Credit Cards

How To Check Your Own Credit Score

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 9 minute read

Even though it’s just a number, your credit score can greatly affect your life. If you have a high credit score, banks will fight to loan you money at a cheap interest rate. However, if your credit score is low, you pay exorbitant prices for everything, including auto insurance and credit card interest.

You appear to have a right to know what your credit score is given how much it impacts you. The credit bureaus are currently not required by law to inform you, though.

There are, thankfully, ways to examine your own credit score. You can check on this crucial figure and find out how it affects your personal finances using a number of websites, both free and paid.

Methods for Checking Credit Scores

A credit report can be accessed in a number of different ways. You can get your credit score from any of the major credit reporting agencies or from an online credit score provider for free, or for a small one-time or recurring subscription.

Credit score access may be offered as a perk by some credit card companies. As part of their service, several non-profit housing and credit counselors provide clients with free copies of their credit reports and credit scores.

1. Credit Bureaus

Services for monitoring and seeing one’s credit score are provided by the big three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Credit monitoring and identity theft security are two additional benefits offered by some of these programs.

There are a variety of services, at varying prices, available from each credit reporting agency:

  • Equifax. Each month, Equifax Core Credit will provide you with a free credit score. You can secure your Equifax credit report and see your score every day with Equifax Credit Monitor for only $4.99 a month. In addition, for a monthly fee of $9.99 to $19.99, you can get Equifax Complete, which includes even more security features and monitoring. VantageScore credit scores, not FICO scores, are offered by all of these institutions.
  • Experian. There are two tiers of service available for Experian CreditWorks. Experian credit reports and FICO scores are available on a monthly basis for free with the Basic plan. Credit reports and scores from all three bureaus, along with identity theft protection, are included in the $24.99/month Premium plan. Access to your credit score is only one of the benefits of Experian’s Experian Boost service, which can be used to raise your credit score at no cost to you.
  • TransUnion. The true identity service from TransUnion is a free way to keep an eye on your TransUnion credit report but not your credit score. Accessing this information will cost you $24.95 per month when you sign up for TransUnion credit monitoring. A user’s credit report and VantageScore are updated daily, credit-improvement suggestions are sent, and the user has the option to lock their credit reports with both TransUnion and Equifax.

2. Services for Free Credit Scores

You may get your credit score for free on several financial sites. Budgeting, bill paying, and credit monitoring are just a few of the extras that many of them provide.

Free credit report resources include:

  • SoFi. Through SoFi’s free Credit Insights by SoFi Relay service, you may check your TransUnion VantageScore once every week. You’ll learn what factors into your credit score and how to make changes to raise that number.
  • Credit Reporting Agency TransUnion and Equifax VantageScores are available to Credit Karma users without paying a fee. Daily adjustments are made to both totals. The website also features resources like loan and debt repayment calculators.
  • Cite this on the mighty Credit Sesame. You can only see your VantageScore from TransUnion with the free edition of Credit Sesame. The package also includes identity theft insurance worth $1 million and credit monitoring notifications. To get your credit reports and scores from all three bureaus each month, you can pay $15.95 per month for the Premium version.
  • LendingTree. To help you develop or repair your credit, LendingTree provides free access to your TransUnion VantageScore and helpful articles on the subject. You also gain access to the service’s crowning feature, the lightning-fast capability to shop around among several credit options.
  • Mint is a free financial app that helps you keep track of your money and achieve your financial goals with features like monitoring your credit, creating a budget, and monitoring your accounts. The TransUnion VantageScore it gives you is a measure of your creditworthiness.
  • FICO. While you can’t get your actual credit score for free from the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO), you can get a ballpark figure using their free Credit Score Estimator tool. For a rough estimate of your credit score within a range of roughly 50 points, it asks you basic questions about your credit history, such as the number of credit cards you have.

Most of these cost-free services monetize through affiliate relationships with other banking and investment institutions. Credit card and loan offers from these third parties will be displayed in your account when you log in. The website receives a commission on the product you purchase.

3. Services for Paying Credit Scores

To give you an idea of where you stand financially, most free credit score sites will provide you with either a VantageScore or a rough estimate. But your FICO score is the most important one for getting a loan. CNBC reports that lenders consider this form of credit score in more than 90% of all cases.

You’ll likely have to shell out some cash if you want to view your true FICO score. For example, you can receive this information from FICO. Using the business’s myFICO service, you can see your credit score from one credit agency for a one-time fee of $16.

As an added bonus, FICO and other businesses provide similar services for a fee. If you pay a monthly charge, these services will keep you up to date on your credit report and score. The going rate for most services is between $10 and $40 monthly.

Many of these programs provide discounted or free trial periods. These trial services might provide you with a glimpse of your credit score for a low or no cost. To avoid being charged after your trial time ends, you must terminate the service. If you’re late by just a single minute, the full price for the following month will be charged immediately.

4. Your Credit Card Company or Bank

Many financial institutions and credit card companies now provide users with free credit ratings on a monthly basis. Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citi, and Wells Fargo are just a few examples.

On a monthly basis, you may receive a credit card bill that includes a credit score. In the case of the latter, you can either access it through an online account or a mobile app. In contrast to those that utilize the FICO scoring system, those that employ the VantageScore approach produce a different number.

It’s possible to receive a free credit report from some businesses even if you’re not a customer. As an example, Credit Journey from Chase is available to anyone, account or account-free.

5. Credit Advisor

Credit advisors’ primary responsibility is to aid their clients in eliminating their debt. Help with budgeting, debt consolidation, and bankruptcy filings are all options. Many credit counseling services include complimentary access to your credit record and score as part of their offerings.

You should proceed with caution when looking for a credit counselor. Credit repair scams masquerading as credit counseling are unfortunately common. 

Avoid using a service that:

  • Collects payment in full before beginning work.
  • Expels you to challenge the accuracy of the information on your credit report
  • Failing to detail consumer protections
  • Advising you against making any attempts to get in touch with the credit reporting agencies

Credit counseling services can be found by consulting the U.S. Department of Justice’s list of recognized organizations. Connecting with a non-profit credit counselor is as simple as visiting the National Foundation for Credit Counseling website.

6. A Housing Advisor

HUD-approved housing advisors assist clients with housing concerns, much like credit counselors assist with debt. They provide guidance on how to negotiate with landlords, secure a mortgage, prevent a home from going into foreclosure, and handle financial difficulties caused by defaulting on debt. 

As part of this procedure, it may be necessary to check your credit report and score. Those in need can get help from a housing counselor at a nonprofit organization for very little money if anything at all.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website is where you may start looking for one. Simply type in your address to get a list of organizations in your area and filter for those who provide credit rehabilitation seminars.

Knowledge About Your Credit Score

A person’s creditworthiness can be approximated by their credit score. The percentages represent the likelihood that a loan would be repaid in full and on time if made to you. You will get a good score if you have borrowed money from multiple people and have always repaid it on time. 

Credit scores can take a hit for reasons like missed payments, going into default, or declaring bankruptcy. The precise figure is determined by the data in your credit report, or more precisely, in your three credit reports. Each of the big three credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—has its own report on you.

Lenders report your payment and credit history to the three bureaus listed above. How much money you’ve borrowed and how regularly you’ve paid it back is a matter of public record.

Now, the Fair Isaac Corporation has stepped in to help. The data in your credit reports are fed into a secret algorithm developed by FICO, which returns a number between 300 and 850. That sum represents your creditworthiness according to the Fair Isaac Corporation.

Commonly, when people refer to credit score, they are referring to your FICO score. The updated VantageScore, produced by the three credit agencies in collaboration, is preferred by some lenders, though. VantageScore 3.0 is the current iteration of this credit scoring system.

All three bureaus may give you different results if you seek your credit score. This is due to the fact that they are calculated using data from three separate credit reports, any of which may contain inaccurate or outdated information.

A credit bureau might have your statement from last month, when you charged $2,000, while another bureau might have your statement from this month when you charged $500. But generally, your FICO and VantageScore should be quite similar across all three bureaus.

Reasons to Check Your Credit Score

In order to determine whether or not to lend you money, lenders look at your credit score. The more favorable your credit score is, the more likely you are to get approved for a loan, and the cheaper your interest rate will be.

However, there are financial experts who argue that credit ratings are largely irrelevant unless you intend to borrow money. Dave Ramsey, for one, claims that your credit score is actually an “I love debt” score. He maintains that credit scores are unimportant so long as one makes all purchases in cash.

That’s an incorrect assumption. Credit reports are being requested by a wider range of businesses than just banks these days. Numerous entities, including insurers and prospective employers, check your credit report to gauge your reliability.

If your credit isn’t great, you can not only have trouble getting a car loan, but you might also have to pay more for auto insurance after you’ve already bought the vehicle. You can also have trouble getting a rented flat or a job. 

Even if you don’t intend to apply for a loan anytime soon, it’s still a good idea to check your credit score and take corrective action if necessary.

If you check your credit report frequently, you can spot errors that could be lowering your score before they do any real damage. Over a third of people surveyed in a Consumer Records study in 2021 discovered inaccuracies in their credit reports, some of which were significant enough to negatively impact their credit ratings.

Mistakes in credit reports can have varying degrees of impact. Your record may indicate a missed payment when, in reality, you were simply late. 

More significantly, it could reveal fraudulent accounts opened in your name, indicating that your identity has been stolen. By checking your credit, you can catch these problems before they have a significant impact on your score.

Bottom Line

When additional banks and credit unions start offering free FICO scores, then eventually everyone who has one will be able to monitor it often. Before then, there are both free and paid options available to help you monitor your credit and avoid any unexpected problems.

Verify both your credit score and the credit report upon which it is based. There is a yearly window during which you can get a free credit report from each of the three major bureaus. Just go to AnnualCreditReport.com to request your free copy.

If you want to avoid any shocks when applying for a loan, it’s a good idea to check both your credit report and credit score on a regular basis. And it can tell you how your credit is doing so you can take steps to improve it if necessary.

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