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How To Check Your Credit Score

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A credit score is basically a number that gives a lender an indication of the likelihood you’ll pay back your debt. All lending institutions use credit scores to determine if it’s worth the risk to extend a loan to a borrower.

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Whether you’re financing a new car or buying a house, make sure you have the highest credit score possible when the lender does his credit check. You can get a free credit report from each credit bureau every year, but your annual credit report typically doesn’t contain your score. Here are four ways to check your credit score so you know what you’re working with when you meet a lender face-to-face and trying to get the best loan rate possible.

1. Check Your Credit Score Through Your Bank

Many banks offer a free credit score service to their customers. Discover will even provide your credit score for free even if you aren’t a customer. It’s easy to check through your bank:

  1. If your bank offers the service, just check your monthly statement or look up your account online to find out your credit score.
  2. In the case of Discover, visit its website to sign up for a free score.

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2. Talk To a Financial Counselor To Find Your Score

You can talk to a HUD-approved housing counselor or a nonprofit credit counselor if you need help finding your credit score, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The counselors can often get you a credit score for free — and review and interpret the score with you. Here’s how:

  1. Visit the National Foundation for Credit Counseling website to find out more.
  2. To connect with a credit counselor, call 800-388-2227.
  3. Talk to a counselor to get your free credit score — keep in mind that you might have to pay for certain other services.

3. Use a Free Credit Score Service

Free credit score services often provide FAKO scores — “equivalency scores” designed to give borrowers a general idea of where they stand — instead of FICO scores. Make sure you know which one you’re getting. Here’s how to use a free credit service to do a free credit check:

  1. Research reputable, online companies that offer free credit scores, like Experian, Credit Sesame or Credit Karma — avoid unfamiliar sites that have not been thoroughly reviewed to reduce the risk of online fraud.
  2. Find out if the site provides a FAKO score or an actual FICO score. For example, Experian provides a FICO score, while Credit Karma provides a FAKO score.
  3. Submit your personal including your address, date of birth and Social Security number.
  4. View your credit score.

4. Pay To Get Your Score

If you want your credit score and can’t get it anywhere else, go straight to the source. FICO offers credit scores to consumers when you sign up for a basic plan for $19.95 per month. This will give you access to your FICO scores and credit reports.

  1. Visit the myFico website.
  2. Click on “Start Plan” under the basic plan.
  3. Enter your email and password to set up an account.
  4. Provide your personal information.
  5. Pay the fee.
  6. View your score.
  7. Cancel anytime.

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Sam DiSalvo contributed to the reporting for this article.