Do you know what your credit score is?
Have you ever gone looking for that magical 3-digit number, only to be stopped by paywall asking for your credit card number?
Or do you think that checking your credit will raise your credit score?
Read on for some credit score myth busting and how to get your credit score and credit report for FREE without raising your credit score!
What Is a Credit Score? Is It Part of My Credit Report?
Your credit score is a 3-digit number that sums up all of the information in your credit report.
Since your credit report contains every piece of data that credit bureaus collect on your credit history, your credit score lets lenders know the likelihood that you can meet your payment obligations for new debt.
There are multiple credit bureaus that calculate your credit score, so your scores may not match perfectly across bureaus.
For example, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion use the VantageScore algorithm, while FICO uses their own algorithm.
For a full explanation of how your credit score is calculated, click here for my credit score calculation deep dive.
Your credit report contains your credit score and a detailed breakdown of every piece of information used to calculate it.
Busting Those Credit Myths
Myth #1: Checking Your Credit Report or Credit Score Lowers Your Score
100% FALSE. Checking your credit report or credit score should NEVER lower your credit score.
Pulling your credit for your personal purposes is NOT a hard inquiry, so it should not have any impact on your credit score.
For a deeper explanation of what a hard inquiry is (and is not), click here for my credit score calculation deep dive.
Myth #2: Your credit report contains information about your income.
Also 100% FALSE. Your credit report ONLY contains information about your credit.
Since your credit report only contains information about your creditworthiness, it does NOT contain any information about your occupation, salary, title, or employment dates.
The only employment information that may be on your credit score is a list of your previous employers.
Still, don’t lie about your income on credit card applications. If it doesn’t align with their expectations, your lender may ask you for proof.
Myth #3: You should only check your credit when you’re applying for more credit.
This one is also 100% FALSE. You should check your credit AT LEAST once each year.
If you only check your credit when you’re applying for more, you may only catch errors when you are rejected.
How embarrassing would it be to apply for a mortgage for your brand new home only to be denied because of an error on your credit report?
How Can I Pull My Credit Report for Free?
Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you can avoid that kind of embarrassment by receiving ONE free credit report each year from EACH of the three credit reporting bureaus.
This means that you can pull your credit from Experian, Equifax, and Transunion for FREE.
Each credit reporting bureau has its own website where you can pull your credit report.
Keep in mind that these websites will only allow you a free credit report for 30 days.
After that, they will charge you a monthly fee for continuous access to credit reports.
Unless your credit is a horrible mess, resist the temptation to give these companies your money.
Instead, visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call (877) 322-8228 to have the forms mailed to your home.
Remember: you can choose to receive all three scores at once OR receive your scores over time.
If you haven’t checked your credit report in a long time (or ever), I would recommend receiving all 3 at one time so you can get an understanding of what they all contain and how they differ.
Once you’re comfortable, take advantage of being able to stagger them next year.
What About Pulling My Credit Score?
Checking your credit score has become a lot easier than pulling your credit report thanks to some great reputable resources.
I personally use www.CreditKarma.com to pull my credit score and track it over time.
Now whenever you see the name Credit Karma, someone will always say “that wasn’t my exact credit score when it was pulled straight from a bureau.”
They may be right.
Credit Karma, Nerdwallet, and any other service that you use to pull your credit score may differ slightly.
With these services, don’t pay attention to the exact number.
Pay attention to the range you fall in.
Is your credit poor, fair, good, very good, or exceptional? And most importantly, why?
This will give you a view of how a lender will view your creditworthiness.
The benefit to Credit Karma is that your score updates once a week, which means you can see changes happening immediately instead of waiting months to see your new credit report.
Because Credit Karma breaks down your entire credit score, this means you check your credit for errors every day.
One Final Caution: Don’t Become Obsessed With Your Credit Score
I know that there are people who check their credit every day.
They sign up for multiple websites that update on different days to compare them against each other.
They may even look at their credit scores that are provided by their banks or credit cards.
DON’T BE LIKE THESE PEOPLE.
You know how your weight fluctuates? So does your credit.
If you check it every day, you will become obsessed and frustrated with it.
There are only three questions you have to focus on when it comes to your credit:
#1: Is there something on my credit that is inaccurate and needs to be fixed?
#2: Is my credit poor, fair, good, very good, or exceptional?
#3: If it’s anything other than exceptional, what steps am I taking to raise it?
That’s all that matters.
Set a reminder to check it once a week or once a month. Or just open an email from Credit Karma every once in a while.