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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Despite what television and Internet hucksters say, FICO credit scores, with one yearly exception, aren’t free. But the three big credit reporting bureaus are showing signs of offering some credit scoring information on the house.

It’s a smart move, as consumers are getting wise to credit report deals where they can sign up and get their report for free, but only if they pay monthly fees and services for other programs.

Historically, the only pure and simple way to get a free credit score, with no strings attached, was to go through

According to the company’s Web site, AnnualCreditReport is a centralized partnership between the three leading credit report agencies: Equifax (Stock Quote: EFX); Experian (Stock Quote: EXPN); and TransUnion. Through, consumers get a free and secure credit report history once every year, in accordance with the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act.

But the three credit giants have been honing their credit reporting services, and are getting increasingly aggressive about offering free credit scores with no obligation. The bureaus figure that if they give you the free score, you’ll know more about your credit history; if you know more about your credit history, the thinking goes, you’ll be more likely to buy extra services like credit monitoring and identity theft protection.

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Take Equifax: Its Equifax Report Card promises to give your credit score (based on its in-house formula), and provide the factors that impact your credit score. As the site says, there is “no credit card and no obligation” to get your free credit score data.

Experian has a similar program called Quizzle. The service comes from its relationship with Quicken Loans and, as the site states, it offers both a free credit report and free credit score, with no catches, no trial subscriptions, and no credit card required. Quizzle also tosses in a free home value estimator and budget tool, along with advice on how to improve your credit score. Once you’ve been exposed to its free, useful tools, Experian hopes you’ll be more amenable to sign up for its $35-a-month Credit Personal Trainer or its $10-a-month Credit Monitoring services.

TransUnion has a horse in the race, too. Its CreditKarma program offers free, direct access to your credit score with “no strings attached.” Like the other credit bureaus, Experian won’t ask for your credit card if you sign up for the service. One interesting wrinkle: You can view your credit report, free of charge, “as often as you like,” the site  says.

It’s a new, consumer-friendly trend in credit scoring – free credit reports with no obligations, no hidden fees and, most of all, no need to fork over your credit card info. As you visit each site, just remember the leap to “for pay” credit reporting services is a short and potentially pricey one.

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