You can check your credit score for free in a few simple steps without it affecting your score.
Your credit score — a number between 300 and 850 — represents your creditworthiness. Potential lenders, like a mortgage or credit card company, consider your credit score when determining whether to approve you for a loan. That’s why it’s so important to monitor your credit score and fix any errors right away.
It’s a common misconception that checking your credit score is hard or expensive. In fact, checking your credit score doesn’t have to cost anything. Checking your credit score will give you an inside look at your creditworthiness, and give you a better idea of where you stand when applying for loans.
There are three main ways to check your credit score for free. Choose the route that works best for you.
1. Check with Your Credit Card Company
Many credit card companies allow anyone to check their credit score for free (sometimes even if you’re not a customer!) Depending on the institution, you may be able to check your score for free monthly, weekly, or even daily. You’ll receive a fast, up-to-date credit score, so you know exactly where you stand.
Cards that offer free credit score checking:
2. Request Your Credit Score Through Your Bank
Banks often give out free credit scores to their members. With most banks, your credit score automatically updates every month.
Banks that offer free credit score checking:
3. Sign Up for a Free Online Service
Certain websites and online services offer free credit scores. You’ll likely need to set up an account first, so be careful about which service you choose and make sure it’s not charging you a fee. Depending on the website, you may be able to pull free credit scores every seven to 14 days. Some services also give you the option of credit monitoring.
Sites that offer free credit score checking:
Lexington Law provides and tracks your FICO score when using our paid services. Knowing your FICO score is helpful when rebuilding your credit and preparing for large purchases since it’s used by 90 percent of the top lenders in the United States.
How to Order Your Credit Report for Free
Your credit score and your credit report are two different things. Your credit score is a number from 300-850, while your credit report details all of the different factors (like late payments, credit usage, and age of accounts) that are used to determine your credit score. You should check both your credit score and your credit report on a regular basis.
The three main credit bureaus — Experian®, TransUnion®, and Equifax® — offer one free credit report each year. You can go to Annual CreditReport to request your free reports.
Should you order all three credit reports at once or spread them out? To get a better sense of your creditworthiness and to watch for inaccuracies, you should spread out your free reports. With three free reports each year, you can pull your credit report every four months.
When you review your credit reports, be on the lookout for errors and fraud. Any errors or fraudulent activity should be reported within six months. For instance, if someone uses your identity to apply for a credit card, you should dispute it as soon as possible.
Your credit report is much more detailed than your credit score and includes a list of every credit account you’ve ever opened or closed, including student loans, auto loans, mortgages, and credit cards. Your credit report will also show if any of your accounts have been sent to collection agencies.
Does Checking Your Credit Score Damage Your Credit?
It’s a common misconception that checking your credit score hurts your credit, but that’s not true. In fact, “soft” inquiries—like ordering your credit report or checking your score—don’t affect your credit at all. So, if you’re wondering how to check your credit score without affecting it, you don’t have to worry.
Hard inquiries, on the other hand, do impact your credit score. When a mortgage or loan company checks your credit, that’s considered a hard inquiry. So for instance, if you apply for store credit to finance a major purchase, that will result in a hard inquiry on your credit report.
Hard inquiries aren’t bad, but you should limit their number and frequency. For instance, try not to apply for three credit cards at once, because the hard inquiries will be close together. Many hard inquiries in a short period of time could signal to a potential lender that you aren’t a responsible borrower.
How to Improve Your Credit Score
Checking your credit score is only one piece of the puzzle. You should know what your credit score is, but what if it’s lower than you’d like? Most mortgage companies look for a score of 600 or higher. If your score is below 600, you may want to improve your score before applying for a mortgage.
Don’t worry: many people have a lower credit score than they’d like. Luckily, there are several ways to improve your credit score in both the short- and long-term.
Fix any credit mistakes: Your credit report may include errors, and you won’t necessarily get an alert from your credit card company when they appear. Unfortunately, these errors can significantly lower your credit score. You can improve your credit score by contacting the credit bureau to have these negative and errors removed.
Pay your late and past-due accounts: Pay off your overdue debt. Late payments on your account are bad for your credit, so be sure to pay off any debts — especially those that have been sent to collection agencies.
Improve your creditworthiness: Keep old accounts open and aim to have a variety of accounts. For example, you may want to have an auto loan and a couple of credit cards. By having older, more diverse accounts, you show potential lenders that you have a healthy payment history.
Ask for professional help: If you want to improve your credit standing, consider getting professional help. Credit consultants like the ones at Lexington Law can help you make a plan for improving your credit.
Learning how to stay up-to-date on your credit health is the first step toward handling any credit issues you may have. Knowing how to check your credit score and doing it as often as possible is one of the most important credit habits you can develop and will go a long way toward improving your overall financial health.