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by Lyle Daly | Updated July 21, 2021 - First published on Aug. 23, 2019
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You may not need to track down every one of your credit scores.
One important part of staying on top of your financial situation is monitoring your credit score. When you do, you’ll have a better idea of what credit cards and loans you can qualify for, and you’ll also know what you need to work on to ensure your score keeps going up.
The problem that consumers run into is that there are three different credit bureaus, and it could cost you money if you want your score from each one. Maybe your credit card company will provide your score from one bureau free of charge, but to get all three, you’ll often need to pay for two of them.
Before you jump into that, you’ll need to know whether it’s worth your time and money to bother.
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In most cases, you don’t need to check your credit score from each credit bureau.
If you’re monitoring your score from at least one credit bureau and you’re reviewing your credit report from each bureau annually, then you’re doing more than enough. To clarify the difference between those two things, your credit score is a rating of your creditworthiness. This score is based on the information in your credit report, which is a record of your credit activity.
Although your credit score can vary with each bureau, there won’t be a significant difference as long as they have the same information on file for you. That’s where reviewing your credit report comes in. You’re entitled to one free credit report from each bureau per year, so you should get those to verify that there are no errors on any of them.
The time when you might want to check your score from each bureau is if you’re planning to apply for something that involves a credit check, such as a mortgage or an auto loan. It’s not necessary, but you could make sure that you don’t have one score that’s much lower than the others.
However, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to check the same score that the lender or third party will end up using. This is because while there are only three bureaus, there are far more than three score options out there.
The problem with trying to stay on top of all your credit scores is the sheer number of them.
The most widely used credit score is the FICO® Score 8. You could look that up with each credit bureau. But an auto lender would probably use one of the FICO® Auto Scores, and there are several versions of that available. Mortgage lenders and credit card companies also use different versions of your FICO® Score.
There’s also a whole different scoring system called VantageScore. Even though this isn’t nearly as popular as the FICO® Score system, it doesn’t eliminate the possibility of a lender using that, instead.
Since you can’t be sure which version of your credit score will be used, it doesn’t make sense to obsess about what all your scores are. You’re better off finding one FICO® Score you can check regularly and watching your credit reports for errors.
There are both paid and free ways to get your credit score. The best place to start is with any banks or credit card companies that you use, as quite a few offer free credit score services. Just make sure that you check what type of score you’re seeing, because if it’s your VantageScore, you’ll also want to find a service that provides your FICO® Score.
Two great free ways to see your FICO® Score are CreditWorks by Experian and Credit Scorecard by Discover. These are both open to anyone and provide your FICO® Score 8 through Experian. You just need to sign up for an account with either one to see your score.
If you want to check your score with Equifax or TransUnion, each offers its own paid credit monitoring service so you can sign up and see your score.
Considering there are dozens of variations on your credit score, you don’t need to worry about seeing all of them. You can get a good idea of where you stand by just checking your FICO® Score 8 with one credit bureau.
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