How To Check Your Credit Score In 5 Minutes (For Free)
Written by Cheri Read
If you want to start the process of repairing your credit and restoring your good name, here's the first thing you need to do:
Find out what your actual credit score is.
That may sounds obvious, but most people have no idea what their credit score is. And if you don't even know your score, you won't know how to go about improving it.
So how do you check your credit score?
I'm going to show you how to check your credit score, for free, using Discover's free Credit Scorecard.
Let's dive right in.
Get your FICO® score for free using Discover Credit Scorecard
There are a few different ways to get a hold of your credit score, but my preferred method is using Discover's Credit Scorecard, which Discover offers to anyone who signs up for it, for free.
Once you’ve signed up, you can see your current FICO® score, a snapshot of your report, and some financial advice as to how to raise your score.
What's the catch?
It may be hard to believe, but there really isn’t one.
Discover has offered this service to its customers since 2013, but in 2016, they made the decision to open it up to everyone, making them the first major credit card to give everyone free access to their FICO® score with a credit snapshot.
According to Discover’s president and CEO, Roger Hochschild, the reason they offer this service is because they “think it’s important that consumers have the information they need to manage their credit” and they wanted to provide a way for “customers and non-customers alike” to view their credit “in a way that’s both easy to use and to understand.”
So, good news: you do not have to be a Discover customer to sign up for the Discover Scorecard.
All you have to do is provide your personal information to verify your identity and access your credit score.
Signing up with Discover Scorecard
Editor's Note from Mike: In this section, I'm going to take the wheel and walk you through step-by-step how I went about using the Discover Scorecard to get my FICO® score.
Here's how to get your free credit score from the Discover Scorecard tool.
Step 1. Head on over to the Discover Scorecard registration page
Here's the link to the registration page, and here's what the page looks like:
Step 2. Fill in some personal information
Scroll down a little bit, and you're asked to fill in some personal information to verify you are who you say you are:
Step 3. Agree to terms & conditions and verify your identity
Next you'll be asked to agree to some terms and conditions, and then you'll be asked to answer some questions to verify your identity, such as past addresses you've lived at, your age, etc.
Step 4. Set up your security questions & answers
Then you'll be asked to set up some quick security questions and answers, and after that you're all set!
Step 5. Access your free FICO® score
Now you get free access to your Credit Scorecard, which includes your FICO® score!
Here's what it looks like:
You can also click each tab along the top of the report to view more information.
For example, when I click the "Missed Payments" tab, here is what I see:
Okay, back over to Cheri.
What's included in the Scorecard?
It's worth pointing out that the data Discover uses for its Scorecard is actually provided by Experian, one of the three main credit reporting agencies.
As you can see above, your home screen breaks it down for you so that you can see how lenders view your score.
To use Mike's example above, his current FICO® score is 799, which is considered “very good” and would get him some pretty favorable interest rates with any lenders.
But it could be improved because the FICO® scale goes up all the way up to 850!
What could Mike do to improve his score?
In this case, Mike's Discover Scorecard is telling him that having no "loan activity"—car loans or student loans—is hurting his credit score.
Editor's Note: Can I just say how dumb it is that not having any student loans or car loans is actually hurting my score? —Mike
And that's how you use the Discover Scorecard to pull your actual credit score from Experian, in under five minutes. It couldn't be any easier.
By the way, there’s no need to worry about the inquiry affecting your credit.
Discover only has to do a soft pull to get your info, so there’s no blemish on your report.
What is a FICO® score, anyway?
In other words, it’s there to let creditors see how likely you are to pay them on time.
FICO® is important because this score is what every lender will look at before deciding to give you a loan—if your score is low, you run the risk of being denied or paying high interest rates.
Most lenders set a baseline score to determine who they will extend credit to, but others use that along with other factors to make their decisions.
A FICO® score has a range of 300-850, with the average score being around 700.
Basically, the higher your credit, the more likely you are to be extended more.
There are a few different scoring models for FICO® , but the main one used is the FICO® Score 8. It looks like this:
FICO® Score 8
Almost every lender uses your FICO® score to determine whether they will loan you money.
In many cases, you can still get a loan with a score that’s less than stellar.
Some loans, such as auto loans, tend to be easier to get approved for. However, be warned: these loans also usually come with higher interest rates.
Now that you know what your credit score is, it's time to move on to the next step: understanding what actually goes into calculating your credit score, also known as "credit score factors".
Click on the "Next Section" link below to check out what credit factors make up your credit score, and how those factors are weighted in terms of importance.