Worried about your credit score?
It’s never been easier to check for free.
Within minutes, anyone with a phone and a social security number (SSN) can find out their credit score.
If you’re ready to take control of your credit, we’ve made a list of websites where you can check your FICO and VantageScore for free.
To clarify what I mean by free, you don‘t need to be a cardholder or pay for a trial plan to check your score on any of these websites. All you need to do is sign up for an account, enter your full SSN (or the last four digits) and you can view your credit information–including your credit report.
Why Check Your Credit Score?
No one likes rejection.
But it’s inevitable when you have a poor credit score.
Mortgage lenders, credit card issuers, employers and even car dealerships check your credit score before deciding whether to do business with you and on what terms.
According to a consumer reports study, insurance companies use your credit score to raise your premium. Drivers with a good credit score paid $68 to $526 more than drivers with an excellent credit score.
But you don’t get an excellent credit score overnight.
Tiny habits such as checking your credit score–at a regular interval–is the first step.
Best Sites to Check Your Free FICO 8 Credit Score
You can find your FICO score on the following websites for free.
monthly full report
You can also get your FICO score through the FICO score open access program.
Fico partners with over 170 financial institutions to give their customers access to their FICO score for free. If your bank or credit card issuer is on the list, you can check your FICO score through them.
Best Sites to Check Your Free VantageScore 3.0 Credit Score
It’s easier to get your hands on your VantageScore 3.0.
If you can’t get access to your FICO score, use your VantageScore 3.0 as a proxy.
It still gives you a clear sense of where you stand.
You can find your VantageScore 3.0 credit score on the following websites for free.
Monthly full report
Weekly full report
Weekly full report
Monthly full report
Weekly full report
Weekly full report
Bi-weekly full report
Daily full report
How Good is Your Credit Score?
This depends on the scoring model you use.
Different scoring models use different scoring ranges
FICO and VantageScore 3.0 both score within a range of 300-850.
In this case, a good score starts at 700, while an exceptional score starts at 800. Most people fall within the good score range.
Here are the specific ratings for FICO score ranges:
FICO score range
Here are the specific ratings for VantageScore 3.0 ranges:
VantageScore 3.0 range
What Factors Affect Your Credit Score?
Your FICO credit score is influenced by five main factors:
Payment history: 35%
Credit usage: 30%
Length of credit history: 15%
Credit mix: 10%
While your vantagescore considers six factors.
Payment history: 40%
Age and type of credit: 21%
Percent of credit used: 20%
Total balances/debt: 11%
Recent credit behavior and inquiries: 5%
Available credit: 3%
Both FICO and VantageScore consider the same criteria, only in different percentages and broken down into more parts. But since FICO is more widely used, we’ll explain using the FICO score factors.
1. Payment history
Your payment history is the single largest factor that affects your credit score.
FICO checks the history of payments on your credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, finance company accounts, and mortgage loans.
If you have late payments on any of these accounts, your credit score will drop depending on–How late? How many? How much? And how recent?
That said, a few late payments won’t ruin your credit if you have a good payment track record.
It also helps if you have at least one account with no late payment.
2. Credit usage
Your credit usage is the second biggest factor that determines your credit card score.
It’s the ratio of your outstanding balance to your credit limit. In other words, how much of your credit limit do you use?
If you have a balance of $500 and your credit limit is $2,000. Your credit usage ratio is 25%.
To calculate yours, divide your balance by your credit limit, then multiply by 100.
FICO considers your credit usage in two ways. First, it calculates your credit usage on an individual card. Then it calculates your overall credit usage on all cards. A high credit usage in either will hurt your credit score.
As a rule, you should use no more than 30% of your credit limit. The lower the better. Even if you pay your balance in full every month.
3. Length of credit history
How long has your account been open?
How long have specific account types been open?
How long ago did you use your accounts?
These three important questions are what lenders use to determine the length of your credit history.
You don’t have to be a veteran credit user to have a good credit score
But your length of credit helps when you miss a payment.
If you’ve held an account for a longer time–and pay consistently–one missed payment will have little impact on your score.
But if you only have a short credit history, missing a payment might leave a big dent on your score.
4. Credit mix
If your score is stuck at the good–but you want to get to exceptional–try mixing your credit.
Mixing simply means combing revolving credit with installment-type loans such as retail accounts and mortgage loans.
It’s a great way to prove that you can manage different types of credit.
But be responsible. Credit mixing can backfire if you open too many accounts that you don’t use.
Also, keep in mind that closing an account can affect your score. Before you cancel a credit card, call your issuer and get detailed instructions.
5. Recent inquiries
When you apply for new credit, the lender requests for a copy of your credit report from the credit bureaus.
This is known as an inquiry.
Credit inquiries appear on your credit report and have a small impact on your credit score.
Usually, you won’t feel this impact unless you apply for multiple credit cards. According to FICO people with six or more inquiries are eight times more likely to declare bankruptcy.
That said, one or two inquiries won’t mar your credit especially if you keep your credit usage low and pay on time.
Note: you may sometimes see several inquiries on your credit report from businesses you don’t recognize. This happens when you’re rate shopping–comparing interest rates on loans. FICO doesn’t factor these inquiries when calculating your credit score.
4 Ways To Increase Your Credit Score Fast
Raising your credit score won’t happen overnight. But you will notice a big difference in a few months if you do these four things.
1. Dispute negative information on your credit report
Late payments, delinquent accounts, and charge-offs can continue to have an impact on your credit score for years.
While some negative accounts are due to your past mistakes, others may be an error. About 1 in 4 credit reports contain an error according to the Federal trade commission (FTC).
If you notice an error on your credit report, dispute the legitimacy of the item with the credit bureau. You can do this online or via mail. Write a letter describing the error in the report and attach any evidence.
Within 30 days the credit bureau will remove the error and your credit score will rise.
You can also bypass the credit bureau and dispute an error directly with the lender.
For example, if you’ve paid off an account but it’s still listed as delinquent on your credit report, write a letter to the card issuer or bank requesting that they notify the credit bureau.
If your credit report is accurate, there is a lesser chance the lender will remove a negative account. But you can still ask.
Send a goodwill letter to the lender explaining what led to your late or missed payment. And ask them to please delete the items. Just remember, the lender is under no obligation to agree.
2. Pay down your balance
One of the quickest ways to boost your credit score is to pay down your balance–while keeping your credit use low.
Banks typically report to the credit bureaus every month. So if you can pay down even a little of your balance, you’ll notice a difference quickly.
You can start with micropayments (any amount you can spare) multiple times a month. Or pay down the balance after every purchase you make. It’s also better to pay the card with the highest credit utilization ratio first.
For example, paying $200 on a $500 limit card will boost your credit score more than paying the same amount on a $1000 limit card. Because the first better reduces your overall credit usage ratio.
3. Take advantage of Experian Boost
Having a low credit score puts you in a catch 22–lenders are reluctant to extend you credit yet you need credit to boost your score.
Thankfully, Experian has provided a way to break out of this double bind.
Boost is a free program by Experian that allows your utility and phone bill payments to count towards calculating your credit score.
Boost was rolled out this year, so it’s still in its early stages. But Experian expects it to help up to 100 million consumers raise their score.
To use Boost, sign up for free. Connect your bank accounts to allow the software to scan your utility and telephone payment history.
Then verify your data. Experian then adds the data to your credit file, updates your FICO, and reveals your new score.
To make things better, Boost won’t penalize you for any missed payments. Only your positive payment history counts. So anyone–who pays phone or utility bills–can benefit from the program.
4. Settle delinquent debts
If you have delinquent accounts–especially those in collection–settling them will boost your credit score.
Previously, collection accounts were a factor in your credit score even after you’ve paid–as long as they remained on your report.
But newer models of FICO and VantageScore now ignore collection accounts when calculating your credit score so far you pay them off.
Of course, you can choose to pay your delinquent accounts in full. But negotiating a debt settlement will give you the same result only faster and with less money.
If your life could be narrowed down to one number, it’s your credit score.
Good credit makes everything easier, from applying to jobs to renting a new apartment.
That said, your credit score is not a static number. Use the tips above to start boosting your score today.
Within a few years, you’ll be surprised at the progress you’ve made.