How To Check Your Credit Score
There are many different ways to check your credit score, and there are also different scoring authorities. The main two credit scores that you’ve probably heard of are the FICO score and VantageScore. Your credit score is available for free from a variety of trusted sources including verified online sites, some credit card lenders and government entities.
Your credit score is an essential part of your financial health. It comes into play when applying for things like credit cards, home loans and auto loans, and in other situations that require a lender. Whether your score is good, neutral or poor, knowing what it is can set you up for financial success. Below, we’ll cover some things to know before checking your credit score.
What Goes Into Your Credit Score?
FICO credit score calculations use an easy-to-follow formula that consists of five elements. These elements are:
- Payment History (35%): How often you do or don’t make late payments
- Credit Utilization (30%): Your debt-to-available-credit ratio (lower percentages are better)
- Credit Age (15%): How long you’ve been building credit (i.e., the age of your accounts)
- Credit Diversity (10%): How diverse your accounts and credit are
- Application History (10%): How often you’ve applied for types of credit in the past two years
Your payment history and credit utilization are the two most important factors for both your FICO score and your VantageScore. VantageScore states that they compare “your behavior with other borrowers to assess how likely you are to make timely loan repayments.” Your score may vary by a couple of points based on the reporting agency you use, as their formulas are similar but value certain aspects differently.
What Is the Best Way to Check Credit Scores?
First, you should note that there is a difference between your credit report and your credit score. A credit report is an in-depth statement that details activity like opening accounts. Your credit score is just the three-digit number that summarizes your credit history.
When you check your credit report and score, make sure you’re doing so safely.
Know What the Government Guarantees
The US government guarantees that “you are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) once every 12 months.” They also state that these three free guaranteed reports can be spaced out throughout the year (although currently, in response to the financial upheaval caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, you can get a free copy of your credit report every week through April 2021.)Visit AnnualCreditReport.com for more information and to request your report.
If you’re denied a free credit report that you rightfully deserve, try to resolve the issue with the credit reporting agency. If that doesn’t work, reach out to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Check Your Credit Report at Least Once a Year
As mentioned above, you’re entitled to free reports from those reporting agencies. So, at the very minimum, you should be checking those out once per year. You might want to check your score more often if you:
- Plan on applying for a home loan or an auto loan
- Suspect that you’ve been affected by identity theft
- Are searching for a job, as many employers will check your credit report before hiring you
Does It Hurt My Credit to Check My Credit Score?
When you check your own credit score, it’s classified as a “soft inquiry” and does not impact your credit score. When a lender goes to check your score, this is usually a “hard inquiry” and may result in the loss of a few points. This is one of the reasons why applying for a bunch of different credit cards can have a negative impact, while checking in on your credit won’t.
Which Type of Credit Score Do I Check?
Some experts recommend checking both your FICO score and VantageScore periodically. This helps you get a better understanding of the full scope of your credit score and see what potential lenders will see. Since FICO scores and VantageScores use very similar criteria to evaluate credit, it doesn’t hurt to check out other free reports to get a different point of view. (Make sure that you read the terms and conditions of any free credit score reporting site before signing up—you can’t be too careful.)
How to Get a Free Credit Score Report
There are a variety of free options to check your credit score including free sites, your credit card lender and government-run counseling. Depending on the method, you’ll need to have different documents or information on hand to get your score report, which could include your:
- Date of birth
- Social Security Number (SSN)
Please be wary of fraudulent credit score or report sites. Only enter your sensitive information on verified sites so you don’t put yourself at risk of identity theft. Find the free credit score report option that best suits your needs below.
Free Online Score Reports
The main credit reporting bureaus are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. As mentioned above, these agencies will supply you with one free credit report per year (now one per week, through April 2021) . Discover also provides free FICO credit scores for anyone who signs up (not just Discover cardholders). Some other well-known organizations that provide you with a look at your credit score include:
- Credit.com (VantageScore from Experian)
- Experian (FICO score)
- Wallethub (VantageScore from TransUnion)
Credit Card Lenders
Check with your credit card lender, as many banks and credit unions will supply you with access to your FICO score or VantageScore for free. Some lenders only provide this tool once you’ve requested it, while others include it automatically. Some well-known lenders that provide free credit score reports are:
- American Express (FICO score)
- Bank of America (FICO score from TransUnion)
- Barclays (FICO score)
- Capital One (VantageScore)
- Chase (VantageScore from TransUnion)
- Citi (FICO score)
- Commerce Bank (FICO score)
- Discover (FICO score)
- First National Bank (FICO score)
- First National BankUSAA Bank (VantageScore)
- US Bank (FICO score from Experian)
- Wells Fargo (FICO score)
There are federally funded options for those who want to get more information about their credit score. You can get assistance from a counselor at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
As you can see, there are a variety of ways to check your score and get a better view of your credit and financial health. If you’re unsatisfied with your credit score, there are steps you can take to improve it. A credit repair evaluation will assess these different pieces of your credit score and help you challenge inaccurate negative marks to help you reach your financial goals.
Find out how you can fix, improve or build your credit. Learn more about the basics of credit, what affects your score and how your credit can impact your life.
from a Credit Expert