How to check your credit score and report

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 reports and scores? 

Learn about a few free options you can use to monitor your credit, without hurting your credit scores.

Key takeaways 

  • Credit reports are a record of a borrower’s credit history, credit activity and more.
  • The information in credit reports is used to determine credit scores.
  • Credit scores can change and differ depending on when they’re calculated and what scoring model, information and data are used in the calculation.
  • There are many free ways to monitor your credit scores, including using CreditWise from Capital One.

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Credit score vs. credit report

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, “Your credit scores are calculated based on the information in your credit report.” And credit reports are statements of your credit history, including information about your credit activity, payment history and the status of your credit accounts.

There are three major credit bureaus that compile credit reports. They are Equifax®, Experian® and TransUnion®. Each credit bureau compiles its own credit reports, so the information in each of your reports may be slightly different. 

Credit-scoring companies, such as FICO® and VantageScore®, then use that information to determine credit scores. From there, lenders might use your credit scores and other information when reviewing your applications.

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How to check your credit scores and reports for free

There are a number of places where you can check your credit reports and scores. Just be aware that some of those places may charge you for the information. 

To get a free credit report or free credit score, you could:

  • Visit AnnualCreditReport.com, where you can find out how to get free copies of your credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus. 
  • Sign up for CreditWise from Capital One. It’s free to all—even if you don’t have a Capital One credit card. It has tools to help you understand your credit score, keep up with changes to your credit and monitor your personal information. And using CreditWise won’t affect your credit.

You could also find out what free options are available from the credit bureaus or credit counselors. If you find tools online, just make sure they’re trustworthy and not a scam.

How to check your credit score and report without hurting them

According to Experian, you should check your credit reports at least once a year. Knowing what’s in your reports can help you better understand your credit. And if you find inaccurate information, you can take action to have it corrected.

Checking your scores won’t affect your credit, as long as the service uses a soft inquiry—like CreditWise does. That’s why you can use CreditWise to check your credit as often as you like, without hurting your scores.

What lenders see on your credit report

What you see on your credit reports may be slightly different from what lenders who are reviewing your credit might see. But generally, if a lender is reviewing your credit, they might see your:

  • Personal information, such as your name, current and previous addresses, and Social Security number
  • Credit and loan accounts, such as student loans, auto loans and personal loans
  • Information about your payment history
  • Employment history
  • Public records, such as bankruptcies
  • Recent inquiries where you applied for other loans or credit cards

Monitoring your credit can help you understand where you stand. But it’s important to note that decisions about loan applications or credit cards are ultimately up to each lender. And because there are multiple scores and reports out there, what you see in the reports and scores you’re given might not be exactly the same as what lenders use to judge creditworthiness.

Why you should check your credit reports regularly

Your credit is important because lenders use it to determine whether to approve loan applications and to set interest rates and terms. So the better your credit, the better your chances of qualifying for things like credit cards, mortgages and other loans—and the better your rates and terms might be. 

Monitoring your credit can help you see where you stand. And if you’re looking to improve your credit, it can also help you track your progress and give you an idea of where there might be room for improvement.

Checking your credit regularly and keeping an eye out for any unusual activity can also help you spot identity theft and scams. With CreditWise, you can receive alerts about some changes to your TransUnion and Experian credit reports that could indicate fraudulent activity.

How to check credit scores in a nutshell

Knowing how to get a copy of your credit reports and how to check your credit scores are important parts of managing your finances. By monitoring your credit, you’ll have an idea of what lenders see when they review your credit. And you’ll be better able to spot any errors on your reports that may need to be corrected. 

If you’re ready to take the next step toward monitoring your credit, consider signing up for CreditWise. You can use it to access your TransUnion credit report and VantageScore 3.0 credit score for free anytime—without negatively impacting your scores. And with the CreditWise Simulator, you can even see the potential impacts of financial decisions on your credit score before you make them.

Best of all, CreditWise is free for everyone, even if you’re not a Capital One cardholder.

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