How to check your credit score and report
October 17, 2023 4 min read
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 credit scores? And what is a good credit score?
Keep reading to learn how credit reports and credit scores differ—and why it’s so important to monitor them.
- 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.
Credit score vs. credit report
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), “Your credit scores are calculated based on the information in your credit report.” Your credit reports are statements of your credit history, including information about your credit activity, loan-paying history and the status of your credit accounts.
There are three major bureaus that compile credit reports: 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 reporting companies, such as FICO® and VantageScore®, then use that information to determine your credit score. From there, lenders might use your credit scores and other information when reviewing your applications.
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Where can I check my credit scores and reports?
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 check your credit scores or reports, you could:
- Visit AnnualCreditReport.com, where you can find out how to get free copies of your credit reports from each of the three credit reporting bureaus.
- Sign up for a service like CreditWise from Capital One. It’s available to all—even if you don’t have a Capital One credit card. You can access CreditWise for free anytime, get alerts for new inquiries or changes to your report, and more.
- Check what options are available from the credit bureaus or credit counselors.
If you find other tools online, just make sure they’re trustworthy and not a scam. And keep in mind that some tools may charge you.
How do I run a credit check without hurting my credit?
Checking your scores won’t affect your credit, as long as the service uses a soft inquiry—like CreditWise does. That means you can use CreditWise to check your credit as many times as you want without hurting your scores.
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 rating. If you find inaccurate information, you can file a dispute with the credit bureau.
What do 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 address and previous addresses
- Credit and loan accounts, including 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 should I check my credit report regularly?
Your credit is important because many companies use it to predict future financial behavior. 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 and terms might be.
By monitoring your credit, you may also be better prepared as you apply for loans. And it can give you an idea of areas where you can work to improve your credit.
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. You can even see the potential impacts of financial decisions on your credit score before you make them, with the CreditWise Simulator.
Best of all, CreditWise is free for everyone, even if you’re not a Capital One cardholder.