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When it comes to credit scores, rampant misinformation and myths abound. For example, some people have been led to believe that carrying a balance on a credit card is the best way to improve your score, which isn’t true. Others insist that closing old credit cards you’re not using can provide your credit with a much-needed boost, which is also false.
Still, there’s one myth about credit that won’t seem to go away. Plenty of people think that checking your own credit score or credit report will cause damage to your credit. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to look at your credit score and even what’s on your credit report without doing any harm to your own credit health.
First, it’s important to understand the two ways that someone can look at your credit report. The first is when you’ve applied for a mortgage, car loan, credit card or other form of credit, and your lender wants to see your credit report to determine if you’re a good credit risk. This appears on your report as a “hard inquiry” or “hard pull” and it does affect your credit score, though only by a handful of points.
However, sometimes you haven’t made an application for credit with anyone, but a credit issuer wants to look at your credit report to consider you for a preapproved or promotional offer. This still appears on your report, but it’s known as a “soft inquiry” or “soft pull,” and these soft pulls don’t affect your credit score at all.
The good news is when you check your own credit score, you’re almost always making a soft pull, which means you can check your credit and see where you stand without causing unnecessary damage.
So, if your goal is to take a peek at your credit score without causing any harm, there are quite a few strategies that let you do exactly that. Plenty of credit cards — including ones you may already have — offer a free credit score as a card holder perk. This includes cards from American Express, Chase, Capital One, Citibank and others.
Some credit card programs even provide a free credit score that anyone can sign up for. For example, CreditWise from Capital One lets you see your VantageScore 3.0, provided by TransUnion, without having a Capital One credit card. You can also sign up for alerts that let you know how your credit score changes over time.
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Checking your credit score is entirely different than checking your credit report. Your credit score is a numeric representation of your overall credit health, yet your credit report is the place where all the information about your credit accounts, your payments and your overall credit usage is listed.
While your credit report won’t list your credit score, there are still plenty of reasons to keep an eagle eye on the information it includes. Your credit report is the first place where fraudulent accounts opened in your name will show up. This is one of the reasons many experts suggest checking your credit reports on a semiannual basis, as it’s one of the best ways to spot the early signs of identity theft.
Not only that, but your credit report can have mistakes or misinformation that could ultimately hurt your credit score, since the information on your credit report is used to calculate your score. It’s a fairly straightforward process to dispute incorrect information that appears on your credit report, but you’ll only know what’s there if you take the time to look.
Fortunately, when it comes to checking your cred
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