How to Get a Free Credit Score: Step By Step

Written by Edited by Kathy Hauer CFP®
how to get a free credit score

Your credit score is a crucial financial indicator that can impact everything from loan approvals to rental applications. Yet, many people are unsure how to access this important information. Fortunately, checking your credit score has become easier and more accessible than ever before.

In this step-by-step guide, we’ll walk you through various methods to check your credit score, from free online services to official credit bureau reports. 

How can I check my credit score for free?

You can check your credit score for free through several reputable services without impacting your credit. Many credit card issuers, financial institutions and banks offer free credit score access to their customers as part of their online banking services.

Additionally, you’re entitled to one free credit report annually from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) through, though this typically provides your full credit report rather than a numerical score.

Why check your credit report?

Many people check their credit reports to access their credit scores. However, a credit report and a credit score are two different things. A credit report is a statement that has information about your credit activity and current credit situation such as loan paying history and the status of your credit accounts, while your credit scores are calculated based on the information in your credit report.

Credit report

A credit report is an overall summary of your borrowing history. It shows the credit accounts you have opened in the past, such as for car loans, mortgages and credit cards, and if you have made your payments on time. Consumers should periodically check their credit reports to make sure there aren’t any errors.

Credit score

Your credit score is formulated from the information on your credit report. The three major credit bureaus — Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian — perform calculations to determine your credit score. They collect financial information from creditors as part of their assessments. Your number can be slightly different depending on which credit bureau you use.

Creditors can include your mortgage or student loan lender, credit card company, and utility company. These companies and others give the credit bureaus information about your payment history.

Reporting bureaus distill your data into a simple three-digit score, which ranges from 300-850. Your credit score will be in one of these categories:

  • Excellent: 800-850
  • Very Good: 740-799
  • Good: 670-739
  • Fair: 580-669
  • Poor: 300-579

Fewer mistakes

Did you know that 13% of Americans have an error on their credit report? Common errors include a closed credit line as open or, information being pulled from someone else who shares your name. A single credit mistake can damage your score, so it’s important to check your report every 12 months to see if there are any errors and clean them up. 

Catching identity theft fast

In addition to your financial history, your credit report also lists your personal information. If you pull your credit report and you see names, addresses, aliases you don’t recognize, or accounts opened in your name that you don’t recognize, you might be a victim of identity theft. 

A free credit checkup

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you’re entitled to one free pull of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus once every 12 months. You can get your free credit report online at, the only authorized website for free credit reports, or call 1-877-322-8228.

A better financial future

If you want to improve your credit score, you need to identify what is weighing down your score.  Your credit report shows you exactly where you need to adjust, and from there, you can create a plan to help you improve your credit score.

PRO TIP! A good credit score can lead to lower interest rates and increased borrowing power on loans and credit cards. MoneyLion offers a free and convenient way to find offers from our trusted partners to help you improve your credit.

Monitor Your Credit Score

What your credit report tells you

Your credit report tells lenders a lot about how you manage your money over time. It takes into account your payment history, how much credit you use, account age, and how often you open accounts. Here’s what you will learn by reviewing your credit report. 

Your payment history

Your payment history plays a major role in your credit score calculation. If you make your credit card and loan payments on time every month, your score might be on the high side. On the other hand, a single missed payment can have a serious impact on your credit score.

How much credit do you use

How often do you put purchases on your credit card and pay them back? Credit utilization measures the gap between your credit limit and your balance as a percentage. For example, if you have a $10,000 limit and have accumulated $2,500 in credit card debt, you have a 25% credit utilization ratio. A higher credit utilization results in a lower credit score. Paying off your debt and keeping your credit utilization ratio below 30% can improve your score. A credit utilization ratio below 10% is optimal. You can also raise your credit limit to improve your credit utilization ratio. 

The age of your accounts

Older lines of credit are more secure because you’re less likely to suddenly close them. Older accounts also demonstrate more experience with managing money. Everyone has to start somewhere when it comes to credit but having too many new credit lines may lower your score. The longer you leave your credit cards and credit lines open, the higher your score will be. It is a good idea to keep an older account open even if you don’t intend to use it anymore. The old account can still play a role and improve your credit score.

How often you open new accounts

Opening many new lines of credit in a short period of time can be a red flag for a lender. Limit the number of credit cards and loans you apply for in a given time, as these usually require a hard check that can lower your credit score. Avoid applying for new lines of credit while you’re waiting on an important credit decision, like a mortgage approval.  

What to look for in a free credit score service?

A free credit check will give you a better understanding of your credit profile. However, some free credit score services are better than others. These are some of the details to keep in mind before using a service.

Free credit checks

Some companies claim to offer free credit score checks, but often trap consumers into signing up for an expensive service. Before you sign up to view your score, read the fine print and know what you’re signing up for. 

Soft inquiries on your credit score

One hard inquiry lowers your score (temporarily). Look for credit score providers that offer soft checks on your credit report. A soft credit check is an inquiry into your credit report. Soft credit checks do not affect your credit score.

Easy-to-access information

Your credit score can change more frequently especially if you’re taking steps to improve. Look for a provider that makes it easy to check your score multiple times online or through an app.

Credit score advice

Make sure to identify what is causing your credit score to go down. A credit score provider will not only show your score but also tell you which factors are impacting your score most.

Access to your full credit report

Your credit score comes from the information on your credit report. If your score seems unusually low, you’ll want to check out your credit report from at least two major providers.

What you’ll need to check your credit score

You’ll need to give your service provider a few key pieces of personal information to get your credit score or credit report.

Basic identifying information

Your credit score provider will verify your identity before providing your score or report. You’ll need to list your full legal name, address, and date of birth. If you’ve changed your name or lived at a different address in the past five years, you may need to provide that information as well.

Your Social Security number

Credit reporting bureaus collect consumer data using their Social Security numbers. You’ll need to provide your Social Security number before you can see your credit report. Protect yourself by only transmitting this information over secure Wi-Fi and by only trusting well-known score providers, like MoneyLion.

Identity confirmation

Before you view your credit report, you may have to confirm your identity by sharing past credit information. For example, you might have to choose your current car loan provider from a multiple-choice list or fill in the name of your mortgage provider. This information usually isn’t necessary if you just want your credit score and not your full credit report.

If you sign up for a credit monitoring service, you’ll usually only need to provide this information once. After that, monitoring services that have your permission to check your score can do so when you log into your account. 

PRO TIP! Building your credit is easier than you think. Use MoneyLion to understand your score, create goals, and monitor your credit as you take steps to build it. 

Monitor Your Credit Score

Take care of your credit score

From renting an apartment to opening a new credit card, your credit score plays a major role in your life. Knowing your credit score and reading your credit report can help you achieve a better financial future. Regularly monitor your score and create a plan to work toward a better score.


Why do I have different credit scores?

You have different credit scores because multiple credit bureaus use varying scoring models and may have access to slightly different financial information about you.

How often should I check my credit score?

You should check your credit score at least once per month. People who are vigorously working to improve their credit scores may want to review their scores weekly.

Will checking my own credit score affect my credit?

Checking your credit score will not affect your credit because it is a soft credit pull, which has no impact on your credit score.

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