How to Check Your Credit Score
Your credit score is a very important number to know and understand. The terms on just about every credit card, personal loan or mortgage you apply for are influenced by those three little digits. Lenders look at your credit score as shorthand to determine how risky or reliable you are as a borrower, so you should get into the habit of checking it often.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the different ways you can check your credit score — whether you’re an individual or a business.
Table of contents:
- How to check my personal credit score
- Check your credit card statement
- Use a credit-scoring website
- Purchase your credit score from a credit bureau
- Consult with a credit counselor
- How to check my business’s credit score
- Use a business credit-scoring website
- Purchase your business credit score from a bureau
How to check my credit score
Before we dive in, you should know that you actually have several different types of credit scores. FICO scores and VantageScores are by far the most common ones — and these are further broken down into other versions that are used by separate lending industries. The best way to think of them is as brand names. FICO scores and VantageScores are the Walmarts and Targets of credit scores, if you will.
Checking your credit score(s) often is a smart money move. Doing so won’t affect your score at all — simply looking at your own credit is what’s referred to in credit inquiry terms as a “soft inquiry”. In contrast, when you’re applying for a loan and the lender pulls your credit information, that’s called a “hard inquiry,” and that may affect your score temporarily.
What’s more, it is becoming easier to check your credit score. In some cases, it’s automatic. In many cases, it’s free. Sometimes companies will still try to get you to pay for your credit score. It’s not a scam per se, but with all the free options out there, we’re hard pressed to find a legitimate reason you’d need to pay anymore.
Here are several ways to check your credit score. (Hint: It’s not going to be on your credit report.)
Check your credit card statement
If you have a credit card, your credit score may be included in your monthly statements that you barely glance at.
Credit card statements typically include the basic boring information about your credit card’s purchase history, interest rates and monthly balance. But, depending on your credit card provider, your credit score may also be automatically included on your monthly statement.
For example, monthly statements for my Chase Freedom card do not include my credit score. However, my credit score is included in each monthly statement for my Discover It credit card.
Discover clearly displays a version of my FICO score, when the score was last updated and how frequently it’s updated — right alongside my basic credit-card account summary. It also plots my credit score on a range from 300 to 850. Discover provides this information automatically and for free. It was not something I had to opt into.
But if your credit score isn’t included in your monthly credit-card statements, don’t worry. You have plenty of other options.
Check with your credit card provider
Many credit card issuers now provide cardholders with free access to their credit scores. While not every company automatically provides credit scores on their monthly statements like Discover does, several companies will allow you to access your credit score through your online profile associated with your account.
Here are banks and credit card companies that provide free credit scores to cardholders, as well as which type of credit score they offer.
|Name of financial institution||Type of credit score provided|
|Bank of America||FICO|
|First National Bank||VantageScore|
To access your credit score through one of the companies above, you’ll need to log into your account either on your financial institution’s website or through its smartphone app.
Specific instructions for checking your credit score should be available on your account dashboard once you’ve logged in.
If you have trouble finding them, you can also try using Google to search the name of your bank or credit card provider plus the phrase “check my credit score.” Before entering any personal information, double check the URL to ensure the website you land on is legitimate.
Use a credit-scoring website
Credit-scoring websites and apps have flooded the market in recent years. You’ve likely come across some of them. Well known examples include Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, LendingTree, Mint and myFICO. There are dozens more.
While you can get a credit score from any of the above mentioned sites, they all offer many other bells and whistles, such as budgeting tools, bill-payment trackers and credit monitoring services that might cost extra.
So long as you only use the sites to view your credit score, they should be free in many cases. With the free sites, you’re essentially paying them with the data that you provide. In most cases, you'll need to provide your Social Security number. Know that the companies may use your financial data to sell ads, or they might try to get you to open credit cards and take out loans based on your creditworthiness. If you do, they receive money for the referral.
Take Mint, for example. The popular personal finance app is free, but to make use of its many features, you need to provide your personal financial information and link your credit, banking and/or utility accounts. If you’re comfortable doing so, the app can provide you with a high-level snapshot of your spending habits, send you reminders of when your bills are due and, of course, show you your credit score.
On the other end of the spectrum is myFICO, as in the FICO score creator itself. The company will not offer you a free credit score. To access your credit score directly from myFICO, you have to sign up for a monthly subscription service. Its most basic tier is $19.95 per month and includes 24-7 identity-restoration services, credit-monitoring services, a $1 million identity-theft insurance plan and, yes, your FICO scores.
With myFICO you can at least rest assured that the credit score it’s providing is accurate. Some credit-score sites may show you an “educational credit score,” which is basically a ballpark estimate of your credit score, and the number might not be the same one lenders are looking at.
When using a credit-scoring site, try to verify the score you’re getting is either a FICO score or VantageScore. Here are a few examples.
|Credit score service||Type of credit score provided||Price|
|myFICO||FICO||Starting at $19.95/mo.|
Get your credit score from a credit bureau
Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — are required to provide you with a free credit report once per year, upon request. But they aren’t legally required to provide your credit score.
Still, you can get your credit score from all three bureaus, though it won’t be free in every case.
Equifax and Experian will provide you with your credit score for free, while TransUnion requires you to sign up for a monthly subscription that includes a bulk of other services.
All three credit bureaus have several subscription tiers and product packages, so if all you’re trying to do is check your credit score, be sure you’re selecting the most barebones option available. Otherwise, you’ll be shelling out for unwanted add ons.
Here are the most basic plans at all three bureaus:
- Free FICO score check with Experian (no credit card required)
- Free VantageScore check with Equifax (no credit card required)
- TransUnion VantageScore check and credit monitoring subscription ($24.95 per month)
The free plans from Experian and Equifax also come with basic credit tracking features and tips to boost your score. TransUnion’s basic plan includes similar credit tracking and educational features, as well as identity theft insurance, credit monitoring for all three bureaus, and more.
The free credit scores from Experian and Equifax are updated monthly. TransUnion’s plan says credit score updates are available daily.
Consult with a credit counselor
If you’re new to the world of credit scores, learning about the different types of credit scores, plus where and when you can pull your score — all while dodging upcharges — can be a little overwhelming.
Fortunately, there’s professional help out there that can walk you through your credit report, teach you all the terminology, provide tips to improve your credit score and help with credit repair. They’re called credit counselors. In addition to general personal finance advice, some can actually provide you with your credit score, too.
The trick is finding the right one. As with most things related to finances, scammers abound. When searching for a credit counselor near you, exercise caution. Be sure the company is not a credit-repair company in disguise.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, you can usually spot the shady actors by looking out for:
- Upfront charges
- Promises to remove negative information from your credit report (even if that info is true)
- Consultations that avoid explaining your consumer rights
- Advice that tells you not to contact credit bureaus directly
(Pro tip: Remember that you're entitled to a free copy of your credit reports, which you can get from AnnualCreditReport.com. Your credit score is based on the information in those reports. Always start there first, and never let someone pressure you into paying for it.)
To further ensure a credit counseling organization is legitimate, you can check the list of approved counseling agencies with the Department of Justice. Better yet, pick a non-profit agency. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) and Money Management International are two non-profit agencies you can start with.
How to check my business credit score
Businesses also have credit scores, which are used by lenders, banks, partners and other agencies to determine their creditworthiness and/or legitimacy. Business credit score ranges are usually on a scale of zero to 100. A business’s credit score is in many ways shorthand for “does this business repay its debts,” but the score itself could be determined by a host of factors including number of credit accounts, payment history, credit utilization and more.
A good credit score for a business is 80 or above.
To establish business credit and obtain a credit score, your business will need to meet a few benchmarks. It must be registered as its own legal entity (like a C-Corp or an LLC), and it must have either a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) or an Employer Identification Number (EIN) through the IRS, as well as a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number through Dun & Bradstreet.
Once your business is properly registered and has a credit history, you can start checking its credit score in a number of ways.
Use a business credit-scoring website
As with personal credit scores, several websites are dedicated to providing business credit services. Each site is a little different and may have its own preferred credit scoring model. Here are the basics.
- Creditsafe: To evaluate your business’s creditworthiness, Creditsafe uses its own proprietary business credit scoring system. The company offers free trials but the length and details are on a case-by-case basis. Its website does not provide upfront pricing information and requires a consultation to determine the price of a subscription.
- Data Axle: For $17.95 per credit report or for $195 per month, Data Axle will provide your business’s Experian Intelliscore Plus score along with credit-monitoring and data-analytics services.
- Nav: With Nav, you can create a free account to access your business’s credit “grade,” which is based on data from three major business credit reporting agencies (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian and Equifax). The free grade is on an A to F scale and isn’t the same as your credit score, but it provides a high-level snapshot. To get your actual business credit scores, you’ll have to enroll in a subscription. Plans start at $29.99 per month.
Purchase your business credit score from a credit bureau
Experian, Equifax and Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) are the three main business credit bureaus. Each bureau offers different plans and subscriptions that allow you to view your business’s credit score.
Business credit reports and scores through Experian are available for purchase per report or via a monthly subscription. For $39.95, you can pull a one-time business credit report that includes Experian’s proprietary Intelliscore and Financial Stability Risk Rating scores. Or you can opt for an annual subscription for $189 that includes unlimited access to business credit reports and credit scores, as well as additional credit-monitoring and identity-protection services.
For $99.95, you can buy a business credit report from Equifax that includes your company’s payment-index score (the common zero-to-100 score), as well as other risk-related scores. Equifax doesn’t have a business subscription plan but instead offers a discounted rate if you buy the reports in batches of five.
Lastly, Dun & Bradstreet offers several subscription tiers that allow you to access your business’s credit scores. The company offers a 14-day free trial that includes four D&B business scores and ratings along with basic monitoring and credit alerts. After the trial, you can choose between a $15-per-month or a $39-per-month plan — both come with additional business credit scores and monitoring services.
The business credit industry is less uniform than the personal credit industry. While the three credit bureaus above offer popular business credit scores, there’s no sure-fire way to know if lenders are looking at the same credit score you are.
Summary of Money's Guide on How to Check Your Credit Score
- You actually have numerous personal credit scores, not just one. The most popular credit scores are variations of the VantageScore and FICO score.
- A variety of free credit-score providers are out there, including credit card providers, banks, the credit bureaus themselves, dozens of credit-scoring websites and certain credit counseling agencies.
- Some companies still try to get you to pay for your personal credit score. With so many free options available, that is no longer necessary in most cases.
- Businesses also have credit scores, but they work quite differently from personal credit scores.
- It’s hard to get your business’s credit score for free. You’ll likely need to purchase an individual business credit report, which includes your business credit scores, or sign up for a credit-score subscription plan for your company.
- Different variations of your business credit score are available via business credit-scoring websites and major credit bureaus.
More from Money:
How to Read Your Credit Report
7 Best Credit Repair Companies