Do you keep a close eye on your personal finances? Or maybe you’ve never given them much thought. Either way, it’s time to start paying more attention to your credit score. Your credit score can control a lot—what loans you qualify for, the credit cards that are available to you, etc. To keep on top of it all, it’s important to check your credit score. But how often can you check your credit score, exactly?
You know what they say: knowledge is power. Find out how often you can check your credit score below so you can arm yourself with knowledge about your personal finances.
The Difference Between Your Credit Score and Credit Report
Before looking into how often you can check your credit score, it’s important to understand the difference between a credit score and a credit report. They can be easy to confuse, so you might think they’re the same—but they’re not.
Your credit report is a detailed document about your credit history. It shows active and past accounts, whether you paid on time and how much credit you’ve used compared to open balances. Other information might include names of your past employers, if you’ve ever included them on a credit application, as well as negative records such as collections accounts and bankruptcies.
Your credit score is a three-digit number, typically between 300 and 850, that’s calculated based on all the information in your credit report. There are many credit scoring models, including popular models such as FICO and VantageScore.
While credit scoring models all work toward the same goal—providing an overall picture of how likely you are to pay your debts—they do so with slight variations in the formulas. That means your credit scores might vary between these models.
You also have more than one credit report. Not every lender or business reports to all three of the major credit bureaus, for example. So the information in your credit file can also vary slightly. That also means that you have different credit scores too.
How Often Can You Check Your Credit Score for Free?
Here’s where the difference between credit score and credit report comes in. You can get your free credit report from each of the three major bureaus via AnnualCreditReport.com.
Usually, the reports are available once every year. This means you could get a look at your credit information every four months by spreading out your requests for each of the bureaus. However, due to personal financial stress related to COVID-19 and to help consumers best manage credit and finances during this time, AnnualCreditReport.com and the three credit bureaus are making reports available weekly through April 2022.
Unfortunately, a free credit report doesn’t mean a free credit score. When you order your report, you get the detailed information in your file. You don’t get the score the bureau might show lenders when you apply for credit. To get regular access to your credit scores, you typically have to pay for it.
Reasons to Check Your Credit Report and Score
So why do you need to keep tabs on your credit score and credit report? Here are a few reasons:
- Keeping a regular eye on your credit report helps you identify inaccurate negative items that might be dragging down your score. The faster you catch and challenge the accuracy of these items, the more likely you’re able to prove they’re not correct. The credit bureaus have to remove them if they can’t be proven correct.
- Checking your credit report regularly helps you see whether suspicious activity is occurring, which can indicate that you’re a victim of identity theft or fraud. Again, knowing and acting early can save you a lot of hassle in the long run.
- Knowing your credit score and how it moves up and down over time can also help you understand whether there might be issues with your report. If you see the score moving in a negative direction and aren’t sure why you can investigate further.
- You might want to check your credit before applying for a loan, especially one with greater qualification requirements such as a mortgage. That way, you can fix any possible issues before a lender evaluates you for approval.
- You may also want to ensure there aren’t any surprises on your report before you apply to rent an apartment, get auto insurance quotes, or send your resume in for a job opportunity, as some of these opportunities can depend in part on your credit history.
- If you’re working to improve your credit history and score, you may want to see that your efforts have a positive impact.
How Can You Get Your Credit Score?
You might have access to your credit score via your credit card provider. If this is a benefit you get as a cardholder, you can typically see the score by logging into your credit card account online or via a mobile app. The downside is that this is only one possible version of your score.
You can see another version of your score by signing up for Credit.com’s Credit Report Card. You’ll get a score that updates every 14 days, as well as information about the five major factors that go into determining credit scores and how you’re faring with each.
If you want to get more bang for your buck, it might be time to look at ExtraCredit. You’ll get access to five useful services, including TrackIt, which will give you a look into 28 of your FICO Scores.
How Many Points Does Your Credit Score Go Down for an Inquiry?
Requesting your own score or credit report doesn’t impact your score at all. That’s because this is considered a soft inquiry. Only hard inquiries impact your credit score. Hard inquiries occur when a lender pulls your credit to evaluate you for a loan or other credit.
So, whether you’re requesting your credit report via AnnualCreditReport.com or investing in a service such as ExtraCredit, get as much information about your credit as you can. It won’t hurt your score to do so.
This article originally appeared on Credit.com and was republished here with permission.