The precise formulas that calculate credit scores are a secret and as a result there are a lot of myths about what can hurt and what can help your credit score. One we hear often is that checking your own credit report or credit score has a negative impact on your score.
The short answer here is that no, checking your own score or requesting your own credit report does NOT hurt your score.
The long answer helps explain why. First is the difference between credit score and credit report. Your scores (that’s right, there are more than one) are a summary of the information found in your credit report. You can see yours at different places; for example, credit card issuers often make your score available to you as part of their service (you can read about more sources here). Viewing your credit score has no impact whatsoever on your credit. Your credit report is a little different. All three reporting agencies compile and keep their own version of your credit report, and they should be basically identical. When anyone requests to view your credit report that request is noted – but there are different kinds. A hard inquiry, or “hard pull” is when someone requests your credit report because you are applying for new credit. This could be when you apply for a car loan, a new credit card, a mortgage, etc. Hard pulls do have a small, negative impact on your credit. They indicate you’re attempting to increase the amount of credit extended to you and therefore your score will likely drop some to reflect that. A “soft pull” is an informational only request to view your credit report. That could be a potential employer, the sender of a “pre-qualified” loan offer, or it could be you, yourself. Checking your own credit report is a soft pull and has no impact on your credit score. Here it is in black and white from Equifax:
“When you request a copy of your credit report or check credit scores, that’s known as a “soft” inquiry…Soft inquiries do not affect credit scores and are not visible to potential lenders that may review your credit reports. They are visible to you and will stay on your credit reports for 12 to 24 months, depending on the type.”
Like other personal finance myths this one can actually be harmful. You absolutely should be checking your own credit reports at least once a year. You’re entitled to one free copy of your own report every year from each of the three agencies. Read more here about how to get yours. Checking your report is important; you want to make sure there aren’t any errors on the report or any credit accounts or inquiries you don’t recognize. That’s often the first sign of identity theft or fraud and your best bet for stopping it is catching it early.
To make this even shorter: checking your own credit score or credit report is NOT bad for your credit score and is in fact a good habit. Check your reports for accuracy at least once a year.