You can check your credit score for free through one of the major credit card issuers, including American Express, Discover, and Capital One. Personal credit scores typically range from 300 to 850, with 850 being the best score possible. Additionally, there are two primary credit scoring models: FICO® and VantageScore®. Depending on the model you use, your score may fall into different categories, such as “excellent” or “good.”
Check your credit score for free through the following issuers:
- American Express: VantageScore® 3.0 by TransUnion; available to anyone
- Bank of America: FICO® Score based on TransUnion; available to eligible cardholders
- Capital One: VantageScore® 3.0 by TransUnion; available to anyone
- Chase: VantageScore® 3.0 by TransUnion; available to anyone
- Citi: FICO® Score by Equifax; available to eligible cardmembers
- Discover: FICO® Score scores by TransUnion; available to anyone
- Wells Fargo: FICO® Score by Experian; available to account holders
Knowing your credit score and reviewing your credit report is crucial, especially if you want to apply for a loan or one of the best credit cards. Fortunately, checking your own score only requires soft inquiry, which doesn’t impact your score, so you can check it as frequently as you’d like. You can also get one free credit report each year from all three reporting agencies through AnnualCreditReport.com.
Understanding Your Credit Scores
It’s important to understand credit scores in detail, such as their ranges and how they’re calculated because creditors use them to qualify you for loans, property, and credit cards. It’s also a good idea to check your credit scores often so you can be aware of any positive or negative changes.
The Purpose of Credit Scores
Creditors and lenders use your credit scores to measure your financial standing and eligibility for credit. Higher scores demonstrate you’re more likely to repay a new debt obligation, increasing your approval odds. You’ll have a better chance of qualifying for a credit card or loan with more favorable terms, such as lower interest rates, than with low credit scores.
Credit Score Ranges
Three main consumer credit bureaus report your credit scores: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. Additionally, there are two main credit scoring models—FICO® and VantageScore® 3.0. Scores typically range from 300 to 850, but your rating can vary depending on the credit bureau and the scoring model.
Credit score ranges generally fall in the following categories:
FICO® Credit Score
- 800 to 850: Excellent
- 740 to 799: Very good
- 670 to 739: Good
- 580 to 669: Fair
- 350 to 579: Very poor
Experian VantageScore® 3.0
- 781 to 850: Excellent
- 661 to 780: Good
- 601 to 660: Fair
- 500 to 600: Poor
- 350 to 449: Very poor
FICO® credit score is the most common scoring system, with traditional scores ranging from 300 to 850. However, FICO® offers a variety of industry-specific scoring versions, including models for credit cards and auto loans, ranging from 250 to 900. VantageScore® also has a variety of versions, with VantageScore® 3.0 being the most common. I’s not a bad idea to check your score at multiple providers to get a holistic view of your score.
How Credit Scores Are Calculated
Credit bureaus consider five major factors when determining your credit score, including payment history and credit utilization ratio. These markers are the same across the main credit bureaus. The five factors that make up your credit score are:
- Payment history (35%): Your payment history is the most important factor of your personal credit score. This shows lenders your ability to pay any loans or other debt obligations on time.
- Credit utilization (30%): Your credit utilization ratio measures the total amount of available credit you’re currently using. It’s good to keep this ratio below 30%, but above 0%.
- Length of credit history (15%): A good credit history takes some time to build up and maintain; lenders like to see a longer credit history.
- Credit mix (10%): Having a diverse credit mix is an indicator that you can manage a variety of debt obligations responsibly.
- New credit (10%): If you open a handful of new credit accounts in a short period of time, you can appear risky to creditors, so it’s good to limit third-party inquiries.
7 Tips to Improve Your Personal Credit Score
Improving your credit scores will increase your chances of loan or credit approvals with better terms, including lower interest rates. Two great ways to improve your scores are automating payments and paying down debt quickly. Once you’ve made efforts to improve your credit, you can keep track of your progress by checking your score regularly.
Improve your credit score by:
- Automating monthly payments: Since your payment history represents 35% of your credit score, setting up automatic payments can ensure you never late or miss a payment.
- Making multiple payments: Making more than one payment each billing period will help you pay down debt quicker by reducing the interest accrued and increasing the amount that goes directly to your principal amount.
- Using less than 30% of your available credit: Lower your credit utilization ratio by paying down loans, credit cards, and other borrowed balances.
- Limiting new accounts and inquiries: Your score takes a small hit each time a hard inquiry is added to your credit report. It’s good to limit the number of new credit accounts you open in a short period of time to protect your score.
- Keeping old accounts open: Creditors like to see a long credit history because it shows you have experience managing your debt obligations. It’s a good idea to keep an old credit card open even if you’re not using it.
- Checking your credit report regularly: Keeping an eye on your credit report will ensure you’re aware of any inaccurate information that needs to be removed. You are entitled to one free credit score report every 12 months through AnnualCreditReport.com.
- Fixing credit problems: Improving your credit scores often involves disputing inaccurate information and resolving old accounts. You can do this on your own, or you can pay a credit repair company to do it for you.
Checking your credit score is free in most cases and has no impact on your credit. However, the score you see may vary depending on the credit reporting agency and the scoring model. In any case, it’s a good idea to check your credit scores regularly so that you understand your financial standing and ability to qualify for new credit.