By Anna Davies | American Express Credit Intel Freelance Contributor
4 Min Read | May 11, 2020 in Credit
Checking your own credit score will not negatively impact your score.
Free credit score services allow you to view your score, where some provide notifications when your score changes.
Knowing your credit score can help you improve credit behavior to better qualify for loan and credit offers.
From completing a credit application to locking in the most competitive mortgage rates, your credit score is an important number that tells lenders your level of creditworthiness. That’s why it’s helpful to regularly keep tabs of your score, especially since your score is calculated each month and may be affected by opening a new credit line or paying down debt.
Checking your own credit score is known as a “soft check,” which won’t affect your score and will not appear on your credit report.1
Regularly checking your score—at least once every month—can help you assess financial progress, fix any errors that may be hurting your score, and set financial goals for your future.
There are many online credit score tools that offer free credit score checks, including your bank or credit card company. Some companies may charge a fee for credit score access, which can include additional services such as customized financial advice for your credit goals. But there are also robust credit knowledge services offered for free.
MyCredit Guide from American Express offers a free credit score check, a free view of your monthly credit report, as well as a credit score simulator to help you assess how paying down debt, closing a credit account, or applying for a new credit card can help your score.
Your credit score affects loan eligibility, lease requirements, and can help you access the most competitive interest rates and Card offers. Here’s are 5 reasons why it’s important to check your credit score and make it a habit to regularly monitor your score over time.
1. Understand your financial status
Credit scores range from poor to excellent. People with “very good” or “excellent” scores generally have access to the lowest interest rates on loans and lines of credit while earning premium rewards. Knowing where you stand can help you build and sustain healthy credit habits.
2. Make a financial plan to improve your score
If your credit score falls in the “fair” or “good” category, you can take actions that will raise your score.
Your credit score is affected by factors that include length of credit history, timeliness of payments, the types of loans you have, and your credit utilization ratio (the amount of debt you carry compared to the amount of credit offered to you). While some factors (such as payment history) may be beyond your ability to repair, increasing your credit limits or paying off your debt can help you reduce your credit utilization ratio, which can help to increase your score.
MyCredit Guide provides analysis of your current credit status to find direct ways to push your credit score higher.
3. Keep your financial health in good shape
Minor ebbs and flows to your credit score aren’t uncommon—for example, it’s not unusual to see a brief dip in your credit score after you’ve applied for a credit card or loan offer—but a continued dip may signal the need to take action. Checking your credit score regularly can alert you to any credit concerns that you need to pay attention to before they become full-blown credit problems.
4. Prepare for credit or loan applications
Your credit score is used by credit card issuers and lenders to get a quick understanding of your likelihood of repaying debt. When you know your own credit score, you can have the same insight as credit card companies, letting you understand which loans and credit cards match your credit profile. Many loans and credit cards will also tell applicants what the minimum credit score is to apply, so knowing your credit score will prevent you from applying for cards that won’t earn approval.
5. Access Your Credit Report
In addition to regularly checking your credit score, it can be a good idea to use tools to monitor your credit, including your credit report.
MyCredit Guide provides access to your TransUnion credit report. You can check your report to make sure all information is accurate and see if certain credit actions, such as late payments or debt settlement, may have affected your current credit score. Reporting any errors on your credit report to the credit bureaus can immediately update your score.2
There are two credit score scales—VantageScore and FICO. Both have a slightly different scoring ranges and may calculate scores slightly differently, where one may put more emphasis on certain factors, such as credit history or credit utilization ratio than the other. That said, while the number may not be the same across providers, your credit score will likely be classified in a similar range for both VantageScore and FICO.
It’s important to understand scoring ranges for each credit score, and understand which credit score you are receiving when you sign up for a free credit score online. For example, MyCredit Guide uses VantageScore® 3.0 Credit Score from Transunion. If you’re applying for a specific type of loan, it’s helpful to know which scoring model the lender uses prior to application to see if your score falls into an appropriate range.
While your credit score may differ between models, positive credit behavior such as paying bills on time and keeping your credit utilization ratio to a minimum will help keep both scores in good shape.