Your credit score is a number that reflects your creditworthiness or how likely you are to repay your debts on time. It is based on the information in your credit report, which is a record of your credit history from multiple sources, including lenders, credit card issuers, and collection agencies. Your credit report is maintained by three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Checking your credit score regularly can help you build your credit, stay on top of your finances, monitor your progress, and spot any errors or fraud. Find out where and how to check your credit score to make sure you’re never caught off guard.
Where to check your credit score
There are many ways to check your credit score for free or for a fee, depending on the source and the type of score you want to see. Here are some of the options you have:
How to check your credit score with major credit bureaus
All major credit bureaus keep track of your credit history through your credit reports. They use this information to calculate different versions of your credit score. Each bureau will use its available set of data and its particular credit score model, so each will likely come up with a different score.
You can request a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com.
You can also get a free copy of your credit report if you:
- are denied credit
- receive public assistance
- are unemployed
- suspect identity theft
That said, your credit report doesn’t usually contain your credit score, but some of the bureaus, like Equifax and Experian, offer a free credit score as part of their services.
For example, with Experian, you can get a free credit report and FICO® Score 8,1 while Equifax offers a free monthly VantageScore® 3.0 credit score as part of their Equifax Core Credit™ service.2
Check with your credit issuer or lender
Many credit card issuers and lenders offer customers a free credit score as a perk or a service. The score may be updated monthly or quarterly and may be the same one the company uses to evaluate your application or account. You can check if any of your current creditors provide this feature and how to access it online or on your statement.
Purchase your credit score directly
You can also buy your credit score directly from one of the three major credit bureaus or other providers, like FICO. You may be able to choose from different types of scores, like FICO Score 8, FICO Score 9, VantageScore 3.0, or VantageScore 4.0. The cost may vary depending on the provider and the number of scores you want to see.
Check credit score with a free service or report scoring site
Some websites and apps offer a free credit score to their users as an incentive for creating an account or signing up for a subscription. The type of score and the provided report may differ from one site to another, as well as the frequency of updates and the insights they provide. Some examples of these sites are Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, WalletHub, and NerdWallet.
Chime members can view their FICO Score for free in the Chime app.3
How to read your credit score report
Your credit score report is a document that shows you how your credit score is calculated and the factors that influence it. It’s based on the information in your credit report and usually includes five sections:
- Personal information like your name, Social Security number, date of birth, and more.
- Credit history, like current and closed accounts, current balance, payment history, amounts owed, and whether or not you’ve defaulted or had loans gone into collections.
- Public records showing any bankruptcy filings.
- Inquiries, or reports of when someone pulled a credit check on you in the past two years.
- Consumer statements if you ever leave a comment on your credit report to clarify anything you think lenders should know.
Credit score ranges
Learning how to check your credit score is the first step to unlocking your financial progress. You also need to understand what the number means. Depending on the type of score you receive, your credit score will fall in a range from 300 to 850, with higher scores being better and indicating lower risk to the lender. This range is usually broken down into five credit score ranges:
- Excellent credit: 800-850
- Very good credit: 740-799
- Good credit: 670-739
- Fair credit: 580-669
- Poor credit: 300-579
What matters most about your credit score isn’t the value itself but the range it falls into. The higher your score, the more responsible credit providers see you as a borrower.
A higher range means you represent less risk to the lender. It’s more likely they’ll approve you for a higher line of credit. You’re also more likely to receive better rates and payment terms if you have “excellent” credit compared to very good or good credit.
What impacts your credit score?
Your credit score is calculated using a formula considering different aspects of your credit behavior. Different scoring models may weigh these factors differently, but generally, they include the following:
This is the most significant factor in most scoring models. It shows whether you have paid your bills on time or have missed or been late on any payments. Late payments can hurt your score significantly and stay on your report for up to seven years.
This is the percentage of your available credit that you are using. It’s calculated by dividing your total balances by your total credit limits across all your accounts. A high utilization rate can indicate that you are overextended and may have trouble paying back your debts. A low utilization rate can show that you are managing your credit well. A good rule of thumb is to keep your utilization below 30%.
This is the average length of time that you have had open accounts. It’s calculated by adding the ages of all your accounts (usually in months) and dividing by the number of accounts. A longer credit history can demonstrate that you have more experience with credit and may positively affect your score. However, you can still have a good score with a short credit history if you have other positive factors in your favor.
This represents the diversity of your credit accounts, like credit cards, personal loans, student loans, mortgages, and auto loans. Having a mix of different types of credit shows that you can handle various forms of debt and may improve your score slightly. However, you should not open accounts you don’t need to increase your credit mix.
New credit inquiries
This is the number of times you have applied for new credit in the past 12 months. Each time you apply for credit, the lender may perform a hard inquiry on your credit report, temporarily lowering your score by a few points. Too many inquiries in a short period can indicate that you are desperate for credit or taking on too much debt. However, some scoring models may ignore or group inquiries for the same type of credit, like mortgages or auto loans, if made within a certain timeframe.
Why is your credit score different across credit bureaus?
You may notice that your credit score varies depending on where you check it and which bureau’s report it’s based on. This is because each bureau may have different information about your credit history, depending on which sources report to them and how frequently they update their records.
Also, each scoring model may use different criteria and calculations to generate your score. In other words, seeing small differences in your scores across sources is normal.
However, if you see a significant difference in your scores or notice any errors in your reports, contact the bureau or the provider and dispute the information. You can also improve your scores by paying your bills on time, keeping your balances low, and applying for new credit only when necessary.
Keep tabs on your credit score
Your credit score is an important indicator of your financial health and can affect your ability to access credit, loans, and other opportunities. Checking your credit score regularly can help you monitor your progress, identify areas of improvement, and catch any errors or fraud.
There are many ways to check your credit score for free or for a fee, but you should always pay attention to the type of score and the underlying report you receive.
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