How Often Should You Check Your Credit Score?

By Michelle Lambright Black
Published on: 08/29/2023

Keeping a close eye on your credit is wise. As a rule, you should aim to review your credit scores and credit reports no less than once a year. More frequent credit checks could be beneficial as well.

Monitoring your credit score could alert you if you’re a victim of fraud or when errors appear on your credit report. A sudden credit score drop might also tip you off about legitimate but problematic credit issues that need your attention.

The guide below will help you understand situations when it’s important to check your credit score and credit reports. You’ll also learn more about whether checking your credit impacts it in a negative way and when updates to your credit scores take place.

When should you check your credit score?

Deciding when to check your credit score is a personal decision. But if you’re working to improve a bad credit score or build your credit, you might want to monitor your progress more closely. According to a survey by PYMNTS, 63% of all consumers had checked their credit scores the month prior to being surveyed. However, those with below-average credit scores checked their credit scores more often than people who had higher credit scores.[1]

The health of your credit, whether good or bad, can have a significant impact on your financial life. Good credit tends to make it easier to qualify for financing when you need to borrow money. And healthy credit can also help you save money in the form of lower interest rates and lower fees from lenders and credit card issuers. Good credit scores might even help you qualify for lower insurance premiums and could possibly unlock savings in other ways too.[2]

In light of the many benefits a good credit score can offer you, it’s smart to keep an eye on your credit details. Monitoring your credit reports and credit scores can help you make sure your credit information stays in good shape so it’s ready when you need to use it.

When are credit scores updated?

The data on your credit reports can change often. Each time a data furnisher (aka a lender, creditor, credit card issuer, etc.) provides new information about one of your credit obligations to Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian, your credit details adjust. For example, when a credit card issuer sends an update to one of the credit bureaus regarding your account each month, your credit report will change.

Credit scores, however, work in a different way. A credit score is an on-demand product that calculates your credit risk at a specific point in time. There is no data furnisher that updates your credit score. A new score is only generated when you, a lender, or some other entity requests it. (Note: It is possible to request a copy of your credit report without also adding on a credit score that assesses your credit risk level. A credit report and credit score are two separate products.)

Of course, it’s normal for your credit score to adjust over time. If the information on your credit report has changed from the last time your credit score was calculated, you should expect different results the next time you or someone else checks your credit score.

Situations when you should check your credit score

Just as you should visit the doctor at least once a year for an annual exam, it’s essential to review your credit reports and credit scores at least once a year for preventative reasons. Yet there are additional situations that may call for extra credit checks as well.

Situations when it's a good idea to check your credit score

  • Applying for financing: Before you apply for any type of financing (e.g., a mortgage, car loan, credit card, personal loan, student loan, etc.), it’s a good idea to review your credit reports and credit scores first. The condition of your credit can impact your ability to qualify for financing. Your credit details can affect the interest rates and borrowing terms that lenders offer you as well.
  • Getting divorced: Monitoring and protecting your credit during a divorce is critical. You may need good credit to qualify for new housing, other types of financing, and new services in your name as you separate from your spouse. Plus, you’ll also want to watch your credit reports for fraud and make sure that everything goes according to plan as you work to separate any joint credit obligations.
  • Credit card loss or theft: If you lose your credit card or a thief steals your account details, you’ll want to keep an eye on your credit reports and scores afterwards. Monitoring your credit details can alert you if anyone uses your personal information to open fraudulent accounts in your name or commit other types of identity theft. If you do become a victim of identity theft, you can report the crime at[3]
  • Victim of identity theft: It’s essential to check your credit reports right away if you suspect you’re a victim of identity theft, and you may want to check your credit scores too. You can challenge the accuracy of credit errors, including fraud, by sending dispute letters to the appropriate credit reporting agencies. Freezing your credit reports to prevent additional damage from identity theft may also be helpful.
  • Negative credit activity: Negative information like late payments and collection accounts has the potential to cause serious harm to your credit scores. Anytime you suspect negative activity on any of your credit reports (e.g., you pay a credit obligation late, you receive a call or a letter from a collection agency, you pay or settle a collection account, you receive a notice of a credit score drop, etc.), it’s wise to check your credit reports and scores to stay on top of the situation.

Does checking your credit score have a negative impact?

You may have heard that checking your credit can hurt your credit score. Yet it’s important to understand that checking your own credit score or credit report will never impact you in a negative way.

The only time you have to potentially worry about potential credit score damage from a credit check is when others (e.g., lenders, credit card issuers, etc.) review your credit reports. These types of credit checks are called hard credit inquiries.

Some hard credit inquiries might have a slight negative affect on your credit score. But keep in mind that hard inquiries only remain on your credit report for up to 24 months and FICO Scores only consider them for up to 12 months. Furthermore, if you don’t seek new credit in excess, applying for the occasional new loan or credit card when you need it shouldn’t cause you much trouble in the credit score department.[4]

Hard credit inquiries aren’t worth a specific number of points where your credit score is concerned. That’s not how credit scoring works. Yet according to FICO, most people lose less than five points off their FICO® Score when one additional hard credit inquiry appears on their credit report.[5]

Is it ok to check your credit score every month?

Checking your own credit report and score results in a soft credit inquiry. Soft inquiries cause zero harm to your credit score. As a result, there’s no harm in checking your credit score once a month, or even more often if you desire to do so.

Where to check your credit score

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives you access to free credit reports from all three credit bureaus—Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian—once every 12 months. (Visit to claim your annual freebies.) However, free credit scores are not included as part of these free annual reports.

On a positive note, there are other ways to access your credit scores—for free or a fee.

  • Credit card issuers: Some credit card companies give free monthly credit score access to cardholders by participating in the FICO® Score Open Access program.[6]
  • Credit bureaus: Experian and Equifax offer free credit score access to consumers through their websites. Equifax gives VantageScore® 3.0 credit scores onces a month through the Equifax Core Credit™ program and Experian offers free monthly FICO® Score access. However, if you want to see all three of your FICO Scores through the Experian website, additional fees will apply.[7] [8]
  • You can get a FICO® Score 8 based on your Equifax credit information free of charge. The same website also offers premium packages with all three of your credit reports and FICO Scores starting at $29.95 per month.[9]
  • Credit monitoring: There are numerous websites where you can sign up for free or fee-based credit monitoring services online. Many free credit monitoring services require you to agree to receive marketing information for financial services in exchange for free credit reports or credit scores.

Which credit score should you check?

Although you only have three major credit reports—Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian—lenders use many different types of credit scores to assess risk. Therefore, it can be difficult to know which credit score to check when you’re performing a self credit analysis. You have hundreds of credit scores.

There are different credit score brands. FICO® and VantageScore® are the two most well-known developers of credit scores in the United States. And both FICO® and VantageScore® credit multiple types of credit scoring models for general use and specific industries (e.g., mortgage industry, auto industry, credit card industry, etc.).[10]

Not only are there different credit score brands and industry options, FICO® and VantageScore® credit scores each come in different versions. For example, some lenders use FICO® Score 2, FICO® Score 4, FICO® Score 5, FICO® Score 8, FICO® Score 9, FICO® Score 10, etc.[11] FICO® Score 8 is the most widely used credit score at the moment, while FICO® Score 10 and FICO® Score 10T are the newest releases.

Most lenders (90% of top lenders in the United States) use FICO® Scores. So, it can be helpful to check your FICO® Score before you apply for financing since there’s a good chance a lender may review some version of your FICO® Score as well.[12]

Yet it’s also worth noting that VantageScore® usage rose to over 19 billion in 2022. Therefore monitoring your VantageScore® credit scores can certainly be a good use of your time and energy as well.[13]

Bottom line

There are many free ways to review both your credit reports and your credit scores from all three credit bureaus. And since there’s no potential for credit score damage when you review your personal credit information, there’s no good reason for your credit details to remain a mystery.


  1. “63% of Consumers Check Their Credit Scores Monthly.”
  2. “Does your credit score affect your car insurance rate?”
  3. “Report identity theft and get a recovery plan.”
  4. “What is New Credit?”
  5. “Credit Checks: What are credit inquiries and how do they affect your FICO® Score?”
  6. “FICO® Score Open Access for Lenders and Service Providers.”
  7. “Get Your Free Credit Score.”
  8. “Free credit score.”
  9. “Your FICO Score, from FICO.”
  10. “Why Do I Have So Many Credit Scores?”
  11. “FICO® Score Versions.”
  12. “90% of top lenders use FICO® Scores.”,much%20interest%20you%27ll%20pay
  13. “VantageScore® Credit Score Usage Up 30% in 2022.”

About the author

Michelle Lambright Black is a nationally recognized credit expert with two decades of experience. She is the founder of, an online credit education resource and community that helps busy moms learn how to build good credit and a strong financial plan that they can leverage to their advantage. Michelle's work has been published thousands of times by FICO, Experian, Forbes, Bankrate, MarketWatch, Parents, U.S. News & World Report, and many other outlets. You can connect with Michelle on Twitter (@MichelleLBlack) and Instagram (@CreditWriter).

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Our goal at Self is to provide readers with current and unbiased information on credit, financial health, and related topics. This content is based on research and other related articles from trusted sources. All content at Self is written by experienced contributors in the finance industry and reviewed by an accredited person(s).

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Written on August 29, 2023
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