by Lyle Daly | Updated July 21, 2021 - First published on June 26, 2019
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Keeping track of your credit is important, but no one wants to lower their score in the process.
So you've just found out that you can check your credit online any time you want. Maybe it's a service offered through your online banking or credit card account, or perhaps you searched for ways to check your credit on your own.
But you've also heard that credit checks can lower your credit score, and now you're wondering whether you'll be hurting your score every time that you check it.
This is a common question on personal finance forums, so let's put the matter to rest once and for all.
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No, it doesn't. When you check your credit, it has no effect on your credit score. You can use any free credit score service as often as you want, and it will never negatively impact you. Those services usually update your score monthly, though, so you won't see any change if you check between updates.
It's different if another party, such as a lender, is checking your credit history. That can put what's known as a "hard inquiry" on your credit file, which does have a minor impact.
The reason why some credit checks affect your credit and others don't is because there are two types of credit inquiries: soft inquiries and hard inquiries.
A soft credit inquiry analyzes a summary of your credit without pulling your entire credit file. These inquiries don't go on your credit report, and therefore they don't affect your credit score. Credit score services use soft credit inquiries.
A hard credit inquiry is a more thorough look at your entire credit history, and credit card issuers and lenders will ask to do them before extending you credit or a loan. You must authorize a hard credit inquiry, and it will remain on your credit file for two years.
Hard credit inquiries do reduce your credit score, but only by a very small amount. The average consumer's FICO® Score drops by fewer than five points due to a hard inquiry, so the effect is negligible.
Even though some consumers worry about checking their credit frequently, it's actually a smart practice. There are two reasons for this:
It's important to know your credit score in case you ever need to apply for something that requires a credit check. Let's say you want to get one of the best credit cards. Those almost always require good to excellent credit, and if you don't have that, you'd be wasting your time applying.
Because your credit score can change at any time, you should get into the habit of checking yours regularly. If your score shows a significant drop, you'll want to know about it as soon as possible so you can verify it's not due to false information and work on repairing it.
There's no problem with checking your credit as often as you want. Since credit score services only use soft credit checks, you'll never see your credit score go down because you've been checking it.
Ideally, you should check your credit every month or use a service that will automatically notify you in the event of any big changes to your credit file. And if you haven't quite reached an excellent credit score yet, then it's a good idea to work on improving your credit. Using a score service to monitor your progress can help with this goal.
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