7 Min Read | Updated: October 15, 2023

Originally Published: March 30, 2022

How Often Should You Check Your Credit Report and Score?

It’s a good idea to check your credit score and report at least once a year, and sometimes more, to spot errors or fraud and to get a sense of your credit health.

How Often Should You Check Your Credit Report and Score?

This article contains general information and is not intended to provide information that is specific to American Express products and services. Similar products and services offered by different companies will have different features and you should always read about product details before acquiring any financial product.


Start with an annual credit report “checkup,” plus additional checks anytime you plan to make a major financial commitment or decision, or if you want to monitor for fraud and identity theft.

To get a complete picture of your creditworthiness, review reports from all three of the major credit reporting agencies.

Credit reports are readily available for free. They’re also included in many fee-based credit programs.

Should you check your credit report often? The short answer is, “Yes!” But what does “often” mean in this context? Although there is no definitive schedule, a worthy comparison is to consider how often you should visit your doctor. Most of us will make an appointment for our annual physical, but we also go when we have symptoms that concern us or when we want to be sure we’re healthy enough to handle major life events, like having a child or moving to another state. Staying healthy is a powerful motivator.


Staying financially healthy should be a priority, too.

Why It's Important to Check Your Credit Report and Credit Score

Credit reports are the most effective tool we have to monitor our creditworthiness and are a key indicator of our overall financial health. The information they contain can help us make wiser decisions that will save money and build a stronger financial foundation. Therefore, it’s a good idea to review your credit report in at least three general scenarios:


  • At least annually for a general credit “checkup.”
  • When a situation concerns you, such as signs of credit card fraud or identity theft.
  • Before you make a major financial decision, like applying for a mortgage or auto loan. 

Let’s explore how often to check your credit report and how to do it.

Review All Your Credit Reports at Least Once a Year to Maintain Credit Health

There are three major credit reporting agencies in the U.S. – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – and each produces proprietary reports. These agencies simply report the data provided to them by creditors. And because creditors decide which data to share and when, the three reports could be different. In other words, reviewing all three reports may help give you a full picture of your credit situation. 


Because the information in your report may determine whether you are approved for a credit card or loan – and possibly whether you can rent an apartment or even get a job – it’s vital that it be accurate. And ultimately, you alone are responsible for ensuring that accuracy. When reviewing each of your three credit reports, pay careful attention to the following:


  • The accounts. You should recognize every debt, sometimes called a trade line, in the report. Something unfamiliar may be a simple error, or it may indicate that someone is opening accounts in your name.
  • The balances. It’s a good idea to know what you owe each of your creditors. If a reported balance seems high, your creditor may be reporting the wrong figure – or someone may be fraudulently using your credit card.
  • Payment history. Given that your payment history shapes 35% of your FICO credit score, it’s important to keep an eye out for incorrect late payment reports.1
  • Inquiries. If you haven’t applied for loans or credit cards but see recent hard inquiries on your report, someone may be trying to get credit in your name.


Did you know? As an added security measure to help protect against fraud, American Express reports a reference number to credit bureaus – instead of your actual account number.


The sooner you catch any of these errors or problems the better, so you may choose to review your reports more often than annually – and don’t worry, the idea that checking your credit report hurts your credit score is a credit myth. It’s a good idea to dispute any errors so they can be corrected, which can be done quickly on each bureau’s website. If you see signs of identity theft, alert the credit reporting agencies as soon as possible.

Reviewing Your Credit in These Key Situations Can Help You Stay Financially Sound

Besides regular checkups, these additional circumstances warrant reviewing your credit:


  • You want to apply for a mortgage. Reviewing your credit report three to six months before you plan to apply for a mortgage can give you time to correct any potential problems that might make it harder to get approved. It’s a good idea to employ the same strategy if you’re looking to buy a car or take out a personal loan.
  • Your identity has been stolen. Regularly reviewing your credit report is one way to help protect yourself from identity theft, but you might detect suspicious activity in other ways. If there are transactions on your credit card you don’t recognize, for example, or if your bank or creditor tells you that personal information may have been compromised, review your credit report more often to verify or rule out identity theft.
  • You’re recently divorced. It’s advisable to review your credit report every few months to check that any formerly held joint accounts are reported accurately.
  • You’re seeking to change jobs. Many employers will review your credit report as part of a background check. They need your permission to do so, but you don’t want to lose out on the job because of an unexpected credit report error.
  • You have an agreement with a creditor. If you’ve negotiated a repayment agreement with a creditor, such as skipping or reducing a payment due to a hardship, you can review your report to make sure the creditor is honoring its commitment. 

Other circumstances that might warrant a credit report check include applying for insurance coverage, opening a new utility account, requesting a new cell phone plan, or pursuing certain investment activities like buying on margin – which is itself a form of credit.

Getting Your Credit Report Is Free – Up to a Point

If you now see the value of checking your credit report often, the next logical question is, “How?” Start by requesting all three reports at the same time when you review your credit for the first time or are looking to apply for a mortgage. Otherwise, getting a different one of the three reports every four months may be the most cost-effective way to keep tabs on your credit profile. Here are three guidelines on how to do it.


1. Obtain free credit reports: You have the right to request a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus once a year.2 Additionally, throughout the end of 2023, each credit bureau is also offering free weekly reports.3


In addition, credit reports are always freely available for people who meet certain criteria. For instance, you may be eligible if:4


  • You received a letter denying your credit or insurance coverage based on a credit report.
  • You believe your file is inaccurate due to fraud.
  • You’re unemployed and planning to apply for work within 60 days.
  • You receive public assistance.
  • Your state law provides for a free credit report.

2. Use paid services: You can also get copies of your credit report through a variety of paid credit services that also typically offer other options – like credit monitoring or identity theft protection – in various packages. Just keep in mind that they generally don’t offer you all three credit reports, so you’ll want to request additional reports to get a full picture of your credit. 


3. Check specialized reports for free: Some parties – including apartment landlords, employers, insurance companies, subprime lenders, utilities, and banks – may request specialized credit reports. You’re entitled to free copies of most of those reports, too. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has published a list of consumer reporting companies that you can refer to when requesting copies of the reports.5

Helping to Protect Your Identity with ID Monitoring from MyCredit Guide
ID Monitoring keeps an eye on your personal information across a range of internet sites on the Surface Web, Deep Web, and Dark Web. If the service detects that your personal information such as your First Name, Last Name, Social Security Number, Date of Birth, Email Address, or Primary Address has been exposed or compromised, MyCredit Guide will alert you of the specific accounts exposed, as well as recommendations for actions you can take to help secure your data and identity. Enroll in MyCredit Guide today.

How Often Should You Check Your Credit Score?

Since your credit score is a snapshot of your credit health at a particular moment in time, you can check it as often as you’d like. Many financial institutions and credit education websites and apps offer educational credit scores. Your score is typically included on your statement or in the institution’s app, for free. Although this score is not necessarily the same score that lenders see, it can help you get a quick idea of where your credit stands.

The Takeaway

Credit reports are readily available – often for free – from all three major credit reporting bureaus, so there’s no reason not to review them at least once a year. Doing so can help you catch errors you can correct or identify signs of fraud. Diligent monitoring can help ensure your report, and score, are accurate – and spare you unpleasant surprises when you apply for a credit card or loan or make any other important financial decision.

Allan Halcrow

Allan Halcrow is a freelance writer concentrating in business, human resources, and diversity and inclusion. He is also the author of four books on management.


All Credit Intel content is written by freelance authors and commissioned and paid for by American Express. 

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The material made available for you on this website, Credit Intel, is for informational purposes only and intended for U.S. residents and is not intended to provide legal, tax or financial advice. If you have questions, please consult your own professional legal, tax and financial advisors.