The first step of any credit-related mission is to get your credit score. That poses the question, “Does it hurt my credit if I request my credit score?” The notion that checking your credit score affects your score is a common one, but it’s also false one.
Requesting your own credit score, doesn’t hurt your credit at all.
Not All Inquiries are Safe
Note, checking “your own” credit, doesn’t mean that someone else requesting your credit score won’t hurt your credit. Checking your own credit score or report is called a “soft” inquiry. Soft inquiries don’t affect your credit. The flip side is a “hard” credit inquiry, which can affect your credit. A hard inquiry is when a lender checks your credit because you’re applied for a loan or other form of credit, such as a credit card, with that lender.
The fact that checking your credit score causes no harm is great news, since studies have shown checking your credit score often can help you improve your credit standing. A 2017 survey from Discover found:
- 70% of people who checked their credit score 12 or more times a year felt that doing so positively impacted their credit behavior.
- 64% of those who checked their credit score from seven to 11 times a year felt the same way.
- Only 31% of people who checked their credit once a year felt the same way.
Those who checked their score 12 or more times a year were almost twice as likely to improve their credit score than those who checked their score only once. Those who checked their credit score most often were most likely to report improvements to their scores. Not only does checking your credit score not harm your credit, but it can also help encourage you to improve it.
Here’s why routinely monitoring your credit won’t hurt your credit scores or credit report.
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 per the loan’s terms. 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:
- Payment history, which accounts for 35% of your score
- Amounts owed or your credit utilization, which accounts for 30% of your score
- Length of credit history, which accounts for 15% of your score
- Types of credit, which accounts for 10% of your score
- Account inquiries or new credit, which account for 10% of your score
The first four categories aren’t 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 you’re using the credit you already have.
Length of credit history is the averaged amount of time your different types of credit lines have been open. Types of credit include the various kinds of credit cards, loans, and accounts that you have. Credit history examines variety, which shows you can handle multiple types of credit. Account inquires or new credit is where credit checks credit inquiries come into play.
Generally, the more credit inquiries you have in a short period of time, the larger the impact on your credit score — but it’s the type of inquiry — hard or soft — that matters most.
Hard Inquiries vs. Soft Inquiries
There are two different types of credit inquiries as noted above — hard and soft. A hard inquiry happens any time you apply for credit. A soft inquiry occurs whenever you access your own credit report. Let’s break it down a bit further.
Whenever you apply for credit, whether it’s for a 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 approval process. The information helps the lender know whether it can 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 wis 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 for loans. 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 occur when an employer conducts a background check. They can be done made without your permission.
Soft inquiries can 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 doesn’t harm your credit score or report.
How Can I Request My Credit Score?
Now that you know that checking your own score won’t hurt your credit, you can check your scores as often as you like using one of several methods.
- You can view your Experian credit score free at Credit.com and keep an eye on your credit score regularly. When you do, you also access a free credit report card, an updated score every 15 days, access to more than 150 different credit card and loan offerings, and access to tips for financial success. Credit.com is safe, offering bank level encryption, and has an iOS app for mobile access.
- If you have a major credit card, your credit card company might offer you access to your credit score on your monthly statement or online account.
- You can use a credit score service that lets you view your credit scores. Some, however, charge a fee or may require you to sign up for credit monitoring services that require a paid subscription.
- You can purchase your credit scores from each of the three credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — also. Doing so doesn’t required the added purchase any type of credit protection or identity theft monitoring services.
- You can order a free credit report through annualcreditreport.com once every 12 months.
A not so fun way to get your score is as a result of adverse action notices. An adverse action notice occurs when an application for credit is denied based on information that found in someone’s credit reports. The notice tells the consumer which bureau the information was obtained from, the he/she can contact the bureau to get a copy of the report.
The notice includes your credit score, if the score was used in the decision. The notice will also give you access to a free credit report and an explanation of why you were denied. You have 60 days after a denial to request your credit report and credit score from the reporting agency that supplied the lender with the information that led to your credit denial.
The hard inquiry from the denial will affect your credit score, but you will also receive information that can help you rebuild or improve your credit or identify incorrect information too.
Ask for Your Credit Score. It Won’t Hurt and Can Only Help!
Checking your credit scores and reports doesn’t affect your credit. And by regularly checking your credit scores and monitoring your credit history, you’re actively maintaining your financial health and ensuring that your credit rating remains in good standing.
This article was originally published October 24, 2016 and has been updated by a different author.