The 1 Key Piece of Information Your Credit Report Won't Tell You

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Your credit report tells you a lot -- but it doesn't give you a detail you might expect it to.

You often hear that checking your credit report is a good idea. Your credit report is a summary of your various credit accounts and loans, and reviewing that report is important for a few reasons.

First, if your credit report contains errors, your credit score might take a hit, making it difficult to borrow money when you need to. Also, your credit report might alert you to fraudulent activity. If you access your credit report and notice a line of credit that you never opened, that's a red flag.

But as helpful as your credit report may be, there's one piece of information it won't give you -- your credit score. That may seem counterintuitive, but it's the reality.

So where can you access your credit score? You have options.

1. Check your credit card statement

Some credit card companies make consumer credit scores available to account holders. So your score may be available on your monthly statement or elsewhere in your online account. If not, there may be another way to get your score through your credit card issuer, so it's worth calling and asking.

2. Log into your bank account

Some banks offer customers access to their credit scores. You may see your score listed on your statements, or you may need to log into your bank account and follow steps to access that number there. If you're not sure whether your bank provides this benefit or don't know how to access it, make a quick phone call.

3. Use a credit score service

A simple Google search of "free credit score" should bring you to services that offer access to your credit score. Sometimes, there's a catch. You may, for example, need to sign up for a credit monitoring service that starts out free but charges you after a certain time. Pay attention to the details before entering your credit card number for payment.

4. Buy your score directly

Most of the time, when we talk about credit scores, we mean FICO scores. And you can buy your score directly from FICO for a modest fee if you don't have a way to access it for free.

It's definitely annoying that credit reports don't contain credit scores. But it's important that you maintain access to both pieces of data. Your credit score may give you a snapshot of how well you're doing credit-wise, but it won't clue you in if a fraudulent account has been opened in your name. Similarly, your credit report might contain key details about your credit history, but knowing your score is important, too, because it tells you whether the time is right to apply for a mortgage or other type of loan.

You can access your credit report for free once a year from each of the three major credit bureaus -- Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. And right now, credit reports are free weekly through April 2022. If you can find a way to get your credit score for free, you'll have a more complete picture of your financial health without having to spend a dime. But even if you do have to spend a little, it may be more than worth it.

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