Your credit score determines whether you can borrow money and the interest rate if you are successful. Increasingly, landlords and employers are looking at credit reports also. To check your score, visit a website that offers credit scores for free. If you are unhappy with your score, work to improve it by paying your bills on time and reducing your debts.
EditUsing a Free Website
- Find free websites. The most well-known free websites are Credit.com, CreditKarma.com, and CreditSesame.com. You won’t have to pay anything to get your credit score, and your credit score won’t be negatively impacted by requesting it.
- Some websites advertise they are “free.” However, you need to pay to access your report. Even worse, you get automatically signed up for an annual subscription.
- Sign up. At CreditSesame.com, for example, you need to provide your email and create a password. Doing so will allow you to return to the website and check your score in the future.
- Provide personal information. Each website will request slightly different information, but most will require the following:
- First and last name
- Mailing address
- Date of birth
- Last four digits of your Social Security Number
- Answer security questions. To confirm your identity, you’ll be asked a few multiple-choice questions. For example, you might be asked how much you pay each month in student loans or the name of a street you have lived on.
- Receive your score. Your score will be three digits, from 300-850. The score you receive from these sites might be slightly different than the score a lender sees. However, they shouldn’t be too different.
- In addition to your score, you should see other information, such as a listing of your total debt. At CreditSesame.com, you can also buy a copy of your credit report for $9.95, but you should decline since you can get a copy for free each year.
- The website might also have links to sign up for credit cards. You are not required to, and should think carefully before signing up for any offered products.
EditUsing Other Methods
- Check with your credit card provider. More and more credit card companies are offering their customers information on their credit scores. You can look on your most recent statement or log into your online account.
- Ask a housing or credit counselor. These counselors can get your credit score and report for free. They can also analyze your finances and help you come up with a budget to improve your score.
- Look for nonprofit counselors. In the U.S., you can find credit counselors at https://www.justice.gov/ust/list-credit-counseling-agencies-approved-pursuant-11-usc-111. Search by state.
- You can find a housing counselor in the U.S. at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/find-a-housing-counselor/.
- Purchase your FICO score. Visit myfico.com and buy a one-time report. You can get your score along with a credit report from one or all of the three major credit report agencies (CRAs). Lenders usually look at your FICO score, so you can see exactly what they are seeing if you buy from this website.
- As of 2017, it costs $59.85 for your score and reports from all three CRAs.
- It costs $19.95 for your score and one CRA’s report.
- Buy your score from a credit reporting agency. In the U.S, the three largest CRAs are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You can buy your score from each. Visit their websites to order it.
- At Equifax, look under “Credit Report Assistance” at the bottom of the homepage. Click on “Purchase my credit score.”
- At the Experian homepage, click on “Reports & Scores” and select “Credit Score.”
- At TransUnion, click on “Credit Education” and then select “Credit Score.”
EditImproving Your Credit Score
- Make timely payments. Your payment history makes up 35% of your credit score. Make at least the minimum payment, and pay on time. One late payment won’t crash your credit score, but the fewer missed payments you have, the better.
- Contact your bank to set up automated payments so that you don’t forget.
- Reduce your debt burden. The amount you owe makes up another 30% of your credit score. Reduce your burden by paying off high-interest debts, such as credit card balances. Use a balance transfer credit card to speed up repayment.
- One factor FICO considers is the amount of available credit you use. For example, two people might have $3,000 in credit card debt. However, Person A has $20,000 of available credit, whereas Person B has only $5,000. Person A will probably have a higher score, since less of their available credit is being utilized.
- Avoid taking out new credit. New credit makes up 10% of your score. You might think it’s a good idea to increase the amount of available credit by getting a new credit card. However, your score will take a hit if you open too many new accounts. FICO assumes that you are opening accounts because you are in financial trouble.
- One exception: if you can get a new balance transfer credit card with an introductory 0% APR. This will allow you to pay down your debts quickly.
- Be patient. The length of your credit history makes up another 15% of your credit score. There isn’t much you can do to speed up the process. However, you can help yourself by not closing old accounts, even if you don’t currently use them.
- If you’re curious, the remaining 10% of your score is based on your mix of credit—installment loans, credit cards, mortgages, and store accounts. You really shouldn’t take out new credit just to diversify your mix of accounts.
- Remove inaccurate information. Inaccurate information can pull down your credit score. Get a copy of your credit report and go through it carefully. In the U.S., you can get one free credit report each year by calling 877-322-8228 or visiting annualcreditreport.com. Common errors include the following:
- Accounts that don’t belong to you.
- Accounts listed as late or delinquent when you have made timely payments.
- A single debt listed more than once.
- The wrong balance listed on the account.
- An account with the wrong credit limit listed.
- Check a Business Credit Report
- Improve Your Credit Score
- Understand Your FICO Credit Score
- Maintain Your Credit Rating
- Avoid Bad Credit
- Get Your Credit Report for Free