How to Check Your Credit Score
In order to improve and maintain your financial health, we recommend checking your credit score more than once a year. By checking your credit score regularly, you will remain aware of the various credit accounts open in your name and stay alert to any potential fraud or identity theft that could affect your credit score.
Credit reports vs. credit scores
It's important to be aware of the difference between credit reports and credit scores. Sometimes they can be used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing.
Your credit report
Your credit report includes companies that have given you credit or loans, balances on the loans or lines of credit, payment history, companies that have requested a copy of your credit report, your current and past addresses, your employers, and other public records.
You can check your free credit report once a year at each of the three major credit bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com. Financial counselors recommend staggering your credit report review so that you get a year round review of your credit report. Every four months, check a report from one credit bureau at a time instead of reviewing the report from all three at once. Let’s say you check your credit report from TransUnion in January, wait four months then in May, check your report from Experian, wait another four months after that, and then in September review your report from Equifax.
However, your credit report is not the same as your credit score.
Your credit score
Your credit score is a three digit number from 300–850 and is what most people refer to when discussing “good” or “bad” credit. The most widely used credit score is the FICO®
score, which is used by 90% of lenders, but there are other models also used. When looking at your FICO® score
, the higher the number, the “better” your credit.
Some lenders also use VantageScore which is a slightly different credit-scoring model, developed by the three major credit bureaus. It is an alternative to the FICO® score but assesses credit in a similar way.
How to check your credit score regularly
When it comes to your credit score, it pays to stay vigilant. We also recommend checking your credit score regularly in order to stay on top of any potential alerts and changes. Your credit score utilizes data pulled together by the three credit reporting agencies, also known as the major credit bureaus. These are Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Your credit score from the different credit bureaus may vary slightly, depending on when they receive information about your credit. Also, some lenders report your credit information to all three credit bureaus while others don’t. They might report to just one or two credit bureaus, thus resulting in a slightly different credit history reported. One credit reporting agency may have more up-to-date information than another, since lenders report the credit information at different times, leading to different credit scores.
Can I check my credit score for free?
There are a number of online tools that allow you to see your free credit score. You can also sign up for a free Experian account that lets you check your credit report and FICO® score for free. This means you can catch any potential discrepancies with your score, or identity theft that might be damaging your score.
The following are a few ways you can check your credit score.
- Buy your FICO® score or get it for free
You can obtain a copy of your official FICO® score which uses information reported by all three credit bureaus. FICO does charge for the three bureau coverage. You can obtain a free credit score from Experian here and for Equifax here, TransUnion does not provide a free credit score, it only provides a once a year free credit report. You can obtain your credit score through TransUnion through their paid credit monitoring service here. Please note that Self Lender credit monitoring service offers Experian VantageScore 3.0 which is not the same as a FICO® score.
- Use a credit service
You can obtain a free credit score from various services that utilize the reports from the three credit bureaus. Self offers this service and utilizes the credit information from the Experian credit bureau only. It’s important to note, though, that these free reports indicate a general idea of your credit score, as you do not know which scoring model a potential lender will use to check your credit score. It’s also important to remember that your credit score may vary slightly for each credit bureau.
- Check your statements
You can check your official credit score through MyFICO.com or get an idea of where your credit score stands through credit card and loan companies that sometimes allow you to access it on your statement, online or through their apps. Check with your credit card company to see if your credit score is available to you each month and ask them how to access it.
- Utilize a counseling service
Some non-profit credit counselors or HUD-approved housing counselors may be able to give you a credit score for free. This is usually in conjunction with housing or credit counseling, meaning your budget, debt and/or housing situation will also be reviewed. If you receive these services, it’s worth it to ask if they can provide you with a score.
- Self free credit monitoring
Sign up for free and begin monitoring your credit now. Self’s credit monitoring tool utilizes the Experian VantageScore 3.0 model. Self will allow you to monitor and check your credit score. Furthermore, Self will regularly send notifications of any changes in your credit report.
Monitoring your credit score may enable high-level access to your credit report. This will allow you to review the good and bad that appears on it, thus empowering you to work on improving your credit if there are negative notations. If you do have a negative report such as a late payment affecting your credit score, it will not affect it forever. Late payments will be removed from your credit report after 7 years but generally have less significance or impact on your credit score as time passes.
On the other hand, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is much more detrimental to your credit score. It will have a negative impact on your score and remain on your credit report for 10 years. However, with time and positive paying habits, you can definitely turn things around and it may lift your credit score.
Should I check my credit score regularly?
Some people think that checking their credit report regularly will have a negative effect on their score. In reality, checking your credit report yourself is classified as a ‘soft credit inquiry’ so it won’t negatively impact credit reports or credit scores if you check them often.
Checking your credit report yourself is different from a ‘hard credit inquiry’ which typically happens if you apply for a loan or credit card and the lender reviews your credit history. A hard inquiry can stay on your credit report for two years but usually only impacts your credit score for up to a year. Be aware that if you have too many hard inquiries outside of the 14 to 45 day allowable window for shopping for specific loans like auto and mortgage, it could seem like you’re applying for credit cards and loans that increase your borrowing risk, thus causing your credit score to decrease.
Benefits of checking your credit score
Being aware of your credit score and what’s on your credit report is important as it helps you keep track of which credit accounts you have open, any repayments you may have missed, and other details about your credit.
Checking your credit score allows you to see where you might be able to lift your score by making some changes. Regularly monitoring your credit also helps you pick up on mistakes or discrepancies on credit report or catch fraudulent activity that may have occurred.
 Equifax - Will Checking Your Credit Hurt Credit Scores? - https://www.equifax.com/personal/education/credit/score/will-checking-your-credit-hurt-credit-scores/
 Equifax - How to Check Your Credit Score? - https://www.equifax.com/personal/education/credit/score/how-to-check-credit-score/