Your credit score is a three-digit number that's used by banks to approve your application for credit cards, loans, and other credit-based services. Banks aren't the only businesses that use your credit score, though. You'll find utility companies, landlords, cell phone providers, and even some hospitals all check your credit score.
Why Should You Check Your Credit Score
You should check your credit score regularly to see where you stand, especially before putting in a major loan application. Reviewing your credit score before applying for a loan will give you an idea of whether you'll get approved and the kind of interest rate you can expect. People with credit scores lower than 620 find it harder to get applications approved and are typically left with higher interest rates.
Different Kinds of Scores
A credit score is a general term given to the numerical value of your credit report. There are specific "brands" of credit scores that are used. The FICO score, named by its developers Fair Isaac Corporation, is the most well-known brand of credit score. The VantageScore is another type of credit score developed by the three credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
5 Ways to Get Your Credit Score
There are a several places to purchase your credit score or access it for free. Here are some of the best options.
You can order your FICO score from MyFICO.com. This score is based on your Experian, Equifax, and Transunion FICO credit reports. In addition to an educational credit score, MyFICO.com also gives you access to industry-specific scores used by mortgage and auto lenders.
MyFICO.com also offers three different levels of credit monitoring for a monthly fee. Each level includes an updated FICO score as well as access to credit reports from one or more of the three bureaus.
2. Any of the Credit Bureaus
You can purchase your individual and 3-in-1 credit scores from each of the credit bureaus. Keep in mind that each credit bureau has its own credit scoring model and credit file, so your credit scores could differ from each other and might even be different from your FICO score.
3. Free Credit Score Websites
Several websites currently offer completely free, no-subscription-required credit scores, including Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, and CreditWise from Capital One.
Watch out for any free credit score website that asks you to enter a credit card number. You're being enrolled in a trial subscription to a credit monitoring service. If you don't cancel before the trial ends, the company will start charging your credit card for the service.
4. Your Credit Card Statement
Certain credit card issuers participate in a FICO service that allows cardholders to view their FICO scores for free. If your credit card issuer participates, you only have to view your monthly statement or log in to your online account to see your recent FICO score.
5. Be Denied for Credit or Approved for Less Favorable Terms
This method isn't foolproof, but here's how it works. Lenders and credit card issuers are now required to send a copy of the credit score used in a decision to either deny an application for credit or to approve the application, but for less favorable terms than those applied for. You don't do anything to receive this credit score but make the application.
If your credit score plays a role in an unfavorable application, you'll automatically receive the credit score along with the top factors affecting your score.
If you don't want to go through the hassle of ordering your credit score or signing up for a new service, you can use MyFICO.com's free credit score estimator. The tool estimates your credit score based on the information you enter about your credit history. You'll have to be familiar with the information on your credit report to get an accurate estimate of your credit score.
Annual Free Credit Score?
All consumers are entitled to a free copy of their credit reports each year from every credit bureau through AnnualCreditReport.com. While these reports do not contain credit scores, they can provide insight into the state of your credit. You'll be able to see late payments, collection accounts, and other issues that might lower your score and lessen your chances of being offered good terms on a loan or credit card.