No matter how good you think your credit is, most people feel a moment of panic just before looking at their credit history.

At least now you can look at it in the privacy of your own home. Even better, the waiting time has been reduced to a mere 30 seconds, or less.

In mid-March, Equifax, one of the three credit reporting bureaus, and Fair, Isaac & Co., creator of the most-used credit score, teamed up to provide consumers with a copy of their credit history. Not only that, but for an additional fee, consumers can access their credit score — the exact same credit score that 75 percent of home loan lenders use when deciding whether or not to extend credit.

A copy of your credit report and credit score, which costs $12.95, comes with pages of explanation including the four top reasons why your credit score isn’t higher.

(Of course, this begs the following question: Why should consumers continue pay lenders $50 to $75 per applicant for a copy of their credit report when consumers can purchase the exact same credit report for only $12.95? Perhaps the absurdly high fees lenders charge for credit reports, and use to fatter their profits, will now be reduced since consumers can now see what these items really cost.)

Giving consumers access to their credit score, a number that lenders frequently said was “too complicated” for consumers to understand, represents a major breakthrough. Fair, Isaac & Co had resisted previous requests by consumers to access this number. But as consumers and lawmakers challenged the company to release the numbers, the company announced several months ago it would team up with Equifax to give consumers a way to see the number that determined whether or not they would be denied credit.

Under a law passed by the California legislature, all consumers must be given access to their credit scores by July 1, 2001. The other two credit reporting bureaus, Experian and Trans-Union, have said they will make available to consumers their own credit scores, which are not based on the FICO formula created by Fair, Isaac.

Pressure to release the credit scores also came from another Internet challenger. Last December,, a division of place, Inc., began offering consumers access to a credit score it says is based on the same criteria Fair, Isaac uses for its FICO score

“We were the first ones to let consumers access their credit scores, starting last December,” said Laurie Edwards, Vice President of iPlace, Inc. The cost for your credit history and credit score at is $11.90, or you can purchase your credit history by itself for $7.95.

“It was a culmination of factors, including legislative activities in California. We’ve noticed consumer empowerment trends building for some time. Consumers are used to being active and want the same kind of information as a lender. They don’t want a simple yes or no on an application. That, together with the web’s ability to deliver information in a cost-effective way brought it altogether,” said Mike Cummins, vice president and general manager of consumer direct business at Equifax.

According to Edwards, the company receives raw information from Experian, which has made a $5 million investment in the company. Cummins confirmed the arrangement and said that the company sold its data to many different places.

Since the raw data comes from the same source – namely, Experian – is there any difference in the two reports?

According to Edwards, there shouldn’t be. When I pulled my credit history and score from and from, the reports revealed similar information. Despite using its own credit scoring system, the credit scores were just 10 points apart, which is statistically insignificant on a scale of 350 to 850.

Edwards said she believes consumers should be able to access their credit scores in order to shop for the best deals. Plus, she added, it gives consumers an opportunity to strengthen their credit when planning a major purchase, like a car or a home.

“Consumers have been passive players (in the home lending arena) and are now active participants,” Cummins noted. “Knowing their credit score will help them and we plan on enhancing our service, and making changes to it to make it more helpful and meaningful.”

NEXT WEEK: What factors affect your credit score and how you can raise your number.

Published: Mar 19, 2001