Ask somebody on the street if they know what their current credit score is as of right now, and you will probably be met with a shrug by a majority of the people you ask. People on average don’t know what their current credit score is because they either don’t know how to check it, or they don’t want to risk getting penalized if they checked it. Although there are certain credit card companies that will let you check your score for free whenever you want as a perk for signing with them, not all of us credit users have instantaneous access to our exact credit scores.
So how do we find out what our credit score is for free and without punishment? Below is a breakdown of some options that you can use to check your score, as well as why it is important to do so.
Why is knowing my credit score important?
When it comes to your credit score, it is important to keep as updated as you can as to its position on the scale, especially if you plan on utilizing your credit in the near future. Although you don’t need to check on it every day, you should at least have a very close idea of what your number is throughout the better parts of the year. Checking your score is important because it is the primary way for lenders to check if you really are worthy of receiving an approval for a loan, or a new credit card, or even to purchase a car from them.
Your credit score, whether you like it or not, is a very important part of your adult portfolio. Next to how much money you make in a year, your credit score should hold an equal level of importance in your mind. It touches a lot more areas in your adult life than you would think, and having a high score grants you benefits and perks that can actually save you money and time as compared to what you would have to go through if you had low or poor credit.
A benefit of having higher credit score would be that you don’t have to put any money down on a larger purchase (like a car purchase) because the car dealer knows for a fact that you are good for it. If you had poor credit, then you might not even be able to buy the car at all through making payments, or in a best case scenario you would have to drop down a significantly hefty down payment on the purchase.
Knowing your credit score is half the battle to making your life run smoother and stress free, but how do you check your score and see where you stand on the scale? Read on to find out.
What makes up my credit score?
On the same note that we mentioned earlier that many people have no idea what their current credit score number is, many people also do not know what their credit score actually means and consists of. This is nobody’s fault (except our schooling system that decided to leave “Personal Finance” classes out of the curriculum), but to clear it up, your credit score consists of the following criteria:
- Your payment history.
- Your amounts owed (past and present).
- The length of your credit history.
- Types of credits in use.
- Account inquiries.
These differing criteria all make up the credit score that is so important to lenders and big purchase vendors. Another thing you should know about your credit score is that it is only a gauge that displays how much of a risk that you are to lend money too. It measures nothing more than that.
A misconception is that you need to be rich or have a large income to have a stellar credit score, but if you look at the list above, you will notice that “Income” is not a part of the criteria. Your credit score has nothing to do with how much money you make or have in your bank accounts, but rather is only concerned with how you handle your debts, how many debts you have, what kind of debts you have, and how long you have been in those debts.
So where do we look?
There are three separate companies that check your credit score, and they compile together all their information onto a single website that you can check called AnnualCreditReport.com. Legally, these three credit bureaus, named Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, must issue you their reports on your credit once per year with no strings attached, granted you must request a copy first.
So, three bureaus each releasing one copy of your credit check report per year totals up to three cost free and penalty free credit check reports that you can receive in a single year. Spread out those three reports throughout the year and voila! You have a steady and reliable way to keep an eye on your credit score all year long.
Consider getting one report every 4 months to keep your finger on the pulse of your credit score throughout the year. It’s free, and does not punish your score in any way by checking! This is the most common way that individuals who don’t have special ways of checking keep an eye on their scores.
Look for errors, it may just bump up your score.
For your credit score, you should know that these reports are collected and compiled by humans as they receive the information from the computers, and then passed around from one secured database to the next. All this moving around and handling can result in an error or two in your final report, so be prepared to get out your magnifying glass when you finally receive your credit check.
As with any document, you want to look it over a few times to make sure that the information displayed on the page is in fact accurate, as a single error could be the difference between your score being raised from one tier of the credit score scale to the next. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and make a dispute on something you find on your report, as mistakes can in fact happen, and the folks on the other end of the phone are trained to help you work this out on your report.
So to check your credit score for free and without any penalty, you can request reports from the three major credit bureaus throughout the year, and once you do receive an official credit report be sure to thoroughly go through the entire thing and look for errors. These steps combined will help you be more self-aware of your credit and grant you both piece of mind, as well as some possible benefits from having stellar credit…and all of that starts just by knowing what exact number you are working with.