How Often Should You Check Your Credit Report?
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 actually check it?
The Difference Between Credit Reports And Credit Scores
The term credit report and credit score are often used interchangeably, but these two things are very different.
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 that is calculated by using the information included on your credit report. There are a number of different credit scoring models, but the one you’ll hear most often is FICO®.
How Often Should You Check Your Credit Report?
Paying your bills on time is just one part of maintaining a healthy credit profile. Checking your credit report is a part of practicing good financial health. Another big part is making sure that everything on your credit report is accurate. That involves checking your credit report for errors.
It’s a good idea to check your credit report at least annually and look for anything that stands out as incorrect. You may find that an error has been made by a lender. If that’s the case, you should proactively work to get the error corrected.
It’s also another 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 Can You Get a Free Credit Report?
You’re entitled to a free credit report every 12 months. Using AnnualCreditReport.com, you can request a copy of your credit report from the three major credit reporting bureaus.
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.
You can find other free credit monitoring tools online, like Rocket HQ, Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, and Credit Wise from Capital One. These services will allow you to check your credit report as well as monitor your credit and alert you when they see any major changes.
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 Credit Wise will only provide your TransUnion credit report.
How Often Should You Check Your Credit Score?
Though credit score is trickier to check for free – and in some cases, you’ll need to pay – you don’t need to worry about checking it as often.
When you check your credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com, you won’t receive your credit score for free. It’s helpful to know your score, but what’s more important is checking your credit report regularly to ensure that there are no errors and no evidence of fraud.
Can You Check Your Credit Score Without Hurting Your Credit?
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.
When Should You Check Your Credit Report?
As mentioned, it’s important to check your credit report regularly to ensure that there are no errors. There are also some specific times that you should check it, just to make sure that everything is ok:
Before Making Any Major Purchase
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.
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 report before making any clear-cut credit decisions like closing an account.
Before Applying For A New Job
Employers may check the credit history of anyone they’re considering hiring. An inaccurate credit report could cause issues in the hiring process. It’s a good idea to check your credit report before applying to make sure that you resolve any issues.
When Shouldn’t You Check Your Credit Report?
There’s really no wrong time to check your credit report. However, if you’re checking your credit report because you’re in the process of improving your credit, checking it too often may feel defeating. 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 in regularly to make sure there are no errors, but remember to give yourself some time to let your score improve.
Routinely checking your credit report is a personal finance "to-do" that should always go on the top of your list. Not only will it help safeguard you against identity theft, but it will also help to ensure that everything is accurate and on track when you go to apply for a loan.
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