How to check your credit score without hurting it

Reviewing your credit is an important habit. Whether you’re planning on borrowing money for major purchases like a car or a house; or want to apply for a credit card or any other credit products; or just simply want to keep track of your identity, credit report and credit score, it’s good to check in periodically. But if you’re already concerned about your credit score — and let’s be real, many of us are — you may be wondering how to check your credit score without hurting it?

This post will walk through the basics of checking your credit score, the types of credit inquiries, and how to check your credit score without hurting it. Ready to take a breath and jump in? We promise not to make this topic painful.

First, what’s a credit score?

Most consumers who have ever been lent money from a creditor, credit card company, or bank have a credit score. It’s determined by your past and current financial behavior — and helps lenders evaluate whether to lend you money or not. Employers, landlords, and insurance companies could inquire about your credit score, too.

Your credit score could range anywhere from 300 to 850 – the latter number being the best. The higher your credit score, the more likely you will be approved by creditors to borrow money at a good rate. A lower credit score means you could have a more challenging time borrowing money, or you could incur higher interest rates with less favorable terms.

With credit, having on-time payments, keeping your credit use low, and having older credit accounts are some of the key factors that will impact your credit score.

Read our “What is a good credit score?” post or “How to start building credit” post to learn more.

Credit inquiries 101

Every time a lender or creditor requests your credit information from a credit reporting agency, this is called a credit inquiry. Inquiries are classified as soft and hard inquiries. 

A soft credit inquiry (or check) doesn’t affect your credit score because it doesn’t represent an action that could affect your ability to pay off debt. Common examples of soft inquiries are:

  • When a lender pulls your credit for a loan pre-approval review or offer
  • When a business checks your credit report for promotional purposes
  • A lender you already have an account with checks your credit report
  • When a potential employer checks your credit to determine your financial responsibility
  • When you annually check your credit report with a credit reporting bureau

A hard inquiry (or check) is when a creditor requests to look at your credit score to determine your level of risk as a borrower. It occurs when you apply for a new line of credit, like a loan or credit card. Unlike a soft inquiry, it can negatively affect your credit score — but usually only in the short term.

If you have too many hard inquiries in a short time span, lenders may be reluctant to work with you because you’re taking on too much debt at once. 

How to check credit score without lowering it

Now knowing how credit inquiries work, you might question how to check your credit score without affecting it. In general, checking your own credit report and score is considered a soft credit check, and shouldn’t lower your score. That’s good news if you’re trying to be better with money. You can keep tabs on your credit without the worry.

How to check your credit score for free

Now knowing that it’s possible to review your credit score without lowering it, you may also wonder how to check your credit score for free. You can do this in many ways:

  1. Lenders or creditors: Some of your current lenders or financial institutions may offer you options to check your credit report and score for free. This doesn’t mean applying for a new loan or credit card. It’s taking a soft pull of your credit.
  2. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling: You can find a certified nonprofit counselor via the National Foundation for Credit Counseling website.
  3. Major credit bureaus: You can check your credit report annually, for no fee through the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.  If you’re wondering how to check your credit score with Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion you can visit their individual sites or the U.S. government website,
  4. Spruce: Check your FICO® credit score as often as you like for free with Spruce online banking. Find out how Spruce’s credit score feature lets you tap into monthly updates and more.

Why are my credit scores different?

Have you ever seen two different numbers as your credit score and wondered “What gives? Why are my credit scores different? Here’s the deal —

  • Your credit score is refreshed on a periodic basis or when an event is reported under your name to the credit bureau.
  • There are two commonly used credit scores in the industry — FICO Score ® and VantageScore®, and each has slightly different scoring models.
  • There are three major credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax — and they might have slightly different information about you, which may affect the score. This can be because lenders are not required to report to all three or at all.

Check your credit score with Spruce

Understanding your credit score is a critical step to financial wellness, so it makes sense to have an easy way to keep track of it.   

With Spruce, you can get to access to your credit score and other features, such as overdraft protection and cash back rewards that can help you on your way to getting better with money day by day.

Find out more about all the features Spruce has to offer. 

Get started with Spruce

This information provided for general educational purposes only. It is not intended as specific financial planning advice as everyone’s financial situation is different.

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