It’s important to have a good credit score; the better your score, the more likely you are to get approved for credit cards and loans with lower interest rates. That can save you a fair amount of money over time.
Does that mean you should track your credit score constantly? Should you be checking it yearly? Monthly? Even daily?
Unless you have a compelling reason to monitor your credit score closely, there’s no reason for you to check your score too frequently. FICO (the company that provides the most widely used credit scores), states on its webpage that “in a given three-month period, only about one in four people has a 20-point change in their FICO scores.” A score change of less than 20 points probably won’t have much impact on how lenders perceive your credit-worthiness. Under most circumstances you’re probably fine with checking your score quarterly, yearly or even less frequently.
But there are times when you might want to keep a closer eye on what’s happening with your score.
- If thieves have taken your credit card(s) or if someone has stolen your identity. A sudden drop in your credit score could be a warning that there are some new, negative reports on your credit report. You need to check into what’s happening right away.
- If you’re planning to make a major purchase that will require a loan (mortgage, vehicle, home equity, etc.). Check your credit score 6 months to a year before you’re planning on applying. If your score is lower than you think it should be, check your credit report to make sure that there are no errors on it. If the information is right, figure out what you can do to improve your score before you talk to the lender about your loan.
- If you’re making a serious effort to reduce your debt and raise your credit score. Seeing even small improvements can be a good incentive to keep on the right track.
More tips on checking your credit score
- Under federal law, all three credit bureaus must each provide you with a free copy of your credit report each year. There’s no such provision for credit scores--you’ll have to pay for them, unless you have a credit card and/or a credit monitoring service that offers them as part of their service.
- Verify how the site calculates the credit score it’s selling. Is this a FICO score or a different type? As noted above, FICO scores are the most commonly used by lenders, and may give you the best idea of how they’ll look at your credit worthiness. Other kinds of scores may not be as useful.
- Remember that even FICO scores can vary according to which of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) provides them. Each bureau may use a slightly different formulation for calculating your credit score. They get information from different lenders, so the results will vary.
- Buying your credit score gives you limited information. If you really want to keep your score high, you may be better off getting a copy of your credit record and correcting any errors on it and/or seeing what you can do to improve your score.