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Your credit score is a crucial part of your finances. It affects which credit cards you qualify for, the interest rate you pay on loans, whether you qualify for an apartment, and much more. Because of that, it's important to keep track of your credit score and work on improving it as much as possible.
The question people often ask is how they can stay on top of their credit score. Many sites claim to help you check your credit, and some of them charge a fee. With so many options, it can feel overwhelming.
The good news is that it's not as difficult as it seems. Here's what you need to know about credit scores -- and how to look up yours free of charge.
The term "credit score" is a bit misleading, because there are actually dozens of different credit scores out there. There are two systems used to calculate consumer credit scores:
Both of these systems have multiple versions with different scoring calculations. In addition, there are three credit bureaus that each calculate credit scores based on the credit report it has for you:
It's certainly complicated, but keep this in mind -- you don't need to know all your credit scores. One is enough.
The key is to check the right type of score. Since most lenders use your FICO® Score, that's the score you should check.
Now, let's look at how to check your credit.
There are quite a few free credit score tools. If you have any credit cards, there's a good chance the card issuer offers a tool you can use.
Remember though that we're not just looking for any score. We're looking for your FICO® Score. Many services provide your VantageScore, which isn't used as often and can be much different.
Here are two services that provide your FICO® Score 8 (the specific type of FICO® Score most widely used today):
Both services require you to sign up, but they're free to use. You don't need to have any Discover credit cards to use its credit score service.
After you've chosen a service, go through the sign-up process. Here's the information these services typically ask for:
You'll also need to set up a password and verify your email address.
Once you have an account, you can log in and find your credit score. Most services update monthly so you can always keep up with your current score.
These services typically provide information on which factors are positively and negatively affecting your credit. Spend some time reviewing this information to see what you can do to increase your credit score.
Note that you need to have a credit account open and reported on your credit file for at least six months before you'll have a FICO® Score. If you don't have a credit score yet, check out starter credit cards to begin building your credit history.
Your FICO® Score will give you an accurate idea of how good your credit is. There are a couple other things you can do to stay on top of your credit.
First, check your credit score every month. That way, you can see if it's progressing and if there are any potential issues.
Make sure you also review your credit reports from the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). These reports show all the information each bureau has on you, and it's important to review them for errors.
You're legally entitled to one free credit report per year from each bureau. However, all three bureaus are currently offering free weekly credit reports through April of 2022.
By keeping track of your FICO® Score and watching your credit reports, you'll be fully informed on a key part of your financial health.
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