5 credit cards that offer free credit scores - and lucrative rewards

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Credit Wise

  • FICO announced a new credit scoring model that could result in a credit score increase for 33 million Americans.
  • To find out whether or not your credit is on the rise, you'll need to start monitoring your credit score.
  • Here are five credit cards that offer free credit score monitoring services - and lucrative rewards, whether you're looking for travel points or cash back.

Credit scores are crucial to your financial health. While an excellent credit score - 800 or above - will save you thousands of dollars on a mortgage or auto loan, a bad credit score can wreck your dreams of purchasing a house or car at all.

Luckily, credit scores aren't forever. It's always possible to build or rebuild your credit - and thanks to a new credit scoring model from FICO, a jump in your score may come sooner rather than later. But you'll need to get on board with a trustworthy credit monitoring service if you really want to commit to joining the 800 club.

Will your credit score increase this year?

Roughly 40% of credit applicants could see a jump in their credit scores of 20 points or more this year.

That's all thanks to a new credit scoring model called the UltraFICO, which will take into account your banking data - everything from your checking account activity to your savings and money market accounts.

Set to pilot in early 2019, this new model should expand access to credit, particularly for Americans who are bordering on good credit or have no credit at all. This means that if your credit score is in the upper 500s or 600s, or if you have a short or non-existent credit history, you could find yourself suddenly on the way to a good FICO score - 670 or greater.

That is, of course, as long as you've been responsible with your bank accounts. That means no late payments, overdrafts, or delinquent accounts.

Going from no credit or bad credit to good credit can open a lot of doors for you financially. If you're currently in debt, your newfound credit score might give you some leverage to negotiate a lower interest rate or refinance your debt at a lower rate. If you plan to borrow money in the near future - whether to purchase a car or a home or to invest in your new business - it's important to get your credit score up in order to qualify for the lowest rates available.

Even if you're debt-free and have no plans to borrow money in the future, good credit gives you access to some of the best rewards credit cards. Taking advantage of these can save you hundreds of dollars per year in the form of cash back or free travel. Regardless of your financial situation, credit is important in today's world.

Read more: Using credit cards is actually really important for your overall financial health - here's why

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How to monitor your credit score

The best way to improve or maintain your credit score is to closely monitor it. This gives you a better understanding of which financial habits cause your score to go up or down.

Many people assume that checking their credit too frequently will drag their score down, but this is actually a myth. Hard inquiries can harm your credit score, but these are inquiries into your credit report that are performed by a potential lender when you apply for a loan or line of credit. When you check your credit report yourself, that's called a soft inquiry, and it won't affect your credit at all.

If it's been a while since you've peeked at your credit, you might want to start by checking your full credit history to get a sense of where you're at financially. Thanks to government regulations, you're entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every year. All you have to do is go to AnnualCreditReport, where you can request all three free credit reports once every 12 months.

While all consumers should do this on an annual basis, it's also important to monitor your credit throughout the year - ideally on a monthly or weekly basis. Not only will this help you keep track of changes in your credit score, but it will also keep you in the loop if any bad marks or suspicious activity show up on your credit report.

You can pay for a monthly subscription to a credit monitoring service, but the best things in life are free. If you want to track your credit without paying a monthly fee, get a credit card that offers free credit scores.

Read more: Here's how to collect valuable credit card sign-up bonuses while helping your credit score

The best no-annual-fee credit cards that offer free credit scores

Capital One

A number of credit cards now provide cardholders with free credit score monitoring. All you have to do is log into your cardholder account, and you'll have access to your credit score.

Here are our favorite credit cards with no annual fee that give you free access to your credit score.

For flat-rate cash back: Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • CreditWise credit monitoring
  • $150 cash bonus when you spend $500 in the first three months
  • Earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases

Capital One makes it easy for you to check and monitor your credit score anywhere, at any time. Simply log into your cardholder account on mobile or desktop, and you'll have access to Capital One's credit monitoring service CreditWise.

Not only will CreditWise give you access to your credit score for free, but the app will also track your credit report and social security number. You'll get credit alerts each time your TransUnion credit report changes so you can stay on top of your finances and protect your credit. The app even includes a simulator that lets you see the potential impact any given financial decision could have on your credit score.

On top of this, the Quicksilver from Capital One card comes with a generous cash sign-up bonus and 1.5% flat-rate cash back on all purchases - all at no annual fee.

For consistent earning: Discover it® Miles

  • Get your FICO Credit Score for free
  • Earn 1.5x miles on every dollar spent
  • Discover will match all the miles you earn in the first year
  • Miles are worth 1¢ each toward travel

Discover lets cardholders see their FICO Score each month on their monthly statement, allowing you to track your score over time and see whether or not it's increasing. This statement comes with a credit Scorecard that explains how different factors are impacting your score. You can also sign up to receive free social security number alerts and notifications if new accounts are opened on your Experian credit report.

For balance transfers: Amex EveryDay Credit Card

  • MyCredit Guide credit monitoring
  • $0 balance transfer fee on balance transfers requested within the first 60 days
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for the first 15 months (then variable APR rate of 15.24% to 26.24% applies)
  • 10,000 Membership Rewards points if you spend $1,000 in the first three months
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year

American Express cardholders get access to the American Express MyCredit Guide, which provides weekly credit updates, a credit score simulator, and credit alerts to help you detect identity fraud. You'll also get a detailed copy of your TransUnion credit report.

In addition to free credit score monitoring, the Amex EveryDay Credit Card offers one of the best balance transfer offers on the market. If you're looking to pay off debt using a balance transfer, the $0 balance transfer fee makes this card worth considering - especially because you'll want to continue tracking your credit score as you pay down debt.

You'll even earn rewards at a rate that's pretty generous for a balance transfer credit card with no annual fee. American Express's flexible Membership Rewards program is great for folks who want to save money on travel because the points you earn can be transferred to a long list of travel partners.

Earn bigger rewards and track your credit score with these credit cards

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If you already have good credit and want to maximize your rewards potential, there are a number of lucrative rewards credit cards that allow you to monitor your credit score while earning free flights and cash bonuses.

These higher-earning rewards credit cards do come with an annual fee. However, the benefits associated with them usually make up for the cost.

If you're hoping that padding your wallet with some hotel points and airline miles will bring a few more vacations your way this year, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is worth considering.

This credit card charges a reasonable $95 annual fee, and it's even waived the first year. It also offers one of the best sign-up bonuses on the market: 50,000 bonus miles - worth $500 in travel spending - if you spend $3,000 in the first three months.

All Capital One credit cards come with access to CreditWise, a free credit monitoring service that sends credit alerts when there are changes to your file.

If you prefer the ease of cash back, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express will get you a higher cash-back rate than credit cards with no annual fee.

Although it charges a $95 annual fee, you'll get 6% cash back at US supermarkets up to $6,000 (then 1%), 3% cash back at US gas stations, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. The Blue Cash Preferred Card also comes with a $200 statement credit if you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months.

All American Express credit cards offer the MyCredit Guide service so you can check your credit score each week. This feature also allows you to sign up for credit alerts and a free copy of your credit report.

Choosing the best credit card for you depends on your financial goals and spending habits. While some people manage to squeeze a lot of value out of travel rewards, others prefer the simplicity of earning cash back that can be used for anything.

Knowing your credit score and monitoring it regularly, however, is universally beneficial. If you don't already have a credit card that offers free credit scores, it's time to get one.

Click here to learn more about the Discover it Miles from Insider Picks' partner: The Points Guy.

Click here to learn more about the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card from Insider Picks' partner: The Points Guy.

Click here to learn more about the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card from Insider Picks' partner: The Points Guy.

Click here to learn more about the AmEx Blue Cash Preferred from Insider Picks' partner: The Points Guy.

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