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How Can I Check My Credit Score?

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There are many ways to view your credit score, including checking with the credit bureaus, signing up with an online service and getting it through a financial institution. Luckily, many of these tools are free and simple to access, making it much easier to answer the question, “How can I check my credit score?”

How can I check my credit score?

Your credit score is a number ranging from 300 to 850 that represents your creditworthiness to lenders. The higher your score, the better you look to creditors. There are several ways to check your score, some of which are free. Here are five common ways to check your credit score:

  1. Credit bureaus
  2. Online credit tools
  3. Financial institutions
  4. Purchase
  5. Credit counselors

1. Credit bureaus

Consumers can check their credit score with any of the three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — as well as with FICO and VantageScore, the two agencies responsible for creating the credit-scoring models.

  • Equifax: If you want to see where your credit score sits with this bureau, you’ll have to enroll in Equifax Core Credit. This service is free and comes with monthly updates on your credit score. As part of this service, you’ll get your credit score based on the VantageScore 3.0 model from data on your Equifax credit report.
  • Experian: With this bureau, you can access your credit score for free. Unlike the other credit bureaus, Experian offers users their credit scores based on the FICO Score 8 model.
  • TransUnion: Like Equifax, TransUnion provides consumers with their VantageScore 3.0 credit score. However, you’ll have to pay $29.95 a month in order to access it, but once you subscribe, you’ll have unlimited access to your credit score and report.

2. Free online credit score tools

Free credit scores and credit-monitoring tools are widely available from companies such as LendingTree. Using these resources to check your credit score won’t impact it. In fact, some services may also provide insight into what is impacting your credit score and suggest steps you can take to improve it.

These services can help you stay on top of your credit, but before you sign up, you’ll want to determine whether you’ll be charged any subscription fees. Here are a few details to keep in mind:

  • Credit bureau and model: Check which credit report and credit-scoring model will be used to calculate your score. Your credit score will vary based on which scoring model and credit bureau the service uses.
  • Updates: Find out how frequently the service will update your credit score. Some programs will only update your score when you log into your account.
  • Includes credit monitoring: Look into whether the service will send you a notification if it detects new or suspicious activity on your credit report that may impact your score.

3. Financial institutions

Your current bank or credit union may also provide access to your credit score.

For example, Wells Fargo Bank offers access to your FICO Score from Experian as long as you have a qualified Wells Fargo account (deposit, loan, and credit accounts) and are enrolled in Wells Fargo Online. Aside from showing your credit score, Wells Fargo also provides credit-monitoring alerts, access to your credit report and ways you can improve your score.

Discover also provides credit score access to customers who are primary account holders with the company. The credit score Discover provides is based on data from your TransUnion credit report. Discover customers also get to see which factors and activities are impacting their credit the most.

If you want to see more financial institutions that offer free credit scores, check out the FICO Score Open Access program. More than 100 financial institutions participate in this program and give their customers a free FICO credit score and credit information.

To see lenders that use VantageScore, check out the company’s list of over 2,600 financial institutions that use this scoring model.

4. Purchase your credit scores

Some companies, including one of the three credit reporting agencies, will sell consumers access to their credit scores. Generally, it doesn’t make sense to pay for something when you can get it for free, but there are a few circumstances in which you may want to purchase a credit score service.

For example, the paid credit score services may include additional features, such as identity theft insurance and credit monitoring, which aren’t included with a free service. If you’re considering paying for those services anyway, you might as well get a credit score, too. The paid services may also give you access to daily updated scores and reports, while many free options only provide weekly or monthly updates.

You can also purchase your credit score information from FICO, which includes other services such as access to credit reports, score and credit monitoring, identity theft insurance, 24/7 identity restoration and identity monitoring.

5. Credit counselors

Credit counselors are financial professionals who assist consumers in managing their money and debt. For instance, if you’re overwhelmed by credit card debt, a credit counselor can create a debt management plan. Credit counselors can also help consumers access their credit scores and reports.

Since many agencies are nonprofit, credit counseling services are often free or low cost. You can find a credit counselor through the Department of Justice or through organizations such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC).

What do credit scores mean?

Your credit score is a three-digit number — ranging from 300 to 850 — used by creditors to measure your creditworthiness. Your credit score is determined by the activity on your credit report, such as late payments, hard credit inquiries, accounts in collections and bankruptcy filings. The activity on your credit profile can raise or lower your credit score.

The closer your credit score is to 850, the more favorably your score is looked upon. For instance, if you have a high credit score, you may qualify for credit products such as 0% intro APR credit cards. Lenders may also offer you low interest rates on loans and credit cards.

On the other hand, if you have a lower credit score, you may have a harder time qualifying for credit and lenders may offer you high interest rates on credit products. If you find yourself in this position, work to improve your credit score, particularly if you’re considering applying for credit like an auto loan or mortgage.

What affects your credit scores?

Your credit score will fluctuate depending on the activity on your credit report. Some activities, such as payment history, are weighed more heavily than other events on your credit report and may have a greater impact on your credit score.

Here’s what can impact your FICO credit score (the most commonly used model) and how it’s weighed:

  • Payment history: 35%
  • Amount of debt: 30%
  • Credit history length: 15%
  • New credit: 10%
  • Types of credit: 10%

Why checking your credit score matters

Your credit score can impact areas of your life beyond taking out loans or applying for credit cards. Having a low credit score can also impact your ability to rent a home or may leave you paying high insurance rates.

However, keeping tabs on your credit score isn’t just helpful for qualifying for credit opportunities. It’s important to keep track of your credit scores because it can alert you to unusual activity and potential fraud.

If your personal details have been stolen and used to borrow money, you’ll be able to spot the red flags on your credit report and you’ll see any delinquent payments reflected in your credit score. Checking your score is one way to help ensure that you’re keeping your credit profile and financial information safe.

It’s also a good idea to check your credit score before applying for a loan. You’ll be able to see if there are any errors or other issues that may cause your application to be rejected.

Why your credit score may vary

Checking your credit score is easy and, in many cases, free. But you might be surprised to learn that your score is different depending on where you check it.

When you receive your credit score, it’s usually your FICO or VantageScore credit score based on one of your credit reports from either Equifax, Experian or TransUnion. Because the scoring model may vary, the underlying data on your credit reports might not be identical.

It’s also important to keep in mind that creditors don’t always report activity to all three credit bureaus. For instance, your auto loan lender may report to Experian, while your credit card company may report to Equifax and TransUnion. As a result, your credit score will vary because the information is different.

Frequently asked questions

You should check your credit score and credit report at least once a year to check your standing and to watch for any errors. However, if you’re planning to take out a loan, you may want to check it more frequently, especially if you’re working on improving it.

You can receive a free copy of your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Typically, checking your own credit score will not impact it. However, if someone runs a credit check on you, it could show up on your credit report as a hard credit pull and may cause your score to drop by a few points.

When someone pulls up your credit report, they’ll be able to see your personal information, payment history, hard credit pulls, collection accounts, bankruptcies and any negative items. The information in your credit report may impact whether a lender is willing to offer you a loan.

 

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