When American Express launched the redesign of its website recently, there was a nice little treat for some card customers — it was a free monthly FICO credit score! This is the same score that lenders use to approve loans and lines of credit. Is American Express joining the growing list of major card issuers that are giving out free credit scores?
As I was taking a look at the new American Express online experience through my own card account, my eye caught a link that said, “See FICO Credit Score.” I clicked it without hesitation and hoped that American Express was handing out free FICO scores — as Discover, Barclaycard and others have done.
A couple of clicks later, I was staring at my FICO credit score provided through my credit report data with Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus. I managed to have a score of 777 — lucky me. (The score range is 300 to 850; higher is better.)
However, not every American Express card customer was able to check their FICO score through their online accounts. After asking around, including other members on the MyBankTracker team, many American Express customers didn’t see the same link that I saw.
It turns out that only certain American Express customers are getting them, for now.
“We are piloting this service to understand if our customers will find this beneficial and will evaluate it over the coming months to determine if it is valuable enough to roll out more widely,” said Amelia Woltering, an American Express spokesperson. “We want to see if this helps our customers better understand their financial health.”
Initially, some card customers were chosen at random to participate in the pilot. The test group includes customers with American Express credit cards (e.g., American Express Blue Cash Preferred) and charge cards (e.g., American Express® Gold Card).
No specific pilot period was provided. It is expected to run through early 2015. Furthermore, Woltering declined to mention what factors would drive American Express to expand the program.
But, it’s not hard to guess what it would take for American Express to give free FICO scores to all customers. I’d say that if American Express card customers show improved credit behavior (e.g., fewer defaults, lower balances, more on-time payments, etc.) after a few months of monitoring their credit scores, the company would be inclined to roll out the program to more customers.
How to find your free FICO score
For the American Express card customers who are participating in the pilot, it’s rather easy to find your free FICO credit score.
First, make sure that you are using the American Express website under the new design. If you are still using the old design, you should be seeing notices to try out the online account experience through the new design.
After logging in, you’ll find the link for “See FICO® Credit Score” under the “Useful Links” box on the right-hand side of your home summary page. (I couldn’t seem to access this benefit through any other page of the online account interface.)
Again, if you don’t see the link there, you were probably not selected for the pilot program at this point. American Express is not adding customers to the pilot program at this time.
You can try calling the number on the back of your card or even ask through social media to show interest in the program. Even if you’re not part of the pilot, you’re providing feedback to American Express that there is a demand for free FICO scores.
What comes with your score
Although American Express is providing a free FICO credit score, you won’t get much else. As you can see in the screenshot below, you’ll get your scores for the current month and the last month for comparison reasons.
Then, there are a couple of highlighted factors that have an effect on your FICO score and how you can improve it. My score, for instance, suffered because I didn’t have a mix of credit types and my average age of accounts was rather short.
Additionally, the page links to AnnualCreditReport.com, the official site that offers a free annual credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. This site can be accessed without going through American Express and it is available to everyone in the country, not just American Express customers.
Through a credit report, you’ll see much more information regarding all your entire credit accounts. You’ll get a better view of your entire finances and be better informed with what aspects of your credit can be improved.
Tip: When you retrieve your free credit reports, I suggest that you pull them once every four months. This way, you can monitor your credit throughout the year for free.
More card issuers give out free credit scores
Before American Express, Citi was the most recent card issuer to announce that it would give out free FICO scores starting in 2015.
Discover and Barclaycard already began handing out free FICO scores to card customers late last year.
It’s a great sign that more card issuers are implementing such programs because consumers often want to keep a close eye on their credit. But, FICO scores typically cost $19.95 each through myFICO.com. Even compared to the single-score annual subscription for $149.95 through myFICO, you cannot beat the free FICO score programs from credit card issuers.
If you’re an American Express customer who was selected for the pilot program, we’d love to hear what the free FICO score means to you and whether or not it convinces you to maintain good credit behavior. Please share in the comments below!