You can check your credit score as many times as you want without any repercussions. Your score will not lower at any point if you’re the one initiating the process. There are, however, several scenarios in which a credit check pulled by someone else can impact your score. Here’s everything you need to know about how credit checks work.
Many people recovering from a low credit score habitually check their score every month to see if it has risen or fallen since the previous time they looked. Though excessive worrying is never good, checking your credit score on a routine basis is actually good common sense these days.
Even if you’re not concerned about repairing your credit, ongoing monitoring tips you off to potential identity theft if you see a sudden dip in your score that wasn’t caused by any of your own late payments or financing applications.
In This Article
What’s the difference between a credit score and a credit report?
Your credit report is a record of your financial history. It includes things like how many revolving credit accounts you have open, a history of your on-time and late payments, and how much debt you have in your name. Nowhere on the credit report is there any numeric score associated with your file. It is simply a compilation of data and factoids. As with your credit score, you can check it often without it hurting your credit score, this also helps you with understanding how your credit score works.
You have credit reports with three credit bureaus:
Your credit score differs from your credit report because it’s given to you by the Fair Isaac Corporation (also known as FICO) or Vantage. FICO and Vantage develop scores off each one of your credit reports — meaning each person has three credit scores (as opposed to one) from each bureau — but FICO seems to be the most popular choice among lenders.
Can other people check my credit score without it lowering?
Here’s where things get a little complicated. When other people access your credit report, it is known as a credit check. There are two types of credit checks:
- Soft Inquiry
- Hard Inquiry
A soft credit check will not lower your credit score. Sometimes lenders offer soft credit checks to see if you pre-qualify for financing. It is not a formal process by any means, but it gives lenders a rough idea of your financial history. If they like what they see, they’ll recommend that you formally apply with them.
You often won’t even know a soft inquiry has taken place. Have you ever gotten a credit card offer in the mail? The reason you did is because the credit card company did a soft credit pull.
A hard credit inquiry, on the other hand, does lower your credit score.
Also known as a “hard pull,” a hard credit inquiry occurs whenever you apply for credit. You should have an inquiry on your report every time you apply for a:
- Personal loan
- Business loan
- Credit card
- Student loan
How much does a hard inquiry lower your credit score?
Hard inquiries lower credit scores by about 5 to 10 points. However, if you’re shopping around for the best rate, FICO typically lumps all the inquiries from the same type of lender within a 45-day window into a single inquiry; so your account only gets hit with a single 5 to 10 point drop. While you may think that a lender checking your credit score lowers it substantially, it’s only a small amount when you apply for financing in moderation.
How do you know if it’s a soft or hard inquiry?
Any credit application should clearly note whether the creditor plans to use a hard or soft inquiry. If you’re unsure, just ask. It’s helpful to know which type it is if your score is on the brink of rising or falling into a new score category. Lowering your score at the last minute can hurt your chances of qualifying for a better rate.
Where can I check my credit score?
You can check your credit score through a variety of means; in fact, your bank may even give you free updates throughout the year. You can also pay for your credit score through FICO, Vantage, or even each credit bureau individually.
Simply put, you can check your own credit scores and reports on a regular basis without causing any damage. Your credit score only drops once you accept hard pull on your account.