Staying on Top of Your Credit Score: What You Should Know

It’s advisable to check your actual credit score at least once a year, and to carefully keep track of factors that may affect your score over time. Many people don’t keep track of their credit score because they don’t know where to begin. This piece will provide helpful advice.

Ways to check your credit score

You can obtain your credit score from one of the 3 main credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax. While each company uses the same data to calculate your score, their formulas may be slightly different. If you’re looking to check your credit score before a significant purchase, find out from the merchant which credit bureau they use. You may need to pay a fee to get your score.

myFICO is a useful source for obtaining your credit-score. There are several plans you can sign up for, including a standard plan that lists your score and any positive/negative features that impact the score. You can also select to pull your score from Experian or TransUnion.

Another way to obtain your credit score is by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com or Credit Karma. If you sign up for Credit Karma, they will also alert you by e-mail, if anything changes on your report.

When should you check your score?

It’s advisable to check your credit score in the following situations:

  • Before making a big-purchase (car loan, mortgage, etc.)
  • Before applying for a new job
  • At least once a year
  • If you’re at risk of identity theft

You should get in the habit of closely monitoring your credit score. There are certain cases where an erroneous transaction can affect your credit rating and influence your eligibility for a purchase. In such cases, you can pursue credit dispute channels to have the charges corrected.

In addition, when preparing for a large purchase, give yourself a few months lead time when checking your credit score. Checking early will help avoid any last-minute surprises.

What factors into your final credit score?

When checking your credit score, you may be wondering what factors influence the outcome. Here’s what credit bureaus consider:

  • Payment history- whether you’ve been paying your bills on time.
  • Debt levels- how much you owe on credit-cards and loans.
  • How long your accounts have been active (consistency helps improve your score).

Taking on new credit- the number of new loans you’ve taken out recently. Opening multiple new accounts may lower your score.