A credit score is basically a number that gives a lender an indication of the likelihood you’ll pay back your debt. Lending institutions use credit scores to determine if extending a loan to a borrower is worth the risk and even what interest rate to charge. Before borrowing, it is always beneficial to check your score so you know what you are working with. You also may want to monitor your score if you have been taking steps to improve it.
Whether you’re financing a new car, buying a house or simply want to know if your score is going up or down, it’s helpful to know how to check your credit score. Here are a few free and paid ways to do just that.
How To Check Your Credit Score
You should look into free options before paying to get your credit score. How can you check your credit score for free? A few sources that may be available to you include your bank or a credit score service.
But what’s the best place to check your credit score? That may depend on whether you want an occasional snapshot of your score or need tools for closely monitoring your score, whether to improve it or help protect against identity theft. If you want a free score plus monitoring tools, you’ll find there are a few credit score services that may meet your needs.
Below are two free ways to get your credit score and one paid option.
1. Check Your Credit Score Through Your Bank
Many banks offer a free credit score service to their customers. If your bank offers the service, it may be on your monthly statement. If it’s not, you can look up your account online to find out your credit score.
Capital One will even provide your credit score for free regardless of whether or not you’re a customer. Simply visit the Capital One website to sign up for a free score check.
2. Use a Free Credit Score Service
A few free credit score services to consider are Experian, Credit Karma and Credit Sesame.
Before signing up for a credit score service, find out if the site provides an actual FICO score or uses the VantageScore scoring option. Free credit score services often provide FAKO scores. These are designed to give borrowers a general idea of where they stand instead of the actual FICO score. Make sure you know which one you’re getting.
For example, Experian provides a FICO score, while Credit Sesame and Credit Karma provide a score based on VantageScore 3.0. Can you trust Credit Karma or Credit Sesame and their non-FICO scores? Even though they use a different credit scoring model, you can trust them for monitoring purposes. However, if applying for a loan, you may also want to check your FICO score since most lenders use it when determining how much of a borrowing risk you may pose.
How To Check Your Credit Score With a Free Credit Service
Here’s how to use a free credit service to do a credit check:
- 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.
- Submit your personal information, including your Social Security number.
- View your credit score.
3. 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 who sign up for a basic plan for $19.95 per month. This will give you access to your FICO scores and credit reports. You will also get additional perks including identity theft insurance and identity restoration.
To get your FICO credit score:
- Visit the myFico website.
- Click on “Start Plan” under the best plan for you.
- Enter your email and password to set up an account.
- Follow the prompts to enter any requested information and set up payment.
- View your score.
Do You Get Your Credit Score With Your Free Annual Credit Reports?
You may assume your credit score would accompany your credit reports, but credit reporting agencies are not required to calculate and provide your credit scores. So, while checking your credit reports each year with the major credit bureaus is wise, you may want to use one of the resources above to monitor your credit score until you actually need your exact FICO score.
How Do You Check Your Credit Score Without It Affecting Your Credit?
Regardless of which method or service you use to check your credit score, it will not negatively impact your credit. When someone checks your credit score for a reason other than to lend money, it is considered a soft inquiry, which has no impact on your score.
You should always check your credit score before shopping for a loan, but it’s wise to periodically check your credit score even if you have no need to borrow. An unexpected drop in your score could indicate possible fraud or a mistake on your credit report. Regular credit score monitoring can help you catch and correct these issues sooner rather than later.
If your bank or credit card issuer provides free credit scores, you can assume accessing your score is just as safe as accessing your online account. However, if you sign up for a credit score service, make sure you choose a reputable company rather than an unknown service that could make you vulnerable to fraud and negatively impact the very thing you are trying to check.