One of the biggest misconceptions people have about credit scores is that checking their own credit scores is damaging. And of course, if consumers think they’ll be hurting themselves by checking scores, then they’re also more likely to remain in the dark about where their credit truly stands.
Living without a clue of your credit score is dangerous, especially if you plan to apply for any type of financial product or service. You never know whether you’re going to be approved or denied or what price you’ll pay.
Credit Scores Were Once a Secret
Perhaps the misunderstanding comes from the fact that some credit checks do negatively affect credit scores. Particularly credit checks that result from a credit application. Several years ago, before the government gave consumers the right to view their credit scores, the only way to know your credit score was if a lender checked it and told you the result. These hard credit checks count for 10% of our credit scores, so checking your credit score though a lender can hurt.
Check As Often As You'd Like
Now that law allows us to check our own credit scores, there’s no threat to your credit if you check your score, even if you check it daily. You don’t have to check your credit score that often; daily changes, if there are any, are often insignificant. At the very least, you should check your credit score once or twice a year. That’s often enough to stay aware of your rating. You might check your score more often if you’re trying to repair a bad credit score, if you’re working to build up a brand new credit score, or if you’re planning to apply for a major loan soon.
And because your own credit checks are “soft,” they don’t appear on the version of your credit report that lenders see when you apply for credit. So no one will ever know if you really have been obsessing over your credit score every day.
Where to Check Your Credit Score
While Federal law gives consumers the right to a free credit report every year, we don’t have the same right to a free credit score. So, to check your credit score, you have two basic options. First, you can purchase it through one of the credit bureaus, myFICO (who only sells your credit score based on your Equifax and TransUnion credit history), or another third-party reseller. Or, the second option is to use a site that offers free credit scores. Right now there are three: CreditKarma.com, CreditSesame.com, and Quizzle.com.
Avoid Costly Gimmicks
When you’re on the hunt for a free credit score, beware “free” credit score offers that ask for your credit card number. These gimmicks enroll you on a trial credit monitoring service that you must cancel within a few days to avoid being charged. Your credit card number is the key to knowing whether you’re getting a legitimately free score or not. If you’re asked for your card number, look for the fine print because it’s not free.