How to Check Your Credit

Learn about the differences between your credit reports and credit scores, as well as how to check and monitor them both


Monitoring your credit is important because it can help you stay on top of your financial health. But how exactly do you check your credit?

Keep reading to learn how credit reports and credit scores differ—and why it’s so important to monitor them both.


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Basics of Credit Reports and Scores

Your credit reports are statements of your credit history. And there are three major bureaus that compile credit reports: Equifax®, Experian® and TransUnion®. Each credit bureau compiles its own credit reports, so your credit reports may be slightly different.

Your credit scores are based on the information in those credit reports. Generally speaking, the higher the score, the better. FICO® and VantageScore® provide some of the most commonly used scores. But keep in mind that you have many different credit scores that different lenders use.

As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) explains, “Your score can differ depending on which credit reporting agency provided the information, the scoring model, the type of loan product, and even the day when it was calculated.” 

Why Is Credit Important?

Your credit is important because it gives lenders—and others—a general idea of how financially responsible you are. And many companies use your credit to predict your future financial behaviors.

So the better your credit, the better your chances of qualifying for things like credit cards, loans, mortgages and other credit products. And the better your rates might be.

Check and Monitor Your Credit Reports and Credit Scores

Now that you know why your credit is so important, you can see why it’s a good idea to check and monitor your credit. But how do you do it?

How to Request Free Copies of Your Credit Reports

You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion—by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. You’ll need to provide your:

  • Legal name.
  • Birth date.
  • Social Security number.
  • Current address.

If you’ve moved in the past two years, you may need to include your previous address as well. There may be a limit on how often you can obtain your report—check the site for details.

Once you’ve provided the information above, you’ll pick which credit reports you want before answering a few additional questions that help verify it’s really you. “These questions are meant to be hard,” according to AnnualCreditReport.com. “You may even need your records to answer them. They are used to ensure that nobody but you can get your credit information.”

How to Check Your Credit Scores for Free—Without Hurting Your Credit

Keep in mind that your credit scores don’t actually appear on your credit reports. So what do you do if you want to check your scores?

Depending on your lender, you may be able to find your scores by checking your statement or by logging in to your account online. You can also get your scores directly from the credit bureaus and credit-scoring companies—but you might have to pay for them.

You don’t have to pay to monitor your credit. Take CreditWise from Capital One, for instance. With CreditWise, you can access your TransUnion credit report and weekly VantageScore 3.0 credit score for free anytime—without negatively impacting your score. You can even see the potential impacts of financial decisions on your credit score before you make them with the CreditWise Simulator.

CreditWise is free and available to everyone—not just Capital One customers.


Learn more about Capital One’s response to COVID-19 and resources available to customers. For information about COVID-19, head over to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Government and private relief efforts vary by location and may have changed since this article was published. Consult a financial adviser or the relevant government agencies and private lenders for the most current information.

We hope you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment or financial advice or to indicate that a particular Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.

Your CreditWise score is calculated using the TransUnion® VantageScore® 3.0 model, which is one of many credit scoring models. It may not be the same model your lender uses, but it can be one accurate measure of your credit health. The availability of the CreditWise tool depends on our ability to obtain your credit history from TransUnion. Some monitoring and alerts may not be available to you if the information you enter at enrollment does not match the information in your credit file at (or you do not have a file at) one or more consumer reporting agencies.

The CreditWise Simulator provides an estimate of your score change and does not guarantee how your score may change.

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