Just like you’d get an annual health check-up, a regular credit check can help make sure you’ve got your finances under control. At the very least, you should check your credit once a year.
This helps you make sure all of your loan and credit card information is correct and can also help identify any potential identity theft concerns.
There are other times you may want to check your credit score more frequently. Anytime before you apply for a large loan, it’s a good idea to gauge what kind of interest rate to expect. Alternatively, if you’re trying to repair your credit, finding out your credit score let you know the kind of progress you’re making.
But while you can get your credit report for free each year, getting your credit score can be a little trickier. Here are four ways you can find your credit score.
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Credit Card and Loan Statements
A great way to potentially access your credit score for free (and often on a regular basis) is through a credit card or loan statement with an existing creditor.
Check to see if any of your accounts offer this service. You can look either on your monthly statement or your online account.
There are plenty of credit cards offering a free credit score to customers. If you’re in the market for a new credit card, consider one of these in order to take advantage of this ongoing perk.
Just be aware that while many creditors offer your monthly FICO score (the one most frequently used by lenders), others may use a different type of credit score. They may also only show you your score from one credit union. So while the number you see may differ slightly from the trio of numbers your lender will likely look at, it’s a great jumping off point.
Credit Score Services
There are tons of websites offering free credit scores. Many of them make money from affiliate links and advertising, so users don’t take on any of the financial burden. You may, however, have to give certain personally identifying information and some websites require a credit card.
Others, like Credit Karma, are 100% free. You’ll only have to enter the last four digits of your social security number when setting up your account, but never any credit card information.
Instead of getting your FICO score from these websites, however, you’ll likely get what’s called an educational credit score. Many often use VantageScore, which is a credit scoring model developed by the credit bureaus.
It’s not completely the same as a FICO score, but it’s still based on information found directly on your credit report. So again, it may not match up exactly with what your lender pulls, it gives you expectations to draw from.
Purchase a Credit Score
If you’re set on getting your actual FICO score and can’t find it through one of the previous methods, you do have the option of purchasing it directly from MyFICO. There are a couple of different one-time purchasing options depending on your needs.
For about $20, you can choose a single credit bureau to receive both your credit score and report. For just under $60, you can get the same information from all three credit bureaus at once.
The nice thing about going through FICO is that you get some analysis along with your scores and reports. First, FICO will identify the top factors affecting your score for each credit bureau. You can also use a decision simulator to figure out how potential financial moves might affect your credit score.
And if you’re applying for a specific type of loan, FICO gives you access to your credit score across models, including those for mortgage, auto, and credit card lending. This information can be helpful in knowing what a specific type of lender sees when you go to apply because these scoring models do weigh certain factors differently than the traditional FICO score.
Credit Monitoring Service
This choice doesn’t make sense for everyone, but it could be a good option for people in certain situations. Many credit monitoring services offer regular credit score updates as part of their services. Of course, you’ll have to pay a fee (usually on a monthly basis), which can vary depending on the level of service you choose from your provider.
Who should consider a credit monitoring service?
There are typically two types of individuals this makes sense for. The first is if you have bad credit and are working on repairing it. Signing up for a credit monitoring service usually lets you track your score on a regular basis. This can be particularly helpful if you’re waiting to hit a specific benchmark score before making a big financial decision, like a mortgage or auto loan.
The other type of person that credit monitoring can benefit is if you’ve been the victim of identity theft or know your personal information has been compromised. If someone has stolen your information or managed to open fraudulent accounts on your behalf, a drop in your credit score can be one of the first indicators.
Non-profit Credit Counselors
If you’re looking for help with your credit, a non-profit counselor may give you free access to your credit score. You may have to pay them a nominal fee for their service, but not only will they give your score, they’ll also help evaluate your financial situation. They can give you unbiased advice on debt relief options and even help you figure out a budget to regain your financial footing.
HUD-approved housing counselors can also help you get this information. They’re similar to a credit counselor, except they specialize in foreclosure prevention. If you’re worried about keeping up with your monthly mortgage payments, it may be wise to reach out to a housing counselor for help.
No matter what method you choose to get your credit score, make sure it’s part of your regular financial routine. Reviewing your credit report is helpful, but when it comes to any type of credit application, your credit score is a huge part of the bottom line. It can also be incredibly motivating to improve your financial habits when you’re rewarded with a boost in your credit score.