When you check your credit score, a notation to your credit report is made. But maybe you’re wondering if doing so will hurt your credit rating. In short, no – you can check your own credit score without hurting it. However, some credit checks, known as hard credit inquiries, can affect your credit score.
Your Credit Score: FICO vs. Vantage Score
Before diving into how credit checks impact your credit rating, it’s important to understand how credit scores are calculated.
The two most prevalent credit-scoring models are the FICO® Score and VantageScore. FICO is the most widely used of the two – it’s currently used by 90 percent of creditors and lenders to make decisions.
- Payment history (which is 35 percent of your FICO score)
- Amounts owed (which is 30 percent of your FICO score)
- Length of credit history (15 percent of your FICO score)
- Credit mix (10 percent of your FICO score)
- New credit (10 percent of your FICO score)
VantageScores also range from 300 to 850. Here’s a breakdown of how they’re determined:
- Payment history (40 percent of your VantageScore)
- Age and type of credit (21 percent of your VantageScore)
- Percentage of credit limit used (20 percent of your VantageScore)
- Total balances (11 percent of your VantageScore)
- Recent credit behavior (5 percent of your VantageScore)
- Available credit (3 percent of your VantageScore)
What Are Credit Inquiries?
Credit inquiries are items that appear on your credit reports with the primary three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion® – following certain financial actions.
There are two types of credit inquiries – soft inquiries and hard inquiries.
Soft credit inquiries are generated when:
- You check your own credit report. The credit-scoring models don’t perceive this as a risky action since you’re keeping tabs on your own credit health.
- You apply for auto insurance. In some states, auto insurance providers are allowed to take a peek at the credit scores of their applicants to set rates for premiums. Generally speaking, a lower credit score equates to more of an elevated credit risk from their perspective and could mean you’re charged more for coverage.
- Your credit card provider performs a review of your account. Some credit card companies and lenders routinely monitor their customer’s credit scores to determine if adjustments to credit limits are necessary. This is another action that isn’t viewed as risky to the credit-scoring models since the account is already open and active.
- You meet lending criteria. Credit card companies and lenders often review consumer data from massive databases to identify people who’d potentially be a good fit for their debt products.
Hard credit inquiries result from:
- Credit line increase requests. Some credit card companies perform soft credit checks when you request a higher credit limit. Others conduct hard pulls.
- Applications for a credit card or loan products. Whether you’re preapproved for a credit card or loan and are moving forward with the application or you skip the preapproval process, a hard inquiry on your credit will be generated.
- Applications for rentals. The landlord may conduct a hard credit check if you’re applying for an apartment, condo, townhome, single-family home or some other rental unit.
- Applications for housing or service connections. In some instances, applications to have utilities (i.e., lights, water, cable, landline, internet) connected could result in hard credit inquiries. However, there are cases where the utility provider will simply run a soft credit check.
What Kind of Inquiries Hurt Your Credit?
Here’s what to know about the two types of credit inquiries and how they impact your credit rating.
Soft inquiries do not impact your credit score since they don’t pose any risk to lenders or creditors. You should also know that a soft credit inquiry is only visible to you and not to other entities when reviewing your credit report.
Each time a hard inquiry is generated, your credit score will dip by a few points. However, the impact is usually only temporary. More on this shortly.
Why Hard Inquiries Affect Your Credit Score
Hard inquiries, which are visible to lenders and creditors who access your credit reports, remain on your credit profile for up to two years from the date they’re generated. After that, however, it only impacts your credit score for a few months, assuming you manage your other debt obligations responsibly and are no longer factored into your credit score after 12 months.
But if you submit several credit applications in a short period, your credit score could be significantly impacted. An exception applies for rate shopping mortgages and auto loans – several inquiries are only counted as one if done within a 14 to 45 day-window, depending on the credit-scoring model.
How Often Can You Check Your Score Without Hurting It?
You can check your credit score as many times as you’d like without hurting it. In fact, doing so often is actually recommended to keep tabs on your credit health. Plus, you’ll have knowledge of any issues with your credit reports sooner than later and can file disputes promptly with the lender, creditor or credit bureau(s) reporting the inaccurate information if needed.
If you’re planning to apply for credit soon, it’s also best to check your credit score in advance. That way, you’ll avoid any surprises and can file disputes or work towards improving your credit score before applying to boost your approval odds and position yourself to qualify for better financing terms.
How to Check Your Credit Score Without Hurting It
Here are some ways to check your credit score for free.
Sign Up for a Credit Monitoring Service
Experian offers free credit scores to consumers, along with tips on how to improve their credit ratings and overall credit health. This service is a part of the CreditWorks Basic membership that also includes:
- Experian credit report monitoring to detect credit inquiries, new accounts, changes to your credit utilization and account balances, positive payment activity and dormant accounts
- Monthly Experian credit report and FICO Score updates
- FICO score tracking and alerts any time your credit score or rating changes
- Personalized credit card and loan offers through CreditMatch
You’ll also get access to Experian Boost. This innovative tool gives you credit for on-time payments made to qualifying phone, utility and streaming service providers by adding them to your credit report. These include AT&T, Disney+, HBO, Hulu, Netflix, Spectrum and Verizon. It’s free and can help you raise your FICO Score instantly.
Sign up today on the website—it only takes a few minutes of your time.
Free Annual Credit Report
Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to request a free copy of your credit report from the three major credit bureaus – Experian®, TransUnion® and Equifax®. They’re available free of charge on an annual basis per federal law. You can also request your free credit reports from the main credit bureaus by phone at 1-877-322-8228, or you can submit a written request by completing the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mailing it to Annual Credit Report Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
(Quick note: Free scores aren’t included with your free credit report. However, the contents of your credit report are used to calculate your credit score, so it’s vital to know what information is present. That way, you’ll know what areas to focus on to improve your credit score or if there are errors that are dragging your credit score down and need to be corrected by filing a dispute).
Free Credit Checks Online
If you’d prefer not to enroll in a credit monitoring service, visit Experian.com to request a free copy of your Experian credit report. The process is simple, and you won’t have to put your credit card on file.
Check with Your Lender
You can ask the lender for your credit score if you’ve recently applied for a credit card or loan. They’ll generally provide a document that includes your credit score and the factors that were considered when making a financing decision. Some lenders also provide monthly credit score updates to borrowers that can be accessed via the online dashboard.