PhotoFor years, consumers had to pay a fee – or apply for a loan – to see their proprietary FICO credit score. Increasingly, however, financial services firms are providing free access to the score as a way to improve their competitive advantage.

Discover Card is now expanding that concept, launching its Credit Scorecard that allows consumers – even those who aren't discover cardholders – to access their FICO credit scores for free.

Discover said it is providing the FICO score, as well as a summary of the financial information from credit agency Experian that is used to determine a consumer’s credit score.

Consumers can sign up here.

"At Discover, we think it’s important that consumers have the information they need to manage their credit,” said Roger Hochschild, Discover’s president and CEO.

Important piece of information

The FICO credit score is important because it is so widely used within business to determine a consumer’s creditworthiness. Subscription services, like cellphone providers, access the credit score before opening an account. Auto lenders look at the credit score to decide whether or not to extend a loan, and at what rate. The better the credit score, the better the rate.

Since 2013, Discover has provided free access to the FICO score to its customers, as do several credit card issuers. Discover says it is now the only credit card company providing the score, at no charge, to non-customers.

Information can improve score

Discover says a recent poll it conducted helped shape its decision to expand the free credit score service. The survey found that consumers believe just checking a credit score will translate into positive financial actions, such as paying bills on time and keeping down credit card balances.

In addition, 60% of consumers who had checked their credit score within the last year said they were able to raise their score.

Along with the FICO credit score, the Credit Scorecard includes the information about what's hurting or helping a consumer's credit picture, such as number of open accounts, number of missed payments, and length of credit history.

In other words, it provides a snapshot of the information a lender sees when making a judgment on a consumer's credit application.

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