Chris Bridges, Founder and CEO, VITAL Card
You can check your credit score to assess your financial wellbeing. However, does checking your credit score help to lower it?
Quick Recap: Your Credit Score
Your credit score is a number that reflects how good or bad your financial habits have been and determines how creditworthy you appear to lenders.
Your credit score plays a massive role in your financial well-being. For example, if you have a high credit score:
- You can be charged a lower interest rate on loans
- You might pay a lesser deposit when renting an apartment
- You may pay a lower premium on insurance plans, among other benefits
Higher credit scores may save you a lot of money in the long run. With a low credit score, you might have fewer lenders willing to loan you money, and you could pay a higher interest rate on loans.
It’s a good habit to track your credit score and use it to make sound financial decisions that help your score rather than hurt it.
Does Checking Your Credit Score Lower It?
Many factors are involved in determining what your credit score is. For example, the FICO scoring model considers your transaction history, the debt you have, and the length of your credit history, among several other factors to determine your score.
It can be confusing to understand what is lowering your credit score with so many factors involved. Naturally, you want to be cautious of what actions may lower your credit score and avoid doing those things.
Thankfully, checking your credit score isn’t one of them.
What Are Soft Inquiries?
When you check your credit score, it leads to a soft inquiry, where your credit reports are analyzed to give you an updated three-digit score. Also called a soft pull, this type of inquiry doesn’t affect your credit score in the slightest.
Other types of soft pulls do not affect your credit score. For example, when your landlord or employer seeks your permission to check your credit score, it doesn’t affect the score. Another example is when a lender checks your credit score to pre-approve you for a line of credit.
However, keep in mind that when you take on the credit you were preapproved for, the company will run a hard inquiry on your credit history, temporarily lowering your score.
How Often Can You Check Your Score?
You can check your credit score as often as you want. However, you don’t need to check it every day because the scores are not updated daily.
Each lender reports to the credit bureau at different times, usually once every few weeks. Lenders will also report to each bureau at varying times. Each of the three major bureaus, TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian, update their reports once they verify the information they received from the lenders, which takes a few days.
Your scores only change when the bureaus update your credit report. Therefore, on any given day, it’s perfectly normal to find that your scores differ on two different bureaus because of their different report updating cycles.
Check Your Credit Score Monthly – Here’s Why
As a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to check your credit score once every month or two. Checking at these intervals helps you track how your financial habits affect your score, so you can correct any harmful habits before they impact your score.
In addition, you may also want to look through your credit reports once every few months to cross-check the transactions you made and look for any entries that you don’t recognize.
A recent study showed that 34% of credit card users found an error in their credit reports. Checking your credit reports regularly can help you identify any errors in reporting or any fraudulent activity in your account, which you can then dispute with the bureau.
Another reason to check your score regularly is if you are trying to build your credit score. Seeing your good financial habits manifest into higher scores might just motivate you to stay organized and pay back your debts on time.
Every time you apply for a new credit line or a loan, you should check your score and reports before the application. This way, if there’s an error in your credit report, you can dispute it and have it corrected to adjust your score before applying for the credit. This can allow you to benefit from a lower interest rate on the credit line or loan.
When Does Checking Your Credit Lower Your Score?
When applying for a new credit line or a loan, the lender will run a hard inquiry on your credit history. Credit scores and reports are meant to predict how responsible you will be at paying back the borrowed money and indicate how risky it is for the lender to loan you money.
This hard inquiry shows up on your credit report for two years and lowers your score, typically by one to five points. However, hard inquiries temporarily affect your score, usually for one year.
If you apply for several new credit cards or loans within a short period, there is a larger drop in your credit score because this is seen as a high credit risk. Therefore, it’s generally a good idea to space out your loan applications and new card applications by at least six months.
Sometimes, a landlord checking your score is also considered a hard inquiry.
What Else Can Lower Your Credit Score?
Other than hard inquiries, some other things could be lowering your score, such as:
- Your credit utilization ratio: Your utilization ratio indicates how much of your available credit you are using. It’s generally recommended to use less than 30% of the credit available to you.
- You missed payments: If you have multiple credit accounts, you might forget to pay back some of your statement balance before the due date. These missed payments lower your credit score. Try to be very particular about re-paying the credit before each month’s due date. One easy way to tackle this is to set a reminder five days before the end of the month.
- Credit history length: The longer your credit history is, the higher your credit score is. You are awarded loyalty points for using the companies card for longer periods. As long as there’s no annual fee on a card, you shouldn’t cancel it, even if you don’t regularly use it.
How To Check Your Credit Score Without Hurting It?
Several websites allow you to create a free account to check your credit reports and your credit score. Some of these sites will even notify you of score changes regularly.
Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax are three major credit bureaus that allow you to check your credit reports for free once a year. You can also get access to your credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com.
There are also paid sites to check your credit score, like MyFICO, that require you to buy a monthly membership that ranges from $19.95 to $39.95. Paid sites allow you to view industry-specific scores that lenders might use. The free sites only let you see your general FICO score.
However, the scores are approximately the same, and it might not be worth paying a monthly fee to view these industry-specific scores. If you are worried about your score, just focus on paying off debts on time and build on your general score.
Simply put, if you check your scores from the credit bureaus or a legit online site, it won’t hurt your score. Checking your score only hurts it if it’s a hard inquiry.
What To Remember Before Checking Your Credit Score
If you’re checking your credit score before applying for a loan, remember that different lenders refer to different versions of the score. While most lenders use the FICO scoring model, some may use your industry-specific score.
Essentially, the score you see may not be the same as lenders see while deciding to loan you money. Even so, it’s good to have a general idea of where your score stands and how your financial habits are looking.
Remember to check your credit scores regularly and make an effort to minimize hard inquiries by spacing out any loan or credit applications that are likely to lower your score.
To improve your score, consider signing up for VITAL. Our mission is to empower members to make informed financial decisions and encourage responsible spending. Responsible financial management with VITAL helps you improve your credit score while earning 1.5% cash back on every transaction.
VITAL is the credit card that pays you to share and spend responsibly. We encourage you to join our early access program now!
VITAL Card blog posts are intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered financial or any other type of advice.