How to check your credit score
Credit report sites offer free or low-cost access to your credit score
How can I check my credit score?
- Check your credit card statement: Many major credit card companies provide credit scores for free on your monthly statement. If they don’t list it on your statement, log into their website to check your account.
- Talk to a non-profit counselor: It’s free to speak with a non-profit credit or housing counselor. They can get you a free credit report that shows your score and help you understand the details. Use the Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) counselor finder to find one in your area.
- Use a credit score service: Some credit report sites get their funding through advertising and don’t charge a fee. Others require you to sign up for a credit monitoring service with a monthly subscription fee. If you get a subscription, you might get additional services like identity theft protection and credit monitoring, which can be useful if you are concerned with protecting your identity.
- Buy it: You can buy your credit score from a credit reporting company or from FICO at myfico.com. Most lenders pull your score from the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You can buy all three of these for around $40. If you buy your credit score, you won’t have to buy add-ons like monthly credit protection, identity theft monitoring and other services. Some credit score companies give you what is called an “educational” credit score rather than the score a lender would use. Your educational credit score is close to what a lender would pull when you’re looking to buy or rent a house, but it’s not guaranteed. Make sure you find out what kind of score you’re getting before making a purchase.
- Get your free annual credit card report: Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you get one free credit report every year from each of the major United States credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. Your actual score isn’t on your free credit report, but you can estimate it based on the information your report provides, including your credit history and how you handle borrowed money. This information is put through a credit scoring model from FICO to determine your credit score.
Why does credit score matter?
Your credit score is a number between 300 and 850 that helps determine how much money your lender will loan you and what kind of interest rate you’ll get. It gives lenders an idea of how likely you are to make monthly payments on time before they approve a loan, refinance or line of credit.
Lenders typically report your account information to credit bureaus every month. This means your credit score can change monthly depending on the information on your credit report. Things that will cause your credit score to drop include the number of late payments, the number of open installment loans and your average credit card limit.
Fair, Issac and Company (FICO) offers an example of how your credit score can impact the home buying process. Two people are set to buy a house, one with a FICO score of 620 and one with a score of 760. Each person is borrowing $280,000 for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage. The person with the 620 credit score would qualify for an interest rate of a little more than 5 percent. The person with the 760 score would get an interest rate of around 3.5 percent. Having a higher credit score will save the second person $261 per month, totaling over $93,000 over the life of the loan.
It’s good practice to keep track of your credit score, even if you just take advantage of your free annual credit report. Knowing your actual credit score lets you know what kind of loan to expect from your lender or how likely a property manager is to rent you an apartment or house. It will take some time to build your credit score up or to fix your credit score, so the earlier you start the better.
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