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Does checking your credit score lower it?

You can check your credit score as often as you want without affecting it.

It’s a common misconception that checking your credit score will lower it. But this simply isn’t true. There’s a difference between checking your score and applying for new credit, which can actually hurt your credit score, as it’s a different type of inquiry.

Checking your credit score has no negative impact

Checking your own credit score and your credit reports won’t lower it because it’s considered a soft pull, or soft inquiry, which doesn’t harm your credit.

Soft pulls are likely happening to your credit reports regularly, such as preapproved letters you may receive from credit card companies, potential landlords if you apply for a new apartment or emails advertising you’re “prequalified” for a loan. But none of those are hard pulls, or hard inquiries, which can impact your credit score.

Soft inquiry vs. hard inquiry

Checking your own credit score is considered a soft inquiry. Whenever a lender sends you a preapproval for a product you didn’t apply for, that’s also a soft inquiry.

Hard inquiries happen when you apply for new credit, such as a credit card, car loan or personal loan — anything that requires the lender to review your credit history. You also need to give someone permission to do a hard inquiry.

Each hard pull can lower your credit score by around five to 10 points, but these marks typically only impact your credit score for up to 12 months and are removed from your credit reports after two years.

Why does applying for credit hurt my credit score?

The credit scoring models — FICO and VantageScore — keep track of the number of times you try to open a new credit account. These hard pulls fall under the category of “new credit,” which makes up 10% of your FICO credit score.

Your credit is affected by how many times you apply for new credit, because someone who applies for new credit frequently may be overextended financially. The record of how many times you’ve applied for new credit in the last two years is considered valuable information to future lenders, and it’s used to determine your creditworthiness.

Where can I check my credit score?

You have two main credit scores: FICO and VantageScore. FICO is by far the most popular credit score used by lenders. You also have three credit reports from the credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Each can contain different information and generate different credit scores, so it’s wise to check all three.

There are a number of ways to check your credit score and request your credit reports, and here are some of the most popular methods:

  • Experian. View your Experian credit report and see your FICO credit score for free after signing up for an Experian account.
  • Credit Karma. This app shows you your VantageScore, which is generated from your TransUnion and Equifax reports for free.
  • AnnualCreditReport.com. While this one says “annual,” you can use this site to get free weekly reports from each of the three major credit bureaus at no cost.

Bottom line

You won’t be penalized for checking your own credit score — in fact, checking your credit score regularly is encouraged.

Keeping a watchful eye on your credit reports and score can help you spot signs of identity theft, making sure you’re not forgetting about your various accounts and knowing your pain points within your credit reports can help you forge a plan to build a better credit score.

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