How to Check Your Credit Score

How to Check Your Credit Score
Rebecca LakeAugust 1, 2022
Key Takeaways:
  • It’s possible to check credit scores for free.
  • You can check your credit scores without lowering them.
  • Free credit scores are not usually the same ones used by lenders.

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Your credit score is a financial report card of sorts. It tells lenders how responsible you are when borrowing and repaying debt. 

Knowing how to check your credit score is important when you're planning to apply for a mortgage, auto loan, or another form of credit. Checking your score can give you an idea of how likely you are to be approved for a loan and what interest rates you'll pay.

It's possible to check your credit score for free online if you know where to look. If you're interested in reviewing your credit scores, here's how to find them. 

How to Check Your Credit Score

Before you check your credit scores, there's one thing you need to know. You have more than one credit score. 

FICO credit scores are used by 90% of top lenders in credit decisions. All credit scoring models, including FICO, base your score on information from your credit reports. Here's how your FICO credit score breaks down:

  • Payment history. Payment history comprises 35% of your FICO score. Paying on time can help your score while paying late can hurt it.

  • Credit utilization. Credit utilization makes up 30% of your FICO. That's the percentage of your available credit you're using at any given time.

  • Credit age. Credit age influences 15% of your FICO – that’s the average age of your accounts (older is better).

  • Credit inquiries. The number of inquiries drives 10% of your FICO. Every credit application generating a “hard” inquiry temporarily drops your credit score a little. That’s because too many inquiries indicate a much higher risk of bankruptcy.

  • Credit mix. Ten percent of your credit score is based on your credit mix. That means the types of credit you use.

There's more than one FICO score model and which one a lender uses can depend on what type of loan you're applying for. 

VantageScores are another type of credit score. The VantageScore model was jointly developed by the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. VantageScores are calculated using many of the same factors as FICO scores but they don't use the same formula.

Before we dig into the different options for how to check your credit score, here's one more tip. You can check credit without hurting your credit score. 

When you check your credit, you trigger a “soft” inquiry or soft pull. Soft pulls don't affect your credit score. In fact, checking your credit scores often can be a good thing if you're trying to improve your credit rating. 

You can get your credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus for free once each year through AnnualCreditReport.com. These reports don't include your credit scores, though you can purchase them separately. As mentioned, however, you can check your credit score for free. 

Option #1: Get your credit score free from your credit card company

Many credit card companies offer free credit scores to consumers as a card benefit. So if you have a credit card and your card issuer offers free score access, checking your credit score may be as simple as reviewing your most recent statement or logging into your account online. 

Keep in mind that card issuers can choose which score to offer. So you might get access to your FICO score with one card and your VantageScore with another. And those scores might not be the same, depending on which credit bureau provided the information that was used to calculate them. 

Here's a quick rundown of which credit scores you can get for free from the top card issuers:

  • American Express: VantageScore 3.0 by TransUnion

  • Bank of America: FICO by TransUnion

  • Capital One: VantageScore 3.0 by TransUnion

  • Chase: VantageScore 3.0 by Experian

  • Citi: FICO by Equifax

  • Discover: FICO by TransUnion

  • U.S. Bank: VantageScore 3.0 by TransUnion

  • Wells Fargo: FICO by Experian

Keep in mind that your ability to access credit scores for free through your credit card company may depend on what card you have. And with Chase, you can sign up for Credit Journey to check your credit score for free even if you don't have a Chase credit card. 

Option #2: Use a credit monitoring website

Credit monitoring websites monitor your credit reports to track changes that might affect your credit scores. This is another great option for how to check your credit score without paying a fee. 

Credit monitoring companies typically offer VantageScores, not FICO scores, for free to their customers. But again, you don't have to pay for it. And these companies may provide access to other tools that can help you improve your credit situation or offer recommendations for loans and credit cards, based on your credit profile.

Some of the top sites for free credit monitoring and credit score access include:

  • Credit Karma

  • Credit Sesame

  • Creditwise from Capital One

  • LendingTree

  • Mint

You can also monitor your credit and get your credit scores through FICO. This option is not free, however. Subscription plans range from $19.95 to $39.95 per month. 

Option #3: Get your scores from the credit bureaus

Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion all provide credit scoring services, including one-time scores and monthly scoring updates. Whether you can get these services for free or have to pay a fee can depend on which one you use.

Equifax

Equifax VantageScore 3.0 is available free through Equifax Core Credit. Equifax Complete Premier includes 3-bureau VantageScore 3.0 credit scores and credit reports, as well as continuous credit monitoring for $19.95 per month. 

Experian

Experian FICO 8 credit score is available free through Experian Boost. Consumers can get access to all three FICO 8 credit scores and credit reports for $39.99.

TransUnion

TransUnion has no free offering. Unlimited VantageScore 3.0 access and credit monitoring are available for $24.95 per month.

Option #4: Check your credit with a credit counselor

Credit counselors can help you to get a better handle on your financial situation. Some credit counselors focus on things like budgeting and debt. For example, they may help you to set up a debt management plan (DMP) to streamline monthly payments.

Other credit counselors specialize in credit repair services. The goal of credit repair is to improve your credit score over time. 

Credit counselors may be able to provide access to your credit scores. The key is finding the right credit counseling agency or credit repair service to work with. Here are a few tips from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for avoiding debt relief and credit repair scams:

  • Be wary of companies that require payment upfront before services are provided.

  • Watch out for companies that tell you not to contact credit bureaus directly.

  • Avoid companies that advise you to lie on applications for credit or loans.

  • Consider the company's practices, especially if they're advising you to dispute credit report information you know is accurate or don't explain your legal rights in detail.

You can check the Department of Justice list of approved credit counseling agencies to verify that a credit counselor is legit. You can also visit the Better Business Bureau (BBB) online or contact your state attorney general's office to see if any complaints have been filed against a specific credit repair agency.

How to Check Your Business Credit Score

If you run a business, chances are you have a separate business credit score. Lenders use business credit scores to decide when to approve borrowers for loans, lines of credit, and other types of business financing. 

You may have a business credit score if:

  • Your business is registered with the appropriate state agencies

  • You have a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) or Employer Identification Number (EIN)

  • The business has a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number with Dun & Bradstreet

In terms of how to check your credit score for your business, there are several websites you can use to get your scores. Whether you'll pay a fee and which business credit you can access depends on the site. 

Some of the best options for checking business credit scores include CreditSafe, Data Axle and Nav. You can also purchase business credit scores through Equifax, Experian, and Dun & Bradstreet. 

Achieve financial control. How much debt do you have?

$25,000
Get your FREE plan now

Or speak to a debt consultant  800-910-0065

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the free site AnnualCreditReport.com provide free credit scores?

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You can visit the federal government's site AnnualCreditReport.com to get your free credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion once per year. AnnualCreditReport.com does not provide free credit scores, however.

Are all free credit scores the same?

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Free credit scores are not all alike. Some free credit scores are issued by FICO; others are VantageScores. There can be wide variations in free credit scores, depending on which credit bureau furnishes the information for them and which scoring model is used. 

How do providers of free credit scores make money?

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Free credit score providers can make money by offering paid financial services or products. For example, you might be able to get your credit score for free and receive recommendations for loans based on that score. If you apply for the recommended loan, the credit score provider may receive a commission from the lender. Providers also get a lot of valuable information from you in exchange for your score, and they may use it themselves or sell it to marketing companies.