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It’s a question I get asked more often than you might think: How can I tell if I have a credit score? It’s a basic question, but it’s about a pretty complex topic. It’s not always so easy to understand your credit and how much it can affect our lives these days. So with that in mind, let’s look at some important facts about your credit score, and how to find out if you have one.

What Is a Credit Score?

A credit score is basically a number that is used to predict how likely you are to pay back a loan or stay current on other financial obligations. The three major companies that collect credit data about you — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – each will issue a credit report containing your credit history. The data in those reports are what your scores are based on. There are many credit scores, and many lenders use FICO scores. FICO Scores range from 300 to 850. Having a credit score of 740 or above will give you access to the lowest interest rates on loans.

Do I Have a Credit Score?

If you have opened at least one account with a creditor that reports to the credit bureaus and it has been open for at least six months, then you should have a score. If you have any kind of line of credit – a mortgage, auto loan, credit card, student loan, personal loan, etc. — you will likely have a credit score. If you haven’t taken out any kind of loan or credit, but you’d like to establish and build credit, a secured credit card can be a good place to start.

You can access your credit reports once a year – no score included – by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. You should regularly check your free credit reports (from all three bureaus at once, or space them out so you get one three times throughout the year) just to make sure it’s correct and to watch out for identity theft. You should also check your credit scores regularly to see where you stand, and monitor your scores to watch for big changes that could signal a problem. You can check your credit scores for free on Credit.com, where you can also get a breakdown of what’s affecting your scores and a plan to improve them, too.

Understanding your credit score these days is more important than ever. It can impact so many areas of our lives. Make sure you keep a close eye on your credit reports and scores, and of course practice good financial habits like using very little of your available credit and always paying bills on time to keep your score on the up and up.

More on Credit Reports and Credit Scores:

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