Before understanding how often you should check your credit score, it’s important to note the differences between a credit score and a credit report. A credit report refers to a detailed report of your personal information and payment history prepared by the credit bureaus. A credit score is a composite number between 300 to 850 calculated from data on your credit report.
It is advised that you check your credit report annually as you’re given one free credit report from three major credit reporting agencies per year. When looking at your credit report, you want to make sure that all the information on your report is accurate. Look to see that there aren’t any unfamiliar accounts or loans opened under your name. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides a list of common errors that can be found in a credit report.
With credit scores, you can check your score when you receive your credit report. Often you need to pay a fee to see your credit score. However, you might want to check your score under the following circumstances:
- Before opening a new credit card: You can qualify for different credit cards with different rewards and APRs depending on your credit score
- Applying for a loan (car, house, etc.): Interest rates on loans can vary with different credit scores
- Building or rebuilding credit: Keeping tabs on your credit score is a great way to keep track of your progress
How often you check your score is ultimately up to you, however, checking your score daily on banking apps might lead to an unhealthy habit of obsessing over your credit score. It’s important to look for trends in your score rather than day-to-day changes. Depending on where and when you check your credit score, your score might vary. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau explains why your score might be slightly different at different times, and behaviors that might affect your credit score.
Written by Ji Yoon Jung, Financial Wellness for College Students Peer Educator, University of Illinois Extension, Spring 2018. Reviewed by Kathy Sweedler, University of Illinois Extension.