The sales pitch on Fair Isaac's myFICO website is simple enough:
The FICO® Score is a number that summarizes your credit risk. Lenders use it to make credit decisions, such as the interest rate you get when you apply for a loan.
Being able to see what potential lenders see: That's why so many Americans are willing to pony up $19.95 to see their credit score. And if you want to see it from each of the big three credit reporting agencies, you'll pay three times, shelling out nearly $60.
When it comes to credit, the stakes are high. According to FICO, a low score -- say, 620 -- means paying 5.7% on a 30-year mortgage loan. A great score -- say, 760 or higher -- could qualify you for a much lower rate of 4.1%. Borrow $200,000, and over the life of the loan, the lower interest rate will save $52,000 in interest -- enough to put your kids through college.
So paying to see your credit score seems like money well spent. Until, that is, you discover you're paying for a false sense of security, because the score you're buying may not resemble the one potential lenders see.