Thirty million customers will now have free access to their FICO scores through Wells Fargo.
The bank announced Monday that it is offering the score free to mortgage holders as well as to customers with home equity lines of credit, private student loans, personal loans, and certain types of car loans at the bank. This extends a program Wells Fargo (WFC) started in March, when it began offering FICO scores for free to its credit-card clients.
Wells Fargo is offering FICO numbers through the FICO Score Open Access Program run by Fair Isaac, the San Jose, Calif. analytics software firm that created the FICO score. J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM), American Express (AXP), and Bank of America (BAC), are among more than 45 other financial institutions that also offer customers free access to their FICO scores through this program, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Fair Issac launched the free FICO score program in 2013.
During the financial crisis and recession that spiked with the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers, banks halted their practice of giving easy loans to people with low credit scores or no credit. To help would-be borrowers avoid the embarrassment of being turned down for loans, comparison websites were created to offer free credit scores to consumers, the Journal notes.
While the goal of these sites was noble—to let people know their credit scores before applying for a mortgage or other type of loan—the credit scores they offered were usually not FICO scores, which is the key metric banks use when they’re deciding whether or not to approve a loan. Based on the non-FICO credit scores they got at the sites, people would often think they had high enough numbers to get a loan—and then be surprised (and embarrassed) when they were turned down.
In April, Fair Issac announced that more than 150 million consumer credit and loan accounts in the U.S. had free access to their FICO credit scores via the FICO Score Open Access Program.
“FICO Scores are used in over 90% of consumer lending decisions in the U.S.,” Jim Wehmann, Fair Issac’s executive vice president of scores, said at the time. ” The only way consumers can truly understand how lenders view them is to see the FICO Scores used by lenders. Everything else is just an approximation, and often a very poor approximation.”
Consumers whose lenders participate in the program can usually find their FICO scores on their bank or lender’s website or on their regular paper statements.