This Pandemic-Specific Perk Could Help Your Credit Score Improve

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Right now, consumers have a prime opportunity to boost their credit.

Your credit score isn't just a random number. Rather, it's calculated by taking different pieces of financial data into account, such as:

  • How timely you are in paying your bills
  • How much of your available credit you use at once
  • How established a credit history you have
  • Whether you have a healthy mix of credit cards and loans

Your credit score is based on the information contained in your credit report. Or, to be more accurate, your three credit reports.

There are three major reporting bureaus that collect financial data on consumers: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Each bureau uses that information to put together a credit report on you, and that report dictates what your credit score looks like.

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Normally, you're entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each reporting bureau once a year. This year, things are working differently -- and in a way that could benefit you.

Weekly credit reports are now available

There's been a host of economic upheaval in the course of the pandemic, and the potential for financial fraud has, unfortunately, increased. To protect consumers, credit reports were initially made available for free on a weekly basis through April of 2021. But that perk has since been extended, and now weekly credit reports are free through April of 2022.

How can this benefit your credit score? The more often you check your credit reports for errors, the more likely you'll be to spot one and fix it -- before your score takes too much of a hit.

Plus, checking your credit reports could drive you to spend a little more wisely or make other choices that benefit your score. For example, one thing your credit report will show you is how much of your available credit you're using at once; this is known as your credit utilization ratio. The higher that percentage, the more it hurts your score. If you see that your credit usage is high, it may prompt you to cut back on spending and work to pay off debt, which could help your score improve.

Check your credit report from time to time

So does this mean that you should now make a point to check your credit report every week through the upcoming spring? Not exactly.

Checking monthly is a good idea if you're willing to put in the time. But for the most part, checking your credit report once a quarter should be enough to keep tabs on your finances. It also pays to check your credit report before you apply for a big loan like a mortgage.

The only reason to check your credit report on a weekly basis is if you've notified a given bureau of an error and want to see if it's been resolved and reflected on your report. Otherwise, not much is likely to change from one week to the next.

Meanwhile, it's possible that credit reports will be made available for free on a weekly basis beyond April of 2022. That decision will largely hinge on how much economic progress is made between now and the current end date. But in the near term, it pays to check your credit report more frequently while you're able to do so for free.

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