With all the commercials on television and the Internet, everyone seems to know how to get their credit report. But what about your credit score? It’s great to see the information on the report, but what most of us want to know is the actual credit score that banks and other institutions use to determine if we’ll get the credit we desire.

One thing to keep in mind is that the true, ‘official’ credit score is only available through Fair Isaacs, the originator of the FICO score (Fair Isaac and Company). All other scores are estimations meant to simulate your FICO score. Fair Isaacs won’t release their formula, so everything else is merely a good guess.

At this time, the FICO score is used by 96% of banks.

You can obtain credit scores through these venues:

1. CreditKarma.com. Credit Karma will allow you to see your Trans Union score. Trans Union is one of the 3 major credit bureaus. The score only reflects your Trans Union credit report, however, and is not your true FICO score. On the plus side, Credit Karma is free and allows you to track your score over time.

  • There are other similar sites that provide free scores. Some of them include: Quizzle, Credit Sesame, and Equifax Credit Score Card. Quizzle and Credit Sesame provide your Experian score. Experian is another one of the 3 major credit bureaus.

2. Credit monitoring services. These services typically provide all 3 credit scores and either all 3 credit reports or an all inclusive credit report that compiles all the credit reports into a single report.

  • These services are typically about $20 a month, but most come with a free trial, usually 7 days. Again, these are not the FICO scores that most banks use, but the individual scores of each of the credit bureaus.
  • Some examples of these services would be http://www.creditreport.com and http://www.gofreecredit.com.

3. Apply for a loan. If you apply for a loan, you can request that the lender show you your scores. Applying for credit will slightly hurt your credit score. This is not the preferred way to see your scores, but you’re likely to see your real FICO scores. There are less damaging ways to get your scores for free.

4. FICO scores. If you want to see the real thing and don’t want to apply for a loan, go to http://www.myfico.com. You can sign up for a credit monitoring service that’s $15/month with a 7-day free trial. You also have the option of purchasing individual scores and credit reports at the same website.

A smart solution is to get your free scores and track them over time. Periodically, get your FICO scores and see how well the estimated values are tracking with the ‘real’ scores.

Your credit scores are no laughing matter. It’s important to your future to keep track of your credit scores and be diligent in raising them when you can.

Many employers check credit scores to determine whether or not to even give you a job! A difference of 100 points in your credit score can also mean a difference of many thousands of dollars in additional interest charges over the years.

Be wise: check your credit scores today and monitor them regularly.