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How to Check Your Credit Score When You’ve Never Done It Before

How to Check Your Credit Score When You’ve Never Done It Before

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This article was last updated Feb 20, 2020. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

Checking your credit score should be as routine as paying your monthly bills. With access to your credit score as easy as ever, there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t have a good idea of where you stand.

According to a recent survey by CompareCards, those with excellent credit are the most likely to have checked their scores in the past month. With that constant visual reminder of whether your numbers are trending up or down, you’ll be more likely to take responsible actions to keep those numbers moving in a positive direction.

What are the credit score ranges?

Since credit scores are used by a variety of institutions to determine whether you are a financially responsible individual with which to do business, knowing where you stand takes away any guesswork and can eliminate nasty surprises, such as a sky-high car insurance premium or car loan APR.

While there are many different types of scores industries use to determine risk, the two most popular and widely known consumer scores are the FICO® Score and VantageScore. Both follow a similar numeric scale of 300-850, with the higher the ranking, the better.

According to credit bureau Experian, here is how FICO Scores are ranked:

  • 800-850: Exceptional
  • 740-799: Very good
  • 670-739: Good
  • 580-669: Fair
  • 300-579: Poor

VantageScores are ranked very similar, with minor variations:

  • 750-850: Excellent
  • 700-749: Good
  • 650-699: Fair
  • 550-649: Poor
  • 300-549: Very poor

The higher the credit score, the higher your “credit reputation” is, which can result in lower interest rates on loans and other credit products. The information from your credit reports, such as open accounts, balances, payments, etc., are fed into an algorithm which generates your credit scores, and those numbers can vary a bit depending on which credit bureau is supplying the information. And, your credit score numbers will fluctuate throughout the month, but generally only by a few points, unless, of course, you did something to cause your score to rise or fall, such as pay down a large balance or miss a payment.

Read The 5 Factors That Affect Your Credit Score

Where can you check your credit score online?

Credit scores are widely available these days, and you shouldn’t have to ever pay to pull your scores. For example, you can get your free VantageScore by just answering a few questions to confirm your identity at CompareCards.

If you have a credit card or bank account through American Express, Bank of America, Barclays, Chase, Citibank, Discover, PNC Bank or Wells Fargo, for example, you should be able to access your credit score through their online portal. Here is a list of financial institutions that belong to the FICO Score Open Access Program.

At Discover, you can access your FICO Score for free online with Discover Scorecard, even if you aren’t a Discover customer. Capital One also offers a free VantageScore 3.0 with CreditWise to consumers. Or, you can go to one of three big credit bureaus, Experian, to access a free FICO Score. The other two, Equifax and TransUnion, either enroll you into a free trial or require you sign up for a paid credit monitoring service, so avoid those when looking for a free score.

Why checking your credit score is important

Your credit score has such wide-reaching implications that can make or break your ability to qualify for certain financial products or services that it only makes sense to keep track of it. Yes, you may not like what you see at first, but once you have that baseline to work from, you can adopt certain financial behaviors to keep it moving in the right direction, such as paying down debts and paying your bills on time.

And there’s nothing like positive reinforcement when you’re trying to do the right thing. Keeping a regular tab on your progress toward a better credit rating can help keep you motivated.

From a security standpoint, checking your credit score regularly can also alert you to fraud. If your score suddenly takes a nosedive when you’ve done nothing wrong, then it’s time to pull your credit reports to find out what’s going on. Did someone open a fraudulent account using your personal information? Know that you’re entitled to a free credit report once a year from each of the big three credit bureaus from annualcreditreport.com. Read through the report carefully to see if there’s anything out of line and take the proper steps to dispute any errors.

It’s hard enough keeping your credit score healthy without someone coming in and ruining it for you.

Does checking your credit score lower it?

According to the CompareCards survey, 41% of respondents said they thought that checking their credit score too often would hurt their scores. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The act of pulling your own credit score does not have any negative impact, so you can check it daily with no harm done. However, over-checking your score can border on obsessive behavior, so once a month is just fine.

Just don’t let months or years go by. Keeping tabs on your scores is just as important as knowing the balance in your checking account. You don’t want any unpleasant surprises when you are ready to apply for a mortgage, credit card or car loan.

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