Q. What's the best way to get my credit score?
A. The best way is to buy it. There are different types of scores, but what you want is your FICO score, the type that most lenders use in evaluating your credit-worthiness. The cost is $15.95 at MyFICO.com (1-800-319-4433). You can also buy directly from credit bureaus Equifax.com (1-866-493-9788 toll-free) or TransUnionCS.com (1-800-888-4213).
Expect slight variations in the scores, because each credit reporting bureau has its own FICO for you, depending on the data and formula it uses for calculations. The third big bureau, Experian, stopped selling FICOs to consumers last year.
Wherever you shop, select the "single score" option costing no more than that $15.95, because all these companies also sell more expensive services that include credit scores.
The trouble with the "free" credit scores offered at websites such as FreeScore.com and FreeCreditScore.com is that they come with strings attached: You're automatically enrolled in what may be an unnecessary credit monitoring service. Unless you cancel within seven days, you end up paying up to $20 a month.
A no-strings freebie "estimated" score can be had at Credit.com and Bankrate.com, while Quizzle.com provides a free score based on a formula developed by the firm CE Analytics. Still, you're not getting your actual FICO score, just something that's reasonably close to it.
There's only one way to get your FICO for absolutely free, no strings attached, but you probably won't want to get it this way: Under the financial industry overhaul bill signed by President Obama in July, if your score contributed to your being turned down for a loan, home rental or job, you are entitled to get that score for free from the party that rejected you.
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Sid Kirchheimer writes about consumer and health issues.