Your credit score is an important number that can affect many areas of your life. A high credit score allows you access to better rates for home and car loans. On the other hand, a bad credit score can cost you more in interest rates and even on your car insurance. When you want to improve credit score ratings, you might wonder whether checking your credit score lowers it.
Find Out: What Is a Good Credit Score?
Does Checking Your Credit Score Lower It?
The short answer is no; you won’t lower your own credit score by checking it yourself. Credit inquiries are requests made by legitimate businesses to see if an individual has good credit, fair credit or bad credit. Each credit check is either a soft inquiry or a hard inquiry. Soft inquiries to the credit bureau don’t hurt your credit, but hard ones do.
Hard Inquires vs. Soft Inquiries
Soft inquiries occur when your credit is being reviewed by someone other than a potential lender. When you check your own credit score, when businesses you hold a credit account with check your score, or when businesses check your score to send you an offer, such as a promotional credit card — those are instances of soft inquiries. These soft inquiries will not affect your credit.
But even a good credit score can be affected by too many hard inquiries. Hard inquiries occur when a potential lender reviews your credit because you have applied for a line of credit with them. This includes when you need a loan and apply for home or auto financing. Hard inquiries on your credit are also made when you apply for a credit card.
What Can Actually Lower Your Credit Score?
Whether you have an excellent credit score or a fair credit score, it’s important to know what actions can lower that number. Here are just a few things that can lower your score:
- Credit utilization rate: Credit utilization is the ratio of how much credit you’re using in relation to how much total available credit you have. For example, if you have two cards with a combined credit limit of $10,000 and you have $3,000 of debt, your credit utilization rate is 30 percent.
- Closing accounts: Closing a credit card, even one with a pricey annual fee, can potentially lower your credit score, depending on the age of the account and whether it drastically affects your utilization rate.
- Payment history: Credit card payment history determines 35 percent of your FICO score.
- Debt consolidation: Credit card debt consolidation plans can sometimes hurt your credit if they require you to miss several payments first or close all of your credit card accounts.
Check Your Credit Score Without Penalty
Checking your FICO score through a free credit report will not affect your score. So don’t be afraid to view yours regularly to make sure your credit report is free from errors. You can check your credit score for free every 12 months through AnnualCreditReport.com, the only authorized website for a free credit check, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Don’t check your credit score through unauthorized websites, such as FreeCreditReport com.