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Does checking your credit score lower it?
You can check your own credit score without lowering it. Checking your credit score helps you know where you stand as you work to improve your score. When third parties – like lenders and landlords – perform a hard inquiry on your credit report, however, this lowers your score, typically by fewer than five points.
Credit scores are a vital piece of your total financial picture. Knowing where your credit stands can help you determine focus areas to improve.
But does checking your score lower it? Nope, not at all! Checking your own credit score doesn’t count against you.
But you may see an impact if someone else – like a lender or landlord – checks your credit report.
Below, we’ll review how credit checks work, how they affect your score, and how you can stay on top of it all.
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What is a credit inquiry?
A credit inquiry, or credit check, means someone has requested a copy of your credit report from one or more credit bureaus. That could be you or anyone authorized to view your credit file – like a lender, insurance company, landlord, employer, or debt collector.
Credit reports include your personal information, credit history, public records, and recent credit inquiries. Credit scoring companies, including FICO® and VantageScore, use the information in these reports to calculate your credit score.
Soft vs. hard checks: What's the difference?
There are two types of inquiries: soft and hard. Soft inquiries don’t affect your credit score, but hard inquiries can.
Here’s a look at when third parties may conduct soft vs. hard credit inquiries (also known as a soft pull and hard pull):
|Soft inquiries||Hard inquiries|
|Soft inquiries are not used for credit applications. These inquiries don’t require your permission and aren’t reported to the credit bureaus. As a result, they don’t affect your credit scores.||Hard inquiries are associated with credit applications. You must authorize a lender or another entity to conduct a hard inquiry. A hard credit pull is reported to the credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) and can appear on your credit reports.|
|Credit score impacts:|
Soft inquiries do not impact your credit score because they aren’t reported to the credit bureau.
So does checking your credit score lower it? Nope! Checking your own credit score is considered a soft pull.
|Credit score impacts:|
On the other hand, hard inquiries can reduce your score by a few points each. Inquiries can remain on your credit reports for up to two years.1 If you’re rate shopping for a car loan, mortgage, or other loan, inquiries that occur within the same 30-day window are treated as a single inquiry for credit scoring.
How is my credit score calculated?
Several companies calculate your credit score using their proprietary scoring models. FICO is the most common (it’s used in 90% of credit decisions2). In addition to your “main” score, FICO also creates auto scores (often used in auto lending decisions) and bankcard scores (often used in credit card decisions).3
FICO isn’t the only company in the game, though. VantageScore is the second-most popular credit scoring model, but others are out there. Check out our guide to FICO vs. other credit scores to learn the difference.
So how does FICO calculate your credit score? Though credit scoring can seem complex, FICO breaks it down into five easy categories:4
1. Payment history (35% of your score)
The most significant factor that determines your credit score is payment history. Making on-time payments – credit cards, mortgages, auto loans, student loans, etc. – signals to lenders that you’re responsible about paying back what you borrow.
2. Credit utilization (30% of your score)
Credit utilization refers to the amount of credit available to you that you’re actually using. Maxing out a credit card means you’re using 100% of the available credit, which can negatively affect your score.
Using a smaller portion of your available credit – for instance, only spending $300 on a credit card approved for $1,000 – keeps your credit utilization down and shows lenders you can responsibly manage credit.
3. Credit age (15% of your score)
Everything gets better with age, including your credit score. Having credit accounts that have stayed open for a long time shows lenders that you can keep an account in good standing over time.
4. Credit mix (10% of your score)
Credit scoring models also look at the different types of credit you have. Your score may benefit if you have a healthy mix – credit cards, auto loans, mortgage loans, etc. – all in good standing.
5. Credit inquiries (10% of your score)
Recent hard inquiries can affect your score, but they don’t stick around on your credit report for long. FICO stops considering hard inquiries in its calculations after 12 months.1
Why is checking my credit score so important?
Knowing where you stand is the first step to building your credit. That’s why it’s critical to check your score – now and as you progress on your credit journey.
You can use your credit report as a guide for ways to improve your credit score. For example, if missed payments are dragging your score down, then automating monthly bill payments from your online bank account is a simple fix that could boost your score over time.
Checking your credit score is also essential if you plan to borrow money. Lenders use credit scores and other financial information to determine whether to approve you for a loan. Your credit scores can also influence the interest rates you pay to borrow.
Before applying for a credit card or loan, know where you stand. Lenders may issue credit approvals based on where you land in a particular credit score range. With FICO, for example, a credit score ranging between 670 and 739 is considered good.5
If you know a lender is looking for good or excellent credit, checking your credit scores can give you an idea of how likely you are to qualify for a loan. And if your scores are below the range that a lender expects, you can take steps to work on improving your credit before applying.
3 ways to check your credit score
Now that you know checking your credit score won’t count against you, let’s discuss how to do it. The good news: You’ve got multiple ways to check your credit score online.
1. Purchase your credit score from FICO or the credit bureaus
You can buy access to your credit score through FICO or one of the credit bureaus.
Usually, you get more than just a credit score with this option. For example, you might also get a copy of your credit report or access to ongoing credit monitoring.
You can also get your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus for free once per year through AnnualCreditReport.com or the bureaus themselves.
Here are a few ways to purchase access to your credit report and scores:
- MyFICO: Choose between a one-time credit report and FICO Score or an ongoing monthly subscription, with prices starting at $19.95.
- Equifax: Get your VantageScore and three-bureau credit report once a year, plus your Equifax credit report and corresponding VantageScore whenever you want, for $19.95 per month.
- Experian: Get your FICO Scores and credit reports from all three bureaus for a one-time fee of $39.99.
- TransUnion: Get unlimited credit score tracking and credit reporting for $29.95 per month.
2. Check your credit score with credit monitoring
Credit monitoring services can offer ongoing credit score tracking and monitoring. Specifically, these services track changes to your credit report that might affect your credit scores. That can include things like:
- New hard inquiries
- New accounts opened
- Late or missed payments
- Collection actions
These services are helpful, especially if you’re worried about identity theft or fraud. A credit monitoring service could immediately alert you if a new credit account is opened in your name that you didn’t authorize.
3. Check your credit score for free
If you’re on a budget, there’s good news. It’s possible that you could check your credit score for free if you have a credit card.
A number of top financial institutions offer members access to their credit scores – including Chime. Just log in to the Chime app and track your credit score for free.
And here’s another way to get a free credit score: sign up for a free account with Experian.
Experian offers a free credit report and FICO Score, no credit card required. Although, you may be asked if you want to upgrade your membership for a fee each time you log in.
Get to know your credit score
Understanding your credit score, how it works, and how to check it gives you more power to improve your financial health. Plus, knowing your credit score is crucial before you try to borrow money.
As you work on building good credit, focus on simple habits like paying bills on time, keeping debt balances low, and growing your emergency savings account – so you don’t have to rely on credit cards for unexpected expenses.
How long do hard inquiries stay on your credit report?
A hard inquiry stays on your credit report for about two years, but FICO only uses inquiries from the last 12 months to calculate your score.1
Don’t sweat one or two hard inquiries, but if you rack up multiple hard inquiries in a short amount of time, that can be a red flag to potential lenders.
How many points does a hard inquiry affect credit score?
A single hard inquiry reduces your credit score by fewer than five points.1 The drop is temporary; your scores should rebound in a few months. Remember that inquiries can have a greater impact if you have few accounts or a short credit history.
How many hard inquiries is too many?
If you apply for multiple credit cards and/or other loans within a short time, the credit scoring models may see your activity as a high credit risk. This would result in a larger drop in your score than a single inquiry.
Regardless of the impact to score, individual lenders may see the multiple inquiries on your credit report and hesitate to approve your loan application. Each lender typically has a limit on how many hard inquiries are acceptable before they turn you down for credit.
Do soft inquiries affect credit score?
A soft inquiry doesn’t affect your credit score. Some examples of a soft inquiry include checking your own credit or a lender checking your report to pre-approve you for a loan or credit card.
How much does credit score decrease when it is checked?
Does checking your credit score lower it? That depends on who is checking it.
Soft credit checks (like when you check your own score) do not decrease your credit score. A single hard inquiry, however, will typically drop your FICO Score by fewer than five points.
Does checking your credit score on Credit Karma lower it?
Checking your credit score through Credit Karma will not directly lower your score. Credit Karma uses soft inquiries from TransUnion and Equifax to give you a picture of your credit standing.6
However, if you apply for a credit card through Credit Karma, you’ll get a hard inquiry on your credit report, which will lower your credit score.
Why does checking your credit score lower it?
Checking your own score doesn’t lower it, but your score will drop when a third party performs a hard inquiry on your credit report. Why? Because a hard inquiry shows other lenders that you’ve been applying for credit, it might make lenders wonder if you’ve maxed out other available credit or routinely make poor financial decisions.
The reality, however, is that most of us have to apply for credit at some point – for a mortgage, a car loan, student loans, and even new credit cards. Thus, hard inquiries don’t greatly impact your credit score – unless there are too many all at once.