Want a free credit score? Get rejected

July 11, 2011: 11:36 AM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- As part of an effort to pull back the curtain on how creditors go about making their lending decisions, consumers are soon going to find out exactly why they got rejected for a credit card or loan.

Beginning later this month, lenders and creditors who deny a consumer's application for a loan or credit card -- or who give less favorable terms for one of these products -- will be required to disclose the credit score and other factors that they used to make their decision.

"[These requirements are] a move toward letting consumers have more access to the process and know what it is about their credit profiles that affects them, so they can take steps to improve it," said Becky Kuehn, an assistant director in the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection, the agency which helped to create the rules.

Part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the new rules will go into effect July 21 -- when the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau officially takes over the reins on enforcing new regulation.

Your bank is profiling you!

In addition to the credit score and several other factors on their credit report that the lender used to make their decision, the consumer will also be notified about the date of the inquiry and the name of the consumer reporting agency the lender used. If a lender uses its own credit-scoring model instead of FICO, the consumer will be told that the score doesn't come from a reporting agency and will be given the range of the scoring model the lender used.

The new disclosures amend rules that were put in place earlier this year that required lenders to notify consumers when they weren't given the best terms on a loan or credit card. The notices didn't include credit scores unless the lender chose to include them.

Consumers will typically receive the disclosures in the mail. Only those who are rejected or given unfavorable terms are entitled to a score. If a person is approved at the best terms, they will not receive anything -- unless the lender chooses to give every applicant a score.

Lenders who don't use credit scores to make decisions, won't be required to disclose a score to consumers.

Open doors with your FICO credit score

While it's helpful to know your credit score, Kuehn emphasized that it is just the first step toward becoming more aware of your entire credit situation.

"My hope is that when people get this information they're prompted to get consumer [credit] reports," she said. "Credit scores are interesting, but they're a snapshot in time -- when you get your report you can see if there are errors or past credit issues affecting your score and begin improving your credit picture." To top of page

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