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Does Checking My Credit Score Hurt My Credit?

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Does Checking My Credit Score Hurt My Credit?

The first step of any credit-related mission is getting your credit score. That poses the question — “Does checking my credit score hurt my credit score?” The notion that checking your credit score affects your score is a common one, but it’s false. Checking your own credit score doesn’t hurt your credit, but that doesn’t mean every inquiry is safe. Credit-damaging “hard” inquiries occur when you apply for credit and can impact your credit score, unlike the soft inquiries that occur when you check your credit score or credit report.

The fact that checking your credit score causes no harm is great news, since studies have shown checking your credit score often can improve your standing. In fact, a 2017 survey from Discover found 70% of people who conducted 12 or more personal credit checks in a year said doing so positively impacted their credit behavior. Even 64% of those who checked their credit score between seven and 11 times felt the same way. Conversely, only 31% of people who checked their credit once a year felt the same way. Those who checked their score 12 or more times were almost twice as likely to improve their credit than those who checked their score once. Even better? Those who checked their credit score the most were most likely to report improvements to their score. Those who checked their credit score most often were also more likely to report improvements to their score. Not only will checking your credit score not harm your credit, but also it can help you improve it. All improvements aside, let’s break down why routinely monitoring your credit won’t harm your credit scores.

What’s in a Credit Score?

Your credit score is based on information from your credit report. Essentially, it’s a numerical representation of your ability to repay a loan as agreed. It’s also a representation of your reliability when it comes to using and utilizing credit. There are many different credit scores, different models and different types of credit scores out there, but most are based on the same five factors:

  1. Payment history, which accounts for 35% of your score;
  2. Amounts owed or your credit utilization, which accounts for 30% of your score;
  3. Length of credit history, which accounts for 15% of your score;
  4. Types of credit, which accounts for 10% of your score;
  5. Account inquiries or new credit, which account for 10% of your score.

The first four categories are not impacted by checking your credit score. Payment history focuses on bills you’ve paid on time. Amounts owed, or credit utilization, keeps track of the money you owe and how the credit you have is being used. Length of credit history is the averaged amount of time your lines of credit have been open. Types of credit looks at the various types of credit cards, loans and accounts. It rewards variety as it shows you can handle multiple types of credit. The last category is the focus here. This is where credit checks or, “credit inquiries” come into play. Generally, the more credit inquiries you have in a short period of time, the larger the impact to your credit score — but it’s the type of inquiry that matters here.

Hard Inquiries vs. Soft Inquiries

There are two different types of credit inquiries — a hard inquiry, which occurs whenever you apply for credit; and a soft inquiry, which occurs whenever you access your own credit report. Let’s break it down a bit further.

Whenever you apply for credit, whether it’s a for credit card, an auto loan, a mortgage or any other type of credit, the lender will typically pull your credit report and score as part of the application process. This application process helps lenders determine whether they will approve the loan and at what interest rate and terms. Each time you apply for credit and a lender pulls your credit report and/or score, a hard inquiry will be reported in your credit report, indicating that you’ve actively applied for new credit. It’s these hard inquiries that can lower your credit score by a few points.

Each hard inquiry can stay on your credit report for up to two years, but they generally only affect your score for the first 12 months, and the impact gets smaller throughout that first year. Although they eventually disappear, it’s best to avoid excessively shopping around for new credit cards or applying to lolans. The more hard inquiries you rack up, the bigger the hit on your credit score can be.

On the other hand, soft inquiries are generated when you check your own credit or an institution pulls a pre-approval or promotional inquiry to pre-qualify you for a marketing offer. They can also be generated when an employer conducts a background check. These, unlike hard inquiries, can also occur without your permission. Soft inquiries may appear on your credit report, but they won’t affect your credit score, since they’re not related to an active search for financing. Since checking your credit score qualifies as a soft inquiry, it does not harm your credit score. Checking your credit score can only help.

Now that you know that checking your own score won’t hurt your credit, you can check yours as often as you like. Plus, since it is also a soft inquiry, checking your credit report won’t harm your credit either. By law, you’re entitled to check your credit reports from each major credit reporting agency for free once a year. You can do so by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228. You can also view two of your credit scores for free at Credit.com to keep an eye on your credit more regularly.

Paige DiFiore contributed to this article. This article was last updated June 7,2017. This article was originally published October 24, 2016.


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  • Joey B.

    use ANNUALCREDITREPORT.com to check your credit. That is who most consumer advocates recommend you use.

    • vucja

      thanks Joey.

    • imwithstoopid

      That site is for a “one” time (each year) use only. It was government mandated since they were forcing one to pay to see their own report.
      It will only give you credit report and not your score. To get the score you must pay a fee.

      • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

        Some experts recommend pulling a copy of your credit report every four months, once for Experian, once for Equifax and once from TransUnion. It is becoming increasingly easy to get your credit score for free as well. Discover it card users get a free FICO score every month with their statements, and there are also scores available online. (You will want to be sure you are comparing the same scoring model to avoid apples and oranges comparison.)
        Here’s how to monitor your credit score for free.

  • vucja

    This sounds like a no-win situation. Check your own credit score to see how you rate, but when you actually for credit, you get whacked. What a deal.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    What credit scoring model is she using to check her credit scores? More recent FICO models VantageScore models would not penalize her for shopping around like that.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Her husband said she was checking her own credit score and it went down. I was trying to find out how she was checking her score, as that might explain the drop in her score. More recent FICO models and VantageScore models don’t penalize scores for auto loan inquiries in a short period of time. I’m sorry if my response wasn’t clearer.

  • Glenn

    Which Credit Score is right? if they are each different seems to me either they have different methods or different information. Surely, there is no need for 3 reports. That just gives one three times the work to challenge a “score” that no one can get right!

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      That’s the challenge and the source of confusion. There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong one. It depends on which model the lender uses, and there are many different versions.

      • imwithstoopid

        That may be,but I compared the scores I got to the scores my bankers get and they were the same.
        On the other hand I got the scores from a number of other sources including the CRs directly and they never matched the previous scores I mentioned.

  • Tarik

    One best advice to all, its from my experiences, Never surrender credit card even it is not being necessary in future. Obviously it will hurt your credit score.

  • prophotoman

    What happened to the law when I was a teenager where use of your social security number was restricted to uses concerning your social security account? I know that at that time credit agencies were not ALLOWED to use your social security info for anything!

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Teleri – I am sorry if I misunderstood his question. I truly am trying to help and not trying to blame the victim here. I know these auto inquiries can be a problem, but it’s hard for me to advise or comment if I don’t have the full information. I’d love to get to the bottom of one of these scenarios if i can find someone who has their credit reports and scores from before and after the auto shopping. Without that anything I say would be speculation. Again, apologies if I read it the wrong way. We respond to dozens of questions on the blog every day and sometimes they can blur together!

    • vidster

      My inclination would be to get my score, then when shopping, TELL them my score and NOTHING else. If they can’t figure-out the terms for which I qualify, see ya.

      If they insist on more info… Name:Mork SSN:999-99-9999. That SHOULD do, logically speaking, but in practice anyone know?

      • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

        The only problem with that approach Vidster is that the lender may use a different model than the one you used to obtain your score. There are so many different models it makes it different to compare apples to apples.

        • vidster

          I meant in a shopping/comparison mode… Here’s my score, what do offer? To finalize a purchase, I’d expect to have to submit personal info. Suggestion was made in response to multiple unwanted credit inquiries.

          • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

            It’s a great idea in concept, but my experiences been it’s hard in execution. Often customer service reps don’t know what credit scores are required and again, the score you have may be different than the score they use so it may not match up. But your thinking is in the right place!

            (By the way, we strive to facilitate that type of matching in Credit.com when someone gets their credit scores through us. They will see tabs with offers from lenders looking for customers with profiles similar to theirs.)

            If you try this yourself, I’d definitely be interested in what you encounter. It could even make for an interesting story!

          • vidster

            Will report if I opt to finance upcoming cellphone or kitchen appliance purchases. Suspect my experience will be like yours. Thanks for your insights… timely, helpful AND courteous replies (consistently in spite of some rude posts).

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Did you have any higher balances reported on credit cards in that period of time? It’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on and why it dropped but that could definitely do it.

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    It is not supposed to happen, but our readers tell us that it does.

    • imwithstoopid

      With that being the case that’s just not doing the right thing on the CRs part, and that’s too bad.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    The question then is which FICO scores? There are many FICO scores including custom options…

  • wayne2

    I have noticed the last time I got a “free” annual credit report. I was not able to print off or save a copy. I wonder why we are not allowed to take our own copy’s to the providers of credit to at least establish whether to proceed to the next stage of the loan process. I am in the process of renegotiating a home loan and have been intimidated by the thought of not getting the loan. To my mind this put the banks in TOTAL control. Three years ago when applying for a home loan I was told that if more than two checks were made on this loan enquiry it would prevent me from getting the loan. Not sure if this is the case today but I am wanting to renegotiate the loan again now. I recently was told by a broker to fill out there application and return tax returns to them and I gather from this a “Check” may have been done. Of this sort of checking, how many are able to be done without affecting my chances of getting the loan? I gather it reduces a score? To what level is safe?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      That’s so strange. I just ordered my free credit reports a couple weeks ago and I was able to save all of them as well as print them.

      As for the credit check related to refinancing your loan, this article may help: Should You Be Worried About Credit Report Inquiries?

  • http://blog.credit.com/ Kali Geldis

    Hi agneez —

    Checking your own credit reports and scores does not hurt your credit.

  • http://blog.credit.com/ Kali Geldis

    Hi Kayla —

    It doesn’t mean your identity has been stolen, necessarily. Have you checked your credit reports to see if there are other addresses being reported that you don’t recognize?

    • kayla

      the letter I received was from anthem, saying my identity had been stolen due to a breech. But, the letter had somebody else’s name and my address, also I have never had insurance with anthem or any of their affiliates.

      • http://blog.credit.com/ Kali Geldis

        Hi Kayla —

        The letter most likely applies to a former resident, but you should check your credit reports to ensure that you don’t have any incorrect addresses being reported to the credit bureau. Incorrect addresses could be a sing of identity theft. You can get your free annual credit reports once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com.

  • Isabel

    Would opening a wireless service plan be considered as a hard inquiry? It would seem like it shouldn’t since you have to do homework before signing a contract, especially when you risk being taken advantage of because wireless companies can really be quite sneaky.

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Yes, it is considered a hard inquiry, and it could drop your score 4-7 points.

  • Leslie

    I’ve been working diligently to bring up my credit score in order to help qualify and receive a good rate for a refi loan. I’ve been able to bring up my score by paying down some debt and not applying for any new credit. However, I am concerned because now that I know applying for the loan is considered a “hard” inquiry, does this mean my score will take a plunge? I’ve been approved for the loan (with cash out for home improvements), but will this impact my score detrimentally?

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      A plunge? No. But applying for credit CAN cause a small, temporary dip in your credit score. If you’ve already been approved, don’t worry. Regular repayment as agreed should help you get those points back quickly.


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