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How Often Should You Check Your Credit Score?

6-Minute ReadMarch 26, 2022

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You’ve probably heard that your credit score is an important number. Your credit score and credit history are what lenders look at when deciding whether to approve you for things like a loan or a credit card. It can also affect other things like getting hired for a new job or being approved for an apartment rental.

Since it’s such an important measure of your financial health, it should be something that is routinely monitored and checked. But how often should you check your credit score?

How Often Should I Check My Credit Score?

Paying your bills on time is just one part of maintaining a healthy credit profile. Routinely checking your credit score is a part of practicing good financial health. This number is just a glimpse into your credit health at that particular moment in time, but it can have a large impact on your finances.

Because your credit score can fluctuate frequently, financial experts recommend that you check it around once a month. However, you can check it yourself as often as you wish without hurting your score.

Review Your Credit Report Annually

Another big part of your overall credit health is making sure that everything on your credit report is accurate, as this is what dictates your score. It’s a good idea to check your credit report at least once a year to look for any apparent errors. You may find that a lender has made a mistake in reporting a transaction to one of the credit bureaus. If that’s the case, you should proactively work to get the error corrected.

Checking your credit report annually is also a good way to watch for fraud and identity theft. If there’s a loan account on your credit report that wasn’t opened by you, you may be a victim of identity theft, which is what happens when someone uses your personal information to open a loan account. When the loan becomes delinquent, it affects your credit score. Checking your credit report regularly can help you catch these problems early.

How Often Do Credit Scores Update?

Your credit score will increase or decrease as changes are made to your credit report. Depending on what financial transactions you make, bills you pay or new accounts you open, this information can change more frequently. On average, however, you can expect your credit score to update about once a month.

You might also notice that your number varies across different credit bureaus. This is typically caused by creditors submitting new information to the credit bureaus at different times. For example, your score may reflect one number on your TransUnion® report, but another on your ExperianTM report.

Why Is It Important To Check Your Credit Score?

Monitoring your credit score on a regular basis is important for a number of reasons. Checking your score frequently can help you maintain good credit health, understand factors that can be impacting your score and respond to drastic changes in your score faster. Most importantly, this number is used to determine your creditworthiness. Knowing your current score can help you gauge how likely you are to be approved or denied by a lender before applying.

The Difference Between A Credit Report And A Credit Score

The term credit report and credit score are often used interchangeably, but these two things are very different. It’s important to be able to distinguish between the two when monitoring your financial health.

Your credit report is a listing of your open credit accounts, how much you owe on them, and your payment history. There are three major credit bureaus: Experian™, TransUnion® and Equifax®. They all keep a record of your credit history. The majority of the information on these three reports should be the same, but in some cases, you may find small differences.

A credit score is a three-digit number, typically ranging between 350 and 850. Your credit score is calculated by using the information included on your credit report. There are a number of different credit scoring models, but the ones you’ll hear about the most often are FICO® and VantageScore®.

When Should You Check Your Credit Score?

As mentioned, it’s important to check your credit score regularly to maintain good financial health. There are also a few scenarios when you may want to check it more frequently than other times:

  • Check before making any major purchases. Buying a car or a home? Applying for a personal loan? If you’re going to need to borrow money, it’s a good idea to check your credit score before you start the purchase process. If there are any issues on your credit report, you can get them resolved beforehand.
  • Check before opening and closing an account. Are your credit card payments or annual fees too high? Do you need to build some credit? It's worth the consideration. Just remember to take some time and properly evaluate your credit health before making any clear-cut credit decisions like closing an account.
  • Check before applying for a new job. Employers may check the credit history of anyone they’re considering hiring. A low score or an inaccurate credit report could cause issues in the hiring process. It’s a good idea to check your credit before applying to make sure that you resolve any issues.

When Not To Check Your Credit Score

There’s really no wrong time to check your credit score. However, if you’re checking it because you’re in the process of improving your credit, checking it too often may leave you feeling defeated. It can take time to repair your credit and to see improvements.

If you’re checking it too often and getting discouraged by the results, it might be a good idea to stop checking in so frequently. You’ll still want to check your report regularly to make sure there are no errors, but remember to give yourself some time to let your score improve.

How To Check Your Credit Score

You can view your credit score using a credit monitoring service online. Depending on the service that you use, the score could vary across different sites. This depends on whether they are using a FICO Score or a VantageScore and if the score is based on your Experian™, TransUnion or Equifax credit reports.

You can typically obtain an educational credit score through your credit card company or your bank. It’s usually found on your monthly statement or on their mobile app. Financial institutions typically offer this service for free.

You can also use other free credit monitoring tools online, like Rocket HomesSM, Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, and CreditWise from Capital One. These services will allow you to check your credit score and report as well as monitor your credit and alert you when they see any major changes.

Keep in mind that the free credit reports won’t show your information from all three bureaus. For example, Credit Karma will provide your TransUnion and Equifax credit reports while CreditWise will only provide your TransUnion credit report. While this may not be the same score that potential lenders are viewing, it can be helpful in giving you a general understanding of where your credit score is at.

Checking Your Credit Score: FAQs

Do you have to pay to check your credit score?

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FRCA) companies are legally allowed to charge you to view your credit score. However, there are many ways to view your score without paying a fee.

For example, several credit card companies have started offering this service for free to their customers. With credit reports, you’re entitled to a free one every 12 months. If you’d like to get additional credit reports from these bureaus, you can request them, but they may charge up to $12.50 for each one.

Does it hurt your credit score to check it?

You may know that one of the things that will temporarily lower your credit score is too many hard inquiries. This is when a lender pulls your credit report to check it before they agree to lend you money. Too many hard inquiries during a period of time can be a warning sign that you’re about to take on a lot of debt and you may be struggling financially.

But when you’re checking your own credit report, you don’t have to worry about that since it’s considered a soft credit inquiry. This action isn’t considered a hard credit inquiry and won’t cause your credit score to drastically drop.

What is a good credit score?

Credit score ranges may vary depending on what scoring model is being used, but most have a similar view on what is considered fair to excellent. Typically, anything above an 800 is considered excellent, a 740 – 799 is considered very good, a 670 – 739 is considered good and a 580 – 669 is considered to be fair.

Final Thoughts

You should check your credit score monthly and your report annually. This is a great way to stay on top of your credit health and practice good financial habits. Monitoring your credit score can also help you find ways to improve it, identify fraud or identity theft quickly and evaluate how likely you are to be approved for any type of financing.

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