03/04/2011 10:53 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Service Members to Gain Free Access to Credit Scores

Active duty military members and their spouses will soon be able to see their FICO score for free, part of a unique partnership aimed at boosting financial literacy among those who serve our country.

The FINRA Investor Education Foundation is teaming with the Department of Defense to distribute the FICO Standard service to personnel across the country. The service features an array of financial tools, including a score simulator that can help military members make smarter spending decisions.

DOD finance counselors will distribute the service at military installations nationwide.

"The FINRA Foundation is providing free access to this vital credit management tool to help active duty service members take real steps to achieve a more secure financial future," FINRA Foundation President John Gannon said in a news release.

FINRA is the nation's largest foundation dedicated to investor education.

The initiative comes at a key time for American service members, who are more likely to be financially overburdened than their civilian counterparts. Nearly a quarter of enlisted personnel or junior NCOs have used payday loans, auto title loans and other high-cost borrowing measures in the last five years, according to recent surveys.

Financial and credit problems can pose especially problematic for active duty service members and potentially affect mission readiness.

The FINRA-DOD partnership comes weeks after the creation of a special consumer protection agency for U.S. service members. Part of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Office of Servicemember Affairs is charged with boosting financial education and better monitoring problems and complaints regarding military members and their families.

The new agency is headed by Holly Petraeus, wife of Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Chris Birk is director of content and communications for Military United, one of the nation's leading financial services providers for service members and their families.