Your key to access credit is a decent credit score since it shows to lenders that you are a low-risk borrower. Before applying for any credit product, check your score and devote some time to its improvement if needed.
The higher your score the lower your credit rates.
Your credit score is a product of credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. They receive reports on your credit activities from your current lenders, structure the data into your credit report and calculate your credit score. For calculations the bureaus usually use the FICO scoring model with its variations designed to assess your creditworthiness for various types of credit products.
Your credit score from different bureaus may differ because not all your lenders report your credit activities to all the three bureaus.
The only way to get your credit score firsthand and free of charge is to request it from a credit bureau. Once per year you can access your credit report with a credit score from each credit bureau for free. Complete a request form on AnnualCreditReport.com and receive information from the three national bureaus in one credit report.
The other advantage of annual credit reports from credit bureaus is that you can see not just your credit score but overall credit picture. It may help you detect an identity fraud or various reporting mistakes. In such cases you may improve your credit score by simply asking the bureaus to remove incorrect records from your credit history.
If checking your credit score three times per year is not enough for you, you may use monitoring services like MyFICO.com or third parties.
MyFICO is an official consumer service from FICO. On its website you may request various versions of your FICO score depending on the credit product you’re trying to get. For example, if your goal is a credit card then most likely you need to request your FICO® Bankcard Scores or FICO® Score 8. Since these two are the most popular score versions among credit card issuers. MyFICO is a paid service, however, there is a 10-day trial period when you can check your credit score for free.
Other monitoring services produce so called educational credit scores. Their number is approximate and differs from what your lenders may get on request from credit bureaus. But remember, your score is never exact number since you know neither what credit score version your potential lender requests nor from which bureau. So, such services may still be useful as a monitoring tool or for a rough estimation of your chances to get credit.
You may also encounter your credit score on your monthly credit card statements. Additionally, some banks may allow their cardholders to check scores via bank monitoring services for free.
Three times per year you may request your credit score firsthand and for free from national credit bureaus. However, if you’re working on your score and want to regularly track your progress, use monitoring services like MyFiCO or third parties.