Update: Starting October 2nd, 2017 they will be using TransUnion data and providing a score based on the VantageScore model 3.
Mint.com (money management and budgeting tool) launched their free credit score and monitoring (not to be confused with their paid credit monitoring) in late 2014. We thoroughly review this option and see if the score they provide is really free, if it’s accurate and the other features of this offering.
This part of Mint is only available to those who live in the United States, those living in Canada do not have access to this feature unfortunately.
Free Credit Score
The credit score that Mint uses is based on your Equifax credit report, to get access to this score you simply need a Mint account and then you need to go here: https://www.mint.com/credit-score/. Once you get “get your free credit score” you’ll be required to answer a free identity questions and then you’ll get access to your score.
Is The Score Really Free?
Yes, the scores that Mint do provide are completely free. There is no need to add a credit card for a free trial or any other of that non sense. This is even proudly displayed on their own website:
The way these sites make money is through advertising, for example if they know that you’d be able to refinance your home loan at a potentially better rate they might show you targeted advertisements for refinancing.
Are The Scores They Provide Accurate?
There is more than one credit score that lenders use, the most popular is the FICO score which is used in 90%+ of lending decisions. Mint doesn’t make it easy to find out what credit score they are providing you with, which is a sure fire way of knowing it isn’t a FICO score (using the FICO algorithm is more expensive than other algorithms. Although it’s still possible to get a free FICO score).
I tried to dig through the fine print to work out what credit scoring model Mint use and the closest answer I could find (which is a complete non-answer) was this:
The free credit score in Mint is provided by Equifax®. , one of the three credit reporting bureaus.
Because of this I think it’s safe to say that this is neither a FICO or VantageScore (also used by lenders, but much less often than FICO) and instead a proprietary model that Equifax & Mint created. It has the same range of 300-850 and probably similar scoring factors, but it won’t be the same score that lenders see when you apply for credit.
It’d be best to think of this score as a rough approximation at best. If you use Mint and know your Equifax FICO 2008 score (DCU is currently the only place you can get this for free), please let us know what your two scores are in the comments so we can compare.
Free Credit Report
The credit report that Mint provides is a summary and is not a full report (remember you can always get a full report for free once per year from https://www.annualcreditreport.com/). This can be somewhat useful, but in most cases you’ll want a full report so you can look for any mistakes or discrepancies on your report that you might want to dispute.
In addition to a free credit report and free credit score, Mint also provides you with a number of tools that help you better understand your credit and what affects it. For example, they make key scoring criteria easy to understand and also show you how you’re doing in that category (e.g if you have a high credit utilization it’ll show this and tell you how you can improve). The following categories are broken down:
- Credit card usage
- Payment history
- Age of credit
- Total accounts
- Credit inquiries
- Derogatory Marks
One of the most useful credit tools that Mint provides you with is credit monitoring, you’ll receive alerts whenever your Equifax credit report changes significantly. For example, you might be alerted when a financial institution does a hard pull on your credit report (which they’d do if you apply for a new loan or credit card). This can be helpful in cases of fraud, but we can also use this in our strategy for applying for credit cards when we try to spread applications between all three credit bureaus.
Our Final Thoughts
I find Mint’s free credit score, summary credit report & credit monitoring to be pretty disappointing to be honest. They don’t tell consumers what credit scoring model they use which is always a bad sign and they don’t provide a full credit report either.
It’s obvious that this offering isn’t Mint’s primary focus and is just an added bonus to people who are already using the site. Personally I’d recommend using Credit Karma instead which is also based off Equifax data, but provides you with a VantageScore (not as good as FICO, but at least it is used by some lenders), full credit reports which are updated weekly and credit monitoring as well (it’s also free of course). In addition, you also get this same data for TransUnion as well.
If you’re interested in data from the other bureaus (TransUnion & Experian) or other credit monitoring websites, here are your options (all of these sites are free):
- Credit.com. Gives you access to your Experian National Equivalency Score & Experian VantageScore as well as credit monitoring.
- Quizzle. Provides you with two free Equifax reports annually, a VantageScore and credit monitoring.
- Credit Sesame. Currently provides you with your Experian National Equivalency score, but they are in the process of switching to TransUnion.
- WisePiggy. Provides you with your VantageScore based on your TransUnion credit report.
- Credit Karma. As mentioned above provides you with your VantageScore based on your TransUnion & Equifax credit reports, credit monitoring and full credit reports updated weekly.
My suggestion? Use Credit Karma & Credit.com for credit monitoring alerts on all three credit bureaus and then rely on the FICO scores provided for free by a large number of different credit card issuers if you want to track those scores. Learn how FICO scores are calculated and you’ll worry much less about short term increases and decreases and can instead focus on the underlying health of your finances.
One of the most common complaints from people is that they share a Mint account with their spouse but they only get access to one score for the primary account holder. It’s easy to get around this by just creating an extra account (you obviously don’t need to use the additional features of this account – you can just use it for the score). Or just get your spouse to sign up for one of the other sites I mention above.