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Your credit score is a numeric representation of how you use credit. Lenders use your credit score to get an idea of how likely you are to repay a loan or meet another financial obligation. By checking your credit score, you can deduce whether a financial services company feels that you’re a “good” risk — before you submit a credit application.
In some cases, you might need to pay to see your credit score. However, there are several ways to get your credit score without paying for it. Here’s what you need to know about your credit score and how to check it for free.
How to get your credit score
How to get a free credit report
Credit score check FAQs
Why you should check your credit score
Staying on top of your credit score can help you determine your creditworthiness and whether you might qualify for specific financial products and services. For example, lenders often set a minimum credit score for an applicant to be eligible. If you do a credit check ahead of time, you’ll have a better idea of whether you’re likely to qualify for the best possible rate and whether you’re likely to get the mortgage in the first place.
Additionally, checking your credit score can help you catch any identity theft or potential fraud. Monitoring whether your credit score is going up or down can alert you to red flags. For example, if your score suddenly drops, you can look deeper to see what credit activity may have caused it. If you look at your credit report, you might see a fraudulent account opened in your name. Unexpected swings in your credit score can be an indicator of identity theft or other issues.
As you check your credit score, it’s important to understand that you don’t have just one score. You actually have several scores that are based on the scoring model being used, as well as the source of the information. Credit scores are determined by the information in your credit report. However, not every creditor communicates to all of the credit reporting agencies, so some of the information might differ slightly, resulting in a different score. When looking at your credit scores, you might want to check various sites to get an idea of how lenders and other financial service providers might see you, based on the different information they have been provided.
VantageScore and FICO are two different companies that offer credit scoring models. VantageScore was developed by the three major credit bureaus —Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Each scoring model weighs information differently and even accounts for different data.
VantageScore looks at six factors and rates them as extremely; highly; moderately; or less influential. FICO relies on five factors, each of which makes up a percentage of the score.
How to get your credit score
You can get your credit score for free using different methods. In some cases, when you sign up for a “free” score, you might also be signing up for a paid credit monitoring service. Be sure to read the fine print if you decide to look up your free credit score.
Get your credit score from a free credit score service
Free credit score services can provide you with a version of your credit score based on information from a specific credit bureau. For example, Credit Sesame’s free service bases your credit score on the TransUnion VantageScore 3.0. Credit Karma shows you two VantageScores: one from Equifax and one from TransUnion.
When you sign up for a free credit score service, they pull information from a credit report and apply that information through a credit scoring model. You can then see your score, understand what’s impacting the score (like your credit history), and be provided with actions you can take to improve your score. Often, these free credit score services also provide access to different products and services, such as credit card applications and personal loans.
Get your credit score from the major credit bureaus
You can also get your credit score from one of the major credit card bureaus. In general, you might have to pay to see your credit score based on the information in your credit report. However, some credit bureaus, such as Experian, might allow you to see your score for free along with your credit report. If you want to see a score from another bureau, though, you might need to pay for an “upgrade.”
Another way to get your free credit score comes after you receive an “adverse action,” such as being denied for credit or ending up with a higher interest rate. If a credit score was used to determine the action, the service provider or lender must send you an explanation letter within 60 days and share the report used to make the decision, along with your credit score.
Get your credit score from your credit card company
You might also be able to get your credit score for free from your credit card company.
For example, Capital One offers CreditWise, which is available to everyone for a fee. However, if you have a Capital One card, you can see your score from your account page. Capital One uses VantageScore from TransUnion. Discover card members can also see their credit scores on their credit card statements. This score is the FICO, based on data from TransUnion.
If you have a different credit card, you might be able to see your score if the issuer offers that perk. Double-check to see if your score is offered. While it likely won’t be a score based on data from all three bureaus, it can still help you monitor your credit score and see whether it’s trending higher or lower.
How to get a free credit report
A credit report is a history of your interactions with different types of debt. It lists your credit accounts, your balances, and whether you pay on time each month. That information is then used in the scoring models to come up with your score.
Get your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com
U.S. law allows you to get a copy of your credit report from each major bureau once a year. You can go to AnnualCreditReport.com to get a free copy. One strategy that some consumers use is to get a different report every four months.
Get your credit report from the major credit bureaus
Again, you might be able to get a copy of your credit report from the major credit bureaus. Depending on the situation, you might get a free copy when you sign up for other services, such as credit monitoring, or if you get a free trial of another service offered by the credit bureau.
Credit score check FAQs
How to check my credit score without affecting it?
Any time you check your own credit score for informational purposes – which is known as a soft inquiry – it won’t impact your score. Your credit score is impacted only if you’re applying for credit or some other financial service that checks your credit, which is known as a hard inquiry. With those credit inquiries, you might see your score affected.
Is AnnualCreditReport.com safe?
Yes, AnnualCreditReport.com is safe. It’s the official website to get one free credit report each year from each of the major credit bureaus.
How often should I check my credit score?
How often you check your credit score depends on your individual situation. It can be a good idea to check a few times a year just to get an idea of whether your credit is improving or not. Checking your credit score can also alert you to identity theft and give you time to file a credit report dispute to get it fixed. It also might be a good idea to check before you make a major purchase, like a home, to see how likely you are to be approved.
How do I know if my credit score is good?
Credit score ranges usually run from 300 to 850. The higher the credit score, the better your creditworthiness appears to lenders. According to Equifax, a good credit score is generally between 670 and 739. Experian points out that a score above 700 is generally considered good.
Checking your credit score can help you gauge if you can get new credit card offers or favorable terms for various financial products and services. By checking your credit score using free resources, such as your credit card statement, consumer credit score websites, and credit reporting agencies, you can keep tabs on your situation and review accounts if you’re afraid your identity has been stolen.