Borrowing

2 ways to check your credit score for free

Hispanolistic | E+ | Getty Images

There are a couple simple ways you can check your credit score for free, and you'll want to do so before you pursue any goal that hinges on your credit—say, renting an apartment or applying for a car loan.

Monitoring your credit score can help you understand how your financial behavior, from opening a new credit card to paying off a card balance, influences that three-digit number.

Almost 1 in 5 credit card users mistakenly believes that checking their credit score could harm it, according to a 2018 survey from Discover. But that's a myth.

When you check your credit to track it, that's considered a so-called "soft pull." When a lender checks your credit after you apply for a new loan, that's called a "hard pull"—and that's the only kind of check that can have a temporary negative affect on your score.

"When you check your own credit report, it will not hurt your credit scores, as long as you're not having a friend at a car dealership or mortgage broker pull it for you," says John Ulzheimer, a credit expert who has worked for FICO and Equifax.

Here are a couple places you can find out your credit score for free.

Your bank or credit card issuer

Some banks and credit card issuers, including Chase, Capital One, and American Express, provide their customers with access to a free credit score on their monthly statements or in their account online.

"If you have a credit card with almost any large card issuer, they are likely participating in FICO's Open Access program and you can see your score once a month on your statement," says Ulzheimer. "You can also check your FICO score at Discover's website even if you don't have a Discover card."

Third-party credit scoring sites

Some third-party sites including Bankrate.com, Creditkarma.com, and Credit.com provide free credit scores, along with a summary of your payment history, personalized tips, and financial tools.

Overall, you have convenient options available to you so, as Ulzheimer puts it, "if you're buying a credit score, then you're really wasting your money."

If you're buying a credit score, then you're really wasting your money.
John Ulzheimer
credit expert

What to understand about these credit scores

Here are some key things to know about credit scores that can help you understand what to look for when you check yours:

  • Your scores will vary. You could check your score in half a dozen places and get a different number at each, due to differences like the score brand and version used and which credit bureau's data the site pulls. The chance of you getting the same exact score from any two websites "is small to none," explains Ulzheimer.
  • Consider the big picture. Because your credit scores will vary, don't put too much stock in your exact score from any one site. If they all fall into the "good" range (661-780), for instance, it's fair to say your credit is good.
  • Your free scores will be different than the ones lenders see. Lenders often use proprietary formulas based on factors of interest to them, so the scores may be tailored to a specific product, say auto loans or credit cards. Still, your free score will give you an idea of what lenders see.
  • Pay attention to how your score is trending. Let's say your score recently went up to 700, moving you from the "fair" category into the "good" range. It's that upward curve, the trend line, that lenders tend to notice. Most free score resources will also include specifics about how you can boost your number.

More from Grow:

acorns+cnbcacorns cnbc

Join Acorns

GET STARTED

About Us

Learn More

Follow Us

All investments involve risk, including loss of principal. The contents presented herein are provided for general investment education and informational purposes only and do not constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any specific securities or engage in any particular investment strategy. Acorns is not engaged in rendering any tax, legal, or accounting advice. Please consult with a qualified professional for this type of advice.

Any references to past performance, regarding financial markets or otherwise, do not indicate or guarantee future results. Forward-looking statements, including without limitations investment outcomes and projections, are hypothetical and educational in nature. The results of any hypothetical projections can and may differ from actual investment results had the strategies been deployed in actual securities accounts. It is not possible to invest directly in an index.

Advisory services offered by Acorns Advisers, LLC (“Acorns Advisers”), an investment adviser registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). Brokerage and custody services are provided to clients of Acorns Advisers by Acorns Securities, LLC (“Acorns Securities”), a broker-dealer registered with the SEC and a member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (“FINRA”) and the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (“SIPC”). Acorns Pay, LLC (“Acorns Pay”) manages Acorns’s demand deposit and other banking products in partnership with Lincoln Savings Bank, a bank chartered under the laws of Iowa and member FDIC. Acorns Advisers, Acorns Securities, and Acorns Pay are subsidiaries of Acorns Grow Incorporated (collectively “Acorns”). “Acorns,” the Acorns logo and “Invest the Change” are registered trademarks of Acorns Grow Incorporated. Copyright © 2019 Acorns and/or its affiliates.

NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns Grow Incorporated.