Checking your own credit reports won’t hurt your credit score. It’s a soft inquiry—and you can check your reports as often as you’d like without any effect on your scores.
Credit journeys begin with credit reports. With a copy of your report in hand, you can generate a plan: you can get out of debt, remove errors, or apply for great-value financial products, for example. If you don’t know how to do a soft credit check—or if you’re worried that you’ll damage your credit score by pulling a copy of your credit report—you’re in the right place. Read on to find out how to do a soft credit check and check your own credit score.
- Hard Versus Soft Inquiries
- How to Do a Soft Credit Check
- What’s in a Credit Score?
- Take Charge of Your Credit
Hard Versus Soft Inquiries
Two different types of credit inquiry exist: hard and soft. Applications for credit generate hard inquiries on your credit report. Soft inquiries do not show up on your credit report.
Hard inquiries happen when:
- A bank checks your credit when you apply for a loan
- A mortgage company checks your credit when you apply for a mortgage
- A credit card company checks your credit when you apply for a card
Soft inquiries happen when:
- You check your own credit
- Companies check your credit before making preapproved credit offers
- Employers pull credit reports as part of background checks
When you apply for credit, you give the financial institution permission to pull your credit report so that it can decide whether or not to approve you. When the credit card or loan company asks for your credit report, the credit bureau notes the request—and that, in a nutshell, is a hard inquiry.
Hard inquiries stay on your credit report for up to two years, but they make less of an impact after 12 months. The more hard inquiries you have on your credit report, the more dramatically your score will decrease.
Tip: Companies need your permission (in the form of your application) to run a hard credit check. If you see a hard inquiry on your report that you did not authorize, you may want to work with a credit repair organization to challenge it.
Soft inquiries are different. Companies don’t need to get permission before making soft inquiries—but soft inquiries don’t impact your credit score because they’re not connected with applications for credit. Soft inquiries may still appear on your credit report, depending on the bureau.
Soft credit checks aren’t associated with applications for credit, so you won’t get a credit decision with it. They’re purely informational and don’t impact your credit score at all.
How to Do a Soft Credit Check
Checking your own credit won’t hurt your credit score one bit. You can pull your own credit report in a number of different ways.
- A Credit.com Credit Report Card: Head over to Credit.com and sign up to receive a handy credit snapshot. The Credit Report Card includes information from your Experian credit report, including your Experian VantageScore 3.0 credit score. Your report card updates every 14 days, so check back regularly to see how your score has changed.
- ExtraCredit: ExtraCredit from Credit.com includes five different credit-centric tools to help you monitor, build, protect, and restore your credit profile—and get cashback rewards. ExtraCredit includes reports from all three bureaus, plus 28 FICO® scores that lenders actually use to make credit-based decisions.
- Free annual reports: All United States residents are entitled to one free credit report from each credit bureau—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion—every 12 months. To claim your free report, visit each bureau’s website or go to AnnualCreditReport.com.
- Paid reports: If you’re out of free reports and want to check again, you can pay credit bureaus to pull your report.
If you apply for credit but get refused, you’ll receive a letter called an “adverse action notice.” An adverse action notice gives you the right to claim a free copy of your credit report from the applicable bureau within 60 days of your credit denial.
Tip: It’s important to check your credit regularly. Because of the COVID-19 crisis, you can get free weekly online credit reports from all three bureaus for a limited time.
What’s in a Credit Score?
Lots of factors influence your credit score. In basic terms, your credit score is a numerical representation of how reliable you are from a credit perspective. When you make loan repayments on time, for instance, this should have a positive impact on your credit score depending on other scoring factors. Most credit scores are based on the following five things:
- Payment history—35%: Do you pay credit card bills and loans on time? It’s a significant portion of your score, so make sure you pay your bills on time every month.
- Credit utilization—30%: Using too much of your available credit can demonstrate that you depend on credit and may have a difficult time keeping up with your financial obligations. Try to keep credit utilization under 30% across all of your accounts.
- Length of credit history—15%: This is the average time all your accounts have been open. To maximize your credit history, try not to close your oldest credit accounts.
- Types of credit—10%: Credit cards are revolving lines of credit, while mortgages and loans are installment credit lines. It’s good to have a diverse mix of credit types to demonstrate you can be responsible with all types of credit.
- Account inquiries—10%: When you apply for credit, lenders request credit reports, creating hard inquiries. These stay on your report for two years, so only apply for credit you truly need.
So, 90% of your credit score isn’t based on account inquiries—and soft inquiries don’t make any impact at all. Depending on your credit history and other factors though, making several applications for credit in a short time, your score could drop (temporarily) by 3 to 35 points.
Take Charge of Your Credit
Is it bad to check your credit score? In a word, no. If you’re curious about your credit report, we recommend signing up for ExtraCredit. Doing so won’t impact your credit score—in fact, the knowledge you gain could better help you maintain a good credit history. You can use the information you find to build a custom credit plan or to drive your score up from good to great.