase Ink Classic. If I want to apply for the Citi AA 100K deal along with a membership rewards card (so two different banks from Chase and Barclays) should I still hold off for 3 months? I don’t want to miss the AA deal, although I’m also very interested in the April 2 rollout of the free Amex MR card!

  4. Andy says:

    @ODTravel – Thanks for the clarification!
    @Jonathan – I believe (but cannot confirm) that all the Barclaycard cards offer a free FICO score.
    @Alex – You don’t need to wait, as they’re separate banks. You just need to wait 3 months between cards from the same bank (and this isn’t a hard and fast rule, I’ve broken it before). You could consider getting the Citi AA 100k, and also the Citi AA platinum 50k and Citibusiness 50k all on the same day, as Citi considers the Executive in a separate category as the personal and business. I agree on the new Amex card, it looks intriguing – I’m, however, holding out hope that Amex drops at least a 50k Business Gold personal or business here soon, so I can get in on that! Remember to check your credit score before applying though.

    • Jonathan says:

      Andy, remember that you can’t apply for more than 1 card with Citi anymore, you’ll have to wait 7+ days for a second card then 65+days for the third card. Have you had any luck with getting the 50K PRG offer with CardMatch? That’s how I got mine. I forget how I got the 50K BRG offer but shortly after I got the bonus, I upgraded to the Biz Platinum for an additional 25K bonus

  5. Andy says:

    @Jonathan – no luck w/ cardmatch offer, I just tried again yesterday, I’d totally hit it up if it were available. I have a feeling some big bonus will come along at some point this Spring.

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