“How do I check my credit score?” is a pretty common question, and thankfully there are several simple ways to do it. In fact, it’s never been easier to check your credit score, and there are numerous places that offer it that won’t affect your score when you check. Discover offers a free Credit Scorecard — and you don’t even have to be a customer.

example of Credit Scorecard chart

Here’s a quick tip sheet on what you need to know about checking your credit score:

You Can Check Your Credit Score Through Your Credit Card Company

Some credit card companies, banks and lenders offer credit scores to their customers for free. This is probably the best place for you to turn since you’ve already established a relationship. Access your accounts online and look for a tab that will take you to your credit score.

Does Applying for a Credit Card Bring Down Your Score?

The short answer is depends. The slightly longer answer involves understanding how credit scores are requested. If you apply for a credit card, a mortgage or any type of loan, the lender might send a request for information to a credit bureau. This is to verify your creditworthiness, and it’s called a “hard inquiry,” or “hard pull.”

According to NerdWallet, hard inquiries typically happen when a person applies for new credit or services — for example, a lender might check your credit if you apply for a loan or credit card, or a credit card issuer may check your credit when you request a credit limit increase. The reason this can affect your credit score is because the higher the number of hard inquiries, the more you may be considered a higher credit risk.

By contrast, soft inquiries do not affect your credit score. According to NerdWallet, soft inquiries are sometimes conducted by credit card issuers to determine whether you are eligible to receive a pre-screened credit card offer. They also may occur if a prospective employer runs a background check on you.

Are Credit Scores the Only Factor in Determining if You Can Get Credit?

No. Your credit score is important, but it might not be the only factor. Other factors can include household income, employment, co-signers and the level of risk a lender is willing to assume.

Should You Close a Credit Card When You Pay it Off so the History is Erased?

You can, if you like,but your history is not erased and it does not guarantee lowering your credit score. In fact, keeping a card open establishes a longer credit history which can help your score in the long run. Plus, according to FreeCreditReport.com, any missed payments can stay on your report for seven years, whether or not you’re using the card.

Can Your Age, Sex or Marital Status Affect Your Credit Score?

No, and you can thank the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1976, which says that by law.Creditors can’t base any lending decisions on a borrower’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status or age.

Are Credit Scores and Credit Reports the Same Thing?

No. Your credit score is based on data from your credit report, but they are not the same thing. Your credit report compiles data from your financial history. You can get a free copy of your credit report — one per credit reporting agency — each year at annualcreditreport.com. But note: The credit report will not include your three-digit credit score.

How Often Should I Check My Credit Score?

Some people enjoy checking it every month, others hardly look at it. However, it may be a good idea to check your score at least once a year in case of there was an unexplained dip, which could be an indicator of fraud or identity theft. Just keep in mind that some fluctuation is common.

Originally published March 15, 2016.

Updated July 19, 2019.


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