Most people have seen or heard commercials that advertise websites to check your credit report. What most people don’t know is that your credit report does not include your credit score. Your credit report is more of a snapshot of your credit history that includes personal information, what kinds of credit you use (mortgages, credit cards, loans, etc…), how long you’ve had credit accounts, whether you pay your bills in a timely manner, if you’ve had collections put out on lines of credit, banking information, and so forth. It’s fairly easy to get a copy of your credit report. By law, the government grants every individual the right to a free annual credit report check, which you can get at AnnualCreditReport.com. However, there is still no absolutely free way to check your credit score.
So then, how do you check your credit score? Although none of them are free, there are several ways you can check your credit score. The first way is to purchase your credit score at AnnualCreditReport.com when you order your credit report. You can also purchase your credit score from each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies; Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Although there is still some deliberation on how much these credit scores actually cost to order, most can agree they are in the range of $ 8 – $ 16. You can also check your credit score by purchasing it directly from FICO, the Fair Isaac Corporation- they pretty much invented the model for credit scores and are considered the standard. Their score is usually based on a combination of data from both Equifax and TransUnion. There are other sites that you can order your credit score from, but they usually offer a free credit score in exchange for purchasing a service from them like credit monitoring.
Moving forward, now that you were able to check your credit score, what does it mean? First off, each individual actually has three credit scores at any given time because Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion all have separate databases that collect reports from different creditors, and receive the information at different times. But what do these scores mean? Your credit score is primarily used in credit decisions made by banks and other lenders of credit. The better your score, the less likely you are to seem “risky” to these lenders, and the more likely you are to be approved for lines of credit like home loans or auto loans.
Credit scores can range from 300 to 850, and the higher the number, the better. According to FICO, the median credit score is 723, which happens to be considered excellent credit. With ratings of 720 and above, you will likely get offers for the best interest rates from lenders. Once you dip below average, interest rates tend to go up from lenders. A credit score below 620 puts you in a category called “sub-prime.” In this range you can expect to pay much higher interest rates than a consumer with a 720 credit score. However, there are more and more lenders offering sub-prime loans, you’re just going to pay higher interest because of your considered “risk” as a borrower.
Knowing your credit score is a very important tool in understanding how you are viewed to lenders and financial institutions. Depending on your score you can expect to be approved for loans with a prime rate, or possibly be denied lines of credit altogether. So take the time and check your credit score. In either case, it always helps to know where you stand.