If you're a Citi credit card holder, you might have recently received notice of a promotion to get a "free" credit score.
The advertisement says the score is “based on data from Experian,” but doesn't clarify whether you're actually getting your Experian credit score or merely an estimate of your Experian score.
Some credit monitoring products provide estimated credit scores that personal finance experts refer to as "Fake-O" scores because they pretend to be the score lenders use to make credit decisions. The real score is called a FICO score, named after the company that created the scoring formula, the Fair Isaac Corporation.
Fake-O scores aren't helpful because creditors can base their lending decisions on your score from any one of the three big credit scoring companies--Experian, Equifax or TransUnion--or they can use a different service entirely.
Each credit scoring company puts its scores together using a slightly different formula, so your credit score can differ by dozens of points from one agency to the next, easily making the difference between your being offered the best interest rates or even meeting a loan or credit qualification cutoff.
Your credit score could even differ by hundreds of points across credit bureaus if one of your files contains a mistake.
Get the facts about Citi's "free" credit score offer in my Interest.com article, "Free" credit score from Citi isn’t free, but it is nearly worthless.