How Often Should I Check My Credit Score

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Whether you’re applying for a home loan, buying a car, or searching for a new job, you may be wondering about how often to check your credit score. You may have heard that checking your credit too often can result in a lower score. This is true for certain aspects of your credit report, but your credit score is different. Knowing how to check your score and how to monitor it routinely will give you a leg up in the lending world.

Report vs. Score

First, you should understand the difference between your credit score and your credit report. A credit report is generated by the three major credit reporting bureaus in the United States: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. These agencies track your credit history, including information such as your payment history on installment contracts, credit inquiries, student loans and unpaid medical bills. Your credit report will outline your entire history of borrowing money, but the report doesn’t include a score.

The federal government has made it mandatory for the three reporting bureaus to provide consumers with one free credit report per agency every 12 months. You can request your free copy by phone, by mail or online by visiting an annual credit reporting service. This is the only website that allows you to download your free, legal copy of your credit report from each of the bureaus, so be wary of scam websites that offer this information otherwise.

What the Numbers Mean

Each reporting bureau uses its own algorithms to calculate your credit score, and some lenders use different models entirely from the standard FICO score that everyone talks about. Generally speaking, credit scores fall within a fairly standard range from poor to excellent: 300 to 629 is poor, 630 to 689 is fair, 690 to 719 is good, and 720 and up is excellent, according to Nerd Wallet. Knowing your score will give you an advantage when you want to take out a loan, but you may be worried about checking your score. Fortunately, it’s a myth that checking your credit score will negatively impact your score. How often to check your credit score depends on why you want to do it.

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When to Monitor Your Score

If you’re not in the market for a new home, a new car or other personal loan, then you don’t need to check your credit score more than once a year. According to Forbes, one common misconception is that credit scores take forever to change, but it’s not true. Credit scores change regularly because credit card issuers update their information every month or so. One study found that 70 percent of credit scores see a 20-point shift over the course of three months. Credit scores affect your interest rates, so check your score every month or so if you’re getting ready to finance a home or take out a significant loan.

You don’t have to check your credit score as often as the commercials make it seem, but you should know how your credit report looks to lenders. If you want to stay on top of your score, you can sign up for a credit monitoring service, which usually charges a fee per month. Otherwise, download a free copy of your credit report each year to know where you stand, and don’t worry about how often to check your credit score unless you’re planning on a big purchase in the near future.

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