How to check my credit score?

Key Takeaway
Your credit score is a tool that lenders use to determine your creditworthiness. We'll teach you how (and why) to check it, as well as steps you can take to get the best score possible.

How to check my credit score?

Your credit score is a tool that lenders use to determine your creditworthiness. And by checking your credit score, you keep an eye on what’s going on behind the scenes. 

From outstanding debts, faulty information, and even potentially fraudulent activity, checking your credit score can give you insight into your finances–and how others see your financial future. 

Keeping an eye on your credit score is crucial for anyone planning a major purchase (or anyone wanting to be prepared for whatever life throws their way.)

But how do you do it? We’ll explain what you need to know about checking your credit score, what you should do if you discover a lower score than you hoped for, and ultimately how Homebody helps you along the path to achieving your financial dreams. Let’s begin!

Before you begin: Understanding credit scores

There’s more to checking your score than just looking at a number. 

For starters, credit scores are numerical representations of your credit risk. The amount of risk is derived from the data on your credit report, including how you handle your debts, how much credit you have, and other many factors–all resulting in a handy-dandy number. 

The higher the number of credit score, the lower the risk to lenders–which means better loan terms, less interest, and even a greater likelihood that your job application is accepted for some occupations.

For reference, here’s the basic range of FICO credit scores:

FICO Score Range

300 - 579: Very Poor

580 - 669: Fair

670 - 739: Good

740 - 799: Very Good

800 - 850: Exceptional

It should be noted that there’s another credit score called the VantageScore. Similar in many ways to FICO scores, here’s how VantageScore is rated:

VantageScore Range

300 - 499: Very Poor

500 - 600: Poor

601 - 660: Fair

661 - 780: Good

781 - 850: Excellent

Where are credit scores used?

FICO scores are widely used by financial institutions to make decisions about lending, credit, and risk assessment. 

Here are some additional features of the key sectors and entities that commonly use FICO scores:

  • Banks and credit unions: Traditional banks and credit unions often use FICO scores to determine whether to approve individuals for loans, credit cards, mortgages, and other forms of credit.
  • Credit card issuers: Companies that issue credit cards use FICO scores to assess the risk of extending credit to applicants and to determine credit limits and interest rates.
  • Mortgage lenders: Lenders in the mortgage industry use FICO scores to evaluate the creditworthiness of individuals applying for home loans. The score plays a significant role in determining the terms and interest rates of the mortgage.
  • Auto lenders and dealerships: FICO scores help auto lenders and dealerships decide whether to approve applicants for car loans and leases. Your score influences interest rates and terms.
  • Personal loan providers: Lenders that specialize in personal loans also use FICO scores to assess an applicant's ability to repay a loan.
  • Student loan providers: When evaluating applicants for student loans, lenders often consider FICO scores to determine the borrower's risk profile.
  • Landlords and property management companies: These people or companies may use FICO scores as part of the tenant screening process to evaluate potential renters' financial responsibility.
  • Insurance companies: Some insurance providers use credit-based insurance scores, which are influenced by FICO scores, to assess the risk profile of potential policyholders.
  • Employers (in certain cases): In some industries and regions, employers may check credit reports, including FICO scores, as part of the hiring process, especially for positions that involve financial responsibilities.
  • Utilities and service providers: In some cases, utility companies and service providers may check credit scores when setting up accounts to determine whether a security deposit is required.

VantageScore is used by the following:

  • Financial institutions: Some credit unions and smaller financial institutions may prefer VantageScore because it offers an alternative to FICO Score. These institutions might find it more cost-effective or easier to work with the VantageScore model, particularly if they have partnerships with Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
  • New lenders: Newer lenders and fintech companies entering the market might choose VantageScore due to its more modern approach and potentially easier integration into their digital platforms.
  • Rental and property management companies: VantageScore may be preferred by property management companies and landlords for evaluating potential tenants' creditworthiness. It can provide a comprehensive assessment of an individual's credit history and financial behavior.
  • Auto financing: Some auto lenders and dealerships might opt for VantageScore because of its inclusion of alternative data sources, which could help in evaluating consumers with limited credit history.
  • Alternative data: VantageScore's incorporation of alternative data, such as utility payments and cell phone bills, might be appealing to businesses that want a more comprehensive view of a consumer's creditworthiness beyond traditional credit accounts.
  • Credit card issuers: Some credit card issuers may use both VantageScore and FICO Score to evaluate applicants. They might use one for initial risk assessment and the other for ongoing monitoring of existing customers.

Why should I check my credit score?

There are plenty of reasons to check your credit score(s), all of which are super important when it comes to your financial life and health:

  1. Monitor for errors
  2. Understand your financial health
  3. Prepare for major purchases
  4. Guard against identity theft
  5. Facilitate loan or credit card approvals
  6. Negotiate better terms with lenders
  7. Track your financial progress
  8. Plan for future financial moves
  9. Avoid surprises

1. Monitor for errors

Checking your credit score and report can help you identify and dispute any errors or discrepancies. This can include inaccuracies such as incorrect payment history, wrongly attributed debts, or even accounts you did not open.

2. Understand your financial health

Your credit score is a reflection of your financial health and responsibility. By checking it, you gain insights into areas where you excel and areas that may need improvement.

3. Prepare for major purchases

If you're considering a significant purchase, like buying a home or car, knowing your credit score can give you an idea of whether you're likely to be approved for a loan or what interest rates you might expect.

4. Guard against identity theft

Regularly checking your credit score and report can help you spot unusual activities, such as unfamiliar accounts or sudden spikes in credit usage, which might indicate identity theft.

5. Facilitate loan or credit card approvals

Understanding where your credit score stands can help you target applications for credit cards or loans more effectively, increasing the likelihood of approval and minimizing hard inquiries on your report.

6. Negotiate better terms with lenders

A strong credit score can provide you with leverage when negotiating interest rates or other loan terms with lenders. By being aware of your high credit score, you are in a better position to discuss favorable terms.

7. Track your financial progress

Regularly monitoring your credit score allows you to see the effects of your financial decisions, track improvements over time, and celebrate milestones as your financial health improves.

8. Plan for future financial moves

By understanding the key factors that that influence your credit score, you can make better decisions about future financial moves, such as when to open or close credit accounts.

9. Avoid surprises

Checking your credit score ensures that you're not caught off guard, especially during crucial times like when applying for a rental agreement, loan, or even some job positions that require a credit check.

What factors affect my credit scores?

So, now that you know WHY you should check your score, you should be familiar with the WHAT. Namely, which factors go into calculating your credit score number. 

Here's an extensive list of every factor that affects your overall FICO or Vantage credit score. 

As you read the through the list, you'll get a feel for what goes into maintaining a good credit score. Look for positive and negative credit-related behaviors you may already be familiar with. As a preview, we’ll be reviewing about what to do if you check your credit score doesn’t look like it should in the sections below.

Payment history

A record of your payments on credit accounts. Late payments on collection accounts can decrease your score.

Common examples:

  • Missing a credit card payment by 30 days. 
  • Consistently paying a mortgage on time.

Credit utilization

The ratio of your current credit card balances to your available credit limits. Lower utilization is seen as positive.

Common examples:

  • Owing $300 on a credit card with a $1,000 limit (30% utilization). 
  • Owing $9,000 on a credit card with a $10,000 limit (90% utilization).

Length of credit history

The age of your credit accounts. Older credit histories can be favorable if managed responsibly.

Common examples:

  • Having a credit card for 10 years. 
  • Opening a new credit account 1 month ago.

Types of credit esed

A mix of credit card debt and accounts can positively affect your score. Having only one type can be less favorable.

Common examples:

  • Having a mortgage, auto loan, and two credit cards. 
  • Only having student loans.

New credit

Number of recently opened accounts and inquiries. Opening many new accounts and in a short time is viewed as risky.

Common examples:

  • Applying for 5 credit cards within a month. 
  • Not applying for any new credit for 2 years.

Public records

Bankruptcies, tax liens, and civil judgments can negatively impact your score.

Common examples:

  • Declaring bankruptcy due to insurmountable debts. 
  • Having a court judgment for unpaid dues.

Total amounts owed

The total amount you owe across accounts. Large amounts can indicate higher risk.

Common examples:

  • Owing a total of $50,000 across various credit cards. 
  • Having a $200,000 mortgage balance.

Recent activity

Recent behavior like high credit utilization or many inquiries can impact your score.

Common examples:

  • Maxing out a credit card in one month.
  •  Reducing the balance on a high-limit card from 80% to 20% utilization.

Credit inquiries

Hard inquiries occur when a lender checks your credit. Multiple hard inquiries can signal risk.

Common examples:

  • A bank checking your credit for a home loan application. 
  • A car dealership checking your credit for an auto loan.

Bear in mind that both FICO and VantageScore use different scoring models based on the factors above. Similarly, lenders and credit bureaus will weigh your credit history against these factors, so it’s not uncommon to have credit scores that vary between scoring models and importance. 

How to check your credit score: A quick and easy guide

Without further ado, let’s get into how to check your credit score.

Ways to check your credit score

There are multiple ways for you to access your credit scores. Here are some of the most trusted methods:

  • Credit card or bank statement
  • Official credit bureaus
  • Free online services
  • Non-profit credit counselors

Credit card or bank statement

Several banks and credit card companies provide their customers with free monthly or quarterly credit scores as a part of their service. It a free service that's often available when you log into your online account or shown on your paper statement.

Credit expert tip: If you’re looking for an easy way to check your credit score, use each time you log into your bank’s app or site as a way of watching your finances. For most people, you’re already doing it so why not take a peek at your credit score. 

You’ll find that improving your credit can be gamified–while it’s not Candy Crush, you can make a game of boosting your credit score through managing your credit card(s) and other financial activity. 

Official credit bureaus

In the U.S., there are three major three credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. By law, you're entitled to one free credit report from each of these bureaus every year. Although the report doesn't always include a free score, you can often purchase it for a nominal fee.

Sign up for your free credit score from an official credit bureau isn’t too tricky. For example, here’s what you’ll need to do for an Experian Report:

  • Visit Experian's official website: Go to Experian's official website (
  • Navigate to the free credit score page: Look for a section or link on the website that offers free credit scores. It might be prominently displayed on the homepage or listed under services related to credit scores and reports.
  • Provide your information: You'll likely need to provide personal information, including your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, and other identifying details. This is to verify your identity and ensure that you're accessing your own credit information.
  • Create an account: If you don't already have an Experian account, you'll be prompted to create one. This typically involves setting up a username and password.
  • Verify your identity: Experian may use additional verification steps, such as asking you questions about your credit history or other personal information, to ensure that you're the rightful owner of the credit information you're trying to access.
  • Access your credit score: Once you've completed the sign-up process and your identity is verified, you will be able to view your Experian credit score and credit report information for free.

Free online services

Many online platforms offer free credit scores and reports. Popular services include Credit Karma, WalletHub, and Credit Sesame. While these platforms are useful, remember that the scores provided might differ slightly from what lenders see, as they might use different credit scoring models or criteria.

Just a heads up: Be careful when you're checking your own credit score for free anyway, especially online. Make sure you're using a service that people trust. And watch out for those sites who ask for your credit card info in exchange for a "free" credit score service. Stick with places that the recommendations above.

Non-profit credit counselors

Non-profit credit counselors are great for helping you keep an eye on your credit score. They know all the ins and outs of getting your free credit reports and scores from the big credit agencies. These counselors are like your credit score guides, explaining why your score matters and how it impacts things like loans and money opportunities. They'll go through your credit report with you, flagging any mistakes or issues that could be dragging your score down. This hands-on approach can save you from future money troubles.

Plus, these non-profit credit counselors are like your credit score buddies. They'll stay in touch regularly to make sure you're up to date with your credit reports and to check your credit scores themselves. This is useful because it helps you stay on top of any changes or improvements. And if you're on a mission to boost your credit, these experts can give you personalized tips on what to do. Partnering up with a non-profit credit counselor gives you the tools and know-how to watch over and manage your credit score like a pro, setting you up for better financial success.

Important: Why your credit scores may differ across the credit bureaus

It's important to know why your credit scores might not match up across different credit bureaus. These scores can vary because each bureau might be using slightly different info about your financial history. 

Also, they could be using their own calculations based on which lenders and which financial products and institutions they serve. So, don't freak out if you see a difference – it's pretty normal.

Most typical variance in credit scores is within 20 points on average, so you’ll still have a good idea of how your credit ranks (Poor > Fair > Good > Great > Perfect).

Just a heads-up: If you're comparing credit scores from different bureaus, don't be surprised if they're not identical. It happens because they might be looking at different things in your credit history. 

What should I do if my credit score is low?

No one likes a low credit score–not you, and especially not lenders!. If you’re feeling proactive, however, you’re in luck: There are plenty of actions you can take right now that will transform your credit in a matter of weeks. 

Here’s a short breakdown of what you can do today:

Review your credit report

Start by obtaining a free copy of your credit report from three major credit bureaus here. Look for any inaccuracies, such as wrong account information or incorrect payment histories. If you spot any mistakes, take steps to dispute them.

Pay your bills on time

Consistently making timely payments on all your debts and bills is one of the most effective ways to improve your credit score. Set up reminders or automatic payments to avoid missed deadlines.

Reduce debt and maintain low credit utilization

Aim to reduce the amounts you owe, especially on credit cards. A good rule of thumb is to keep your credit utilization below 30%. This means if you have a no credit limit or card company top limit of $10,000, try to keep your balance below $3,000.

Avoid new hard inquiries

Every time you apply for a new line of credit, a hard inquiry is recorded on your credit report, which can temporarily lower your score. If your credit score is already low, consider holding off on applying for new credit until your score improves.

Consider a secured credit card

If you're having trouble getting approved for a traditional credit card, consider a secured card. With this, you deposit a certain amount of money up front as collateral. Over time, responsible use of a secured credit card issuer also can help improve your credit score.

Seek credit counseling

If you're feeling overwhelmed, consider consulting with a credit counseling agency. These organizations can offer guidance on managing debt and improving your credit. Ensure the agency is reputable and accredited.

Diversify your credit mix

While it's not advisable to take on debt you don't need, diversifying the types of credit you have (e.g., credit cards, installment loans, retail accounts) can positively impact your score over time.

Limit closing of old accounts

The length of your credit history plays a role in your credit score. Closing old accounts, especially your oldest ones, can shorten your credit history and may negatively affect your score.

Visit a nonprofit credit counselor

When you're struggling with debt, you may want to consult a credit counseling professional to discuss your situation. Credit counselors can assist with many financial questions and problems and can also give advice on assessing credit scores and explaining the best strategies for improving credit.

Be patient

Improving your credit score is a marathon, not a sprint. Continue practicing good credit habits and over time, you should see improvements in your score.

Here’s how Homebody helps you improve your credit score

We get how crucial it is to stay on top of your rent payments and how that plays into your creditworthiness. That's where Rent Credit Reporting comes in. By paying a small monthly fee, you ensure your timely rent payments show up on your credit reports. It's an effortless way to give your credit score a boost and open doors to better financial opportunities.

But hold on, there's an added perk! We've got that helps your credit score while you continue paying rent – something you're already doing. Say goodbye to forking out $1,000 for a deposit. Our Deposit Alternative lets you pay low insurance premiums, as low as $10 per month, saving you a bundle from the get-go.

And we're not only about fixing credit. At Homebody, we're all about elevating your overall financial wellness. We make signing up for Renters Insurance a breeze – just a few clicks, less than 5 minutes. Better yet, you can snag renters insurance while leasing, ensuring you're covered from day one.

Ready to dive into Homebody? Come see how we're shaking things up, whether it's about giving your credit a boost or breezing through the process of securing your place.

Credit score FAQ

How often should I check my credit score?

While it's a good idea to monitor your score regularly, most experts recommend checking it at least once a year, or before making any significant financial decision.

Does checking my score hurt it?

No, checking your own credit score is considered a soft inquiry and does not impact your score. However, when a lender checks it as part of an application, it might.

Does checking your credit score lower it?

The checks you have made on your credit score don't impact your credit score. When you check the credit score the requested item appears on the same credit file and history.. The report has been treated as an indirect inquiry. Similarly, soft inquiries have no impact on credit ratings.

Can you trust Credit Karma?

Credit Karma is generally considered a trustworthy platform for accessing your credit scores and reports. It provides free access to your credit information and offers valuable tools to help you monitor and manage your credit health. However, it's important to understand a few points:

  • Credit monitoring: Credit Karma offers free credit monitoring, which means it can help you track changes in your credit reports. This is particularly useful for detecting any potential fraud or inaccuracies.
  • Credit scores: The credit scores provided by Credit Karma are based on the VantageScore model, which is one of the commonly used scoring models alongside FICO. While these scores can give you a general idea of your credit health, keep in mind that lenders might use different scoring models when evaluating your creditworthiness.
  • Educational resources: Credit Karma offers educational resources to help you understand how credit works and how to improve your credit score. This can be valuable if you're looking to learn more about managing your credit.
  • Advertisements: One thing to note is that Credit Karma generates revenue by showing you personalized ads for credit products that might be relevant to you based on your credit profile. While this is how they offer their services for free, some users might find the ads to be a bit overwhelming.
  • Security: Credit Karma takes security seriously and uses encryption to protect your data. However, as with any online platform, it's a good practice to ensure you're accessing the legitimate website and using secure methods, especially when providing sensitive information.
  • Credit report accuracy: While Credit Karma aims to provide accurate credit reports, discrepancies can occur. It's a good practice to compare the information on Credit Karma with reports from the official credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) to ensure accuracy.

What’s the average credit score in the United States?

In the United States, the average credit score stands at 714, as indicated by FICO data sourced from Experian. Additionally, the average VantageScore is reported to be 702. These credit scores, akin to evaluations of your borrowing track record, encompass a scale spanning from 300 to 850.

Conclusion: Trust Homebody to help you improve your credit score and secure your financial future today!

If you’ve read up to this point, take a bow! Learning about your credit score and all that goes into it may be a bit challenging, but now you're up to speed on how important it is to check your credit score as well as the steps you can take to get the best score possible.

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