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What to know when checking your credit score

You may have heard that checking your credit can lower your score. However, curiosity doesn’t have to kill your credit, as long as you learn what you need to know before diving in. There are ways to check your score with minimal impact — that’s because credit checks come in different varieties and serve various intents.

Reasons to check your credit score

The reasons to check your credit score vary. You may want to do a credit check for yourself as a preventative measure. Other credit score checks may be necessary to meet specific requirements for home or auto loans.

Here are a few reasons why you might want to check your credit score:

  • It may be helpful to check your credit score in order to find errors and then dispute them.
  • If you experience identity theft or fraud, a credit check can reveal the impact on your credit score.
  • You might also find potential avenues for improving your credit score.

Does checking your credit score lower it?

There are different types of credit checks. Some affect your score while others may have little to no impact. Even when there’s an effect on your score, it may be as minimal as a point or two. So, checking your score doesn’t always lower it. Before you do a credit check yourself or approve a request for one, however, you may want to clarify what kind of check it is. In general, there are two types of credit score checks and they’re quite different.

What is a hard credit check?

When you complete a full application for a credit card, line of credit or loan, a hard credit check inquiry usually follows. That’s because a lender needs a full report to figure out the amount and interest rate best suited to each client. These hard inquiries may impact your credit score.

How do hard inquiries affect your credit score?

There are a variety of ways a hard inquiry may impact your credit score. Different credit score reporting agencies follow their own guidelines. For instance, some account for credit inquiries from only the past year. Others report inquiry information from two years. This can make a difference in the credit score reported. For example, the score might shift if the account in question had more inquiries from two years back, but the effects may be minimal even with hard inquiries. The points for each hard credit check can be as small as a single point or two. Also, mortgage requests, student loans and car loans are sometimes removed from a credit check report in a relatively brief timeframe.

What is a soft credit check?

A soft credit check inquiry shows a basic synopsis of your credit score information. Formulas calculated by the three credit reporting bureaus provide this information. Soft credit checks look at your score. But they don’t trigger a full credit application.

How do soft inquiries affect your credit score?

Soft inquiries may be viewed on your credit score report by either yourself or lenders. The recording agencies keep that information about your credit checks available. Still, these soft inquiries do not impact the point value of your credit score.

How often can I check my credit score

Reporting agencies sometimes combine several hard inquiries done in a short period of time. They may even combine them into one event. Still, your overall record also provides context. For example, frequent hard inquiries on your report along with a low credit score may hinder your credit standing with lenders.

If you have an adequate score, the effects of a credit check on your score may be minimal. That’s even more likely when you have a record of carrying low balances. But with a lower credit score and high account balances, a flurry of credit score inquiries may lead to an even lower credit score. Lowering your overall, current debt may help improve your credit score.

What is my credit score

There are several ways to find out your credit score. Credit monitoring can help you get an answer to the question "what is my credit score?” with a soft inquiry. Best of all, free services like Credit Journey may alert you when your credit score changes, as well. This way, you can find out your score and stay on top of it without impacting your credit.

How to dispute a credit score

There are times when you may want to dispute a credit score. That may be because there is incorrect information in your credit report. You can dispute a credit score by fielding a dispute and requesting to remove false information. If the dispute works and removes the negative marks on your credit report, your credit score may improve.

Note there are two types of disputes: indirect and direct. Let’s dive into the differences below.

An indirect dispute reports false information to a credit agency. If you’re ready to file an indirect dispute, you can contact each credit agency — Equifax®, Experian® and TransUnion® — online through their websites. Each has its own dispute center, and you’ll need to individually submit a dispute with each one:

  1. Your first step at each credit agency will be to start a dispute. Online that means a simple click. There’s even a button labeled “start a dispute.”
  2. Online you will next select the reason for this dispute from a dropdown menu. You may also need to fill in an explanation and provide verification forms at this stage.
  3. Once you've submitted the necessary information and documents, you’ll get a confirmation email for your online dispute. The credit agencies then verify your disputed information for accuracy. They do this by contacting the original source of the data you dispute. That source will then check their records. Typically, one of three outcomes will complete your dispute:
    • The agencies will correct the incorrect information in your report.
    • If the source verifies their original information as accurate, it will remain unchanged in your report.
    • Information that the source could not verify will likely be updated or deleted.

Direct disputes, on the other hand, offer another avenue for reporting errors on your credit report. With a direct dispute, you file an error report directly with the business that gave this information to the credit agency. For example, a delayed payment appears on your credit report. Knowing that you paid on time, you call the company that provided this incorrect data and ask them to correct it.

Ready to check your credit score?

Now you know the potential reasons and results for checking your credit score. Start your Credit Journey and find out where you stand today.

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