Capital One's Free Credit Tracker Tool
Capital One will join some of the largest U.S. credit card issuers in providing a free way for customers to keep an eye on their credit profiles. Already available through one of its credit cards, the company will expand access to its Credit Tracker tool to all Capital One personal credit cards.
Credit Tracker was first introduced in 2012 for customers with the Journey Student Rewards from Capital One credit card. In the past, the Credit Tracker tool was powered by Credit Karma, a third-party company that offers free credit-monitoring services. With the tool, cardmembers can check their TransUnion credit score and credit profile on a monthly basis.
The new Credit Tracker tool available in 2016 will no longer be powered by Credit Karma, but it will offer many of the same features.
“These features will help customers more fully understand their credit standing, and provide actionable insights on ways to maintain and improve it,” said Sukhi Sahni, a Capital One spokesperson.
Free Credit Scores
Capital One launched the Credit Tracker tool for all Capital One consumer credit cards in early 2014. It is accessible through online banking and Capital One's mobile banking applications. The tool will not yet be available to store-issued and partnered Capital One credit cards. “We will be working on making it available to all customers over time,” Sahni said.
The decision to offer the free credit-tracking tool comes alongside the call for the entire credit card industry to provide free access to consumer credit scores.
“I strongly encourage you to make the credit scores on which you rely available to your customers regularly and freely, along with educational content to help them make use of this information,” said Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in a letter to credit card issuers. “We consider this to be ‘best practice’ in the industry.”
The Educational Score
In 2013, Discover and Barclaycard U.S. began offering free monthly FICO credit scores to credit card customers. If purchased directly from myFICO, a FICO credit score would typically cost $19.95 each.
Capital One’s Credit Tracker tool does not provide a FICO score. Instead, it uses a credit score developed through a proprietary model by TransUnion, one of the three major credit bureaus. Although the TransUnion credit score (called the TransUnion Educational Score) may not be the standard credit-gauging metric used by lenders, credit card customers can still use it to monitor the changes to their credit profiles.
"The free FICO score, as leveraged by some other issuers, is limited to the score and two factors," said Pam Girardo, a Capital One spokesperson. "By using the Educational score, we are able to provide much richer information to our customers to include six factors, a credit report summary, a credit simulator, bureau alerts, and insights about what’s driving their score."
Given the heightened sensitivity to card fraud in the light of numerous retailer security breaches, more consumers are learning about the importance of keeping a close eye on their credit. As major credit card issuers start to offer credit-monitoring programs, it is likely that others will follow.
Tip: In the case that you want access to your free FICO credit scores, remember that you can get them at no charge through one of these credit card issuers.