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If you don’t measure it, you can’t tell if it’s getting better. That’s a common concept when it comes to making improvements, whether in business, health or education.

The same applies to credit scores. It’s important to know your scores so you can make good decisions like when to apply for loans, but even if you’re not considering adding an account, it helps to know where you stand. Otherwise, you won’t know what changes you need to make in your financial behavior until it’s too late, like after you’ve been denied credit.

In a recent Credit.com survey, people most often said they decided to look at their credit scores so they could improve them. Of the 2,118 respondents to this survey, 44% were looking to increase their scores when they signed up for the Credit Report Card, a free tool that provides you with two scores used by lenders, and you can track how the scores change over time.

The Power of Knowledge

Interestingly, the second-most popular reason (40%) people gave for checking their credit scores was curiosity. The idea that people are curious about their credit shows that people know it’s important, but it also might indicate they’re not sure how to use the information credit scores provide.

Only 6% of respondents said they checked their scores because they wanted to know their status before applying for loans or credit. It may not be the most common reason, but it’s a useful one. Even if you can’t make dramatic improvements to your scores before you fill out a loan application, knowing your scores will give you a better idea of what financial products you may qualify for. Applying for something you can’t get only hurts your scores by creating more inquiries, so seeking new credit needs to be a strategic process.

Staying on top of your credit scores is also a good way to spot fraud. A sudden, unexpected change in your credit scores could indicate someone is using your personal information without your knowledge — someone could have stolen your Social Security number to open fraudulent accounts or gotten a hold of your credit card number and maxed out your card. While you should be monitoring your finances on a daily basis, regularly checking your credit scores gives you another way to protect your identity (3% of Credit Report Card users said that’s why they signed up).

Of course, if you apply for credit and are denied, you’re going to wonder why. Consumers are entitled to free credit reports when they’re denied credit, but looking at your credit scores could help you digest the information on your reports (that’s what they’re based on, after all). About 6% of respondents said they came to the Credit Report Card after getting rejected for credit, and with the information they reviewed, they can be better prepared to apply for credit the next time around.

More on Credit Reports and Credit Scores:

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