You probably know why you should check your credit report once a year. Doing so alerts you to any negative information in it, including whether someone has stolen your identity and opened credit in your name.
You are entitled to a free download of your credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies once a year. You can access them by going to www.annualcreditreport.com.
But it also turns out that checking your credit score on a regular basis can pay off – but for different reasons.
A survey by Discover found that checking your credit score regularly is associated with good credit behavior. In other words, checking your credit score tends to result in a higher credit score.
When people talk about a credit score, they usually refer to the FICO score maintained by Fair Isaac. That's the score most lenders use to judge a consumer's creditworthiness.
Accessing your FICO score usually carries a fee. However, a number of financial organizations and websites offer free credit scores that are based on the same financial information used to calculate the FICO score. It isn't your FICO credit score, but it's probably pretty close.
The Discover survey found that 73% of consumers who checked their credit score at least seven times in a year said that practice improved their credit behavior. They paid their bills on time, paid down debt, and maintained low credit card balances.
Of the consumers who checked their score just a single time in a year, only 44% felt like they were taking the right steps to improve their credit.
Checking leads to rising score
That result was borne out in the data. Those who checked their score on a regular basis actually saw their scores rise. The more a consumer checked his or her score, the more that score improved.
“Checking your credit score is one of the simplest things that anyone can do to get on the path to understanding their credit health,” said Julie Loeger, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Discover. “But checking is just the first step.”
Discover offers free access to consumers' FICO score, as well as a personalized scorecard to help stay on top of the factors influencing scores. Even non-Discover customers can check their score by going to www.Discover.com/creditscorecard.
Why is a credit score so important? If you plan to buy a car, purchase a home, or just apply for a credit card, you need a credit score that is as high as possible. But the survey found that many consumers don't have a good grasp on how a credit score impacts their lives.
Millennials in the survey suggested having a more personal connection to their credit, compared to other generational groups. Forty-six percent of millennials connect their credit standing with their self-worth, more than any other age demographic.