Does checking your credit score lower it?

Checking your own credit score won’t lower it. In fact, it can be a good idea to give your credit score and credit report a regular check. We explain why and how to check your credit score.

Checking your own credit score won’t lower it. In fact, it can be a good idea to give your credit score and credit report a regular check. We explain why and how to check your credit score.

Anelda Knoesen
From the Money team
7
minute read
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Posted 7 OCTOBER 2021

What happens when you check your credit score?

When you check your credit score, you’ll be given a number by one of the credit reference agencies (CRAs) based on their own credit rating system. It’s an assessment of your creditworthiness based on your borrowing history. The number will put you in one of their bands or categories, from bad to excellent, or whatever proprietary name the CRA applies to their categories.

You can check your credit score with Experian - the UK’s largest credit reference agency - for free with Compare the Market using our Meerkat app.

It’s worth knowing that the score you get is likely to be different from each of the main credit agencies. They don’t all use the same scale – for example, one may use a score of 0-710 while another uses 0-1,000. So while you’re likely to be in a similar category, the scores are unlikely to be exactly the same. Plus, the CRAs won’t have collected exactly the same information on you, so there may also be differences because of this. They each have their own scoring systems based on their own experience and expertise too.

Checking your credit score won’t have an impact on the score itself.

But if you’re just checking your credit score, you won’t necessarily be checking your credit history or credit report. This gives a full account of your borrowing history, credit searches, late or missed payments, personal information like you date of birth and address, plus public information such as if you’re on the electoral role, or have any County Court Judgments or bankruptcies. Checking your full credit history gives you the chance to see if there are any errors in the report that might affect your credit score. Your report will be updated roughly every four to six weeks as new information comes in.

When should you check your credit score?

If you’re thinking of applying for a credit card, loan, mortgage or any other form of borrowing, it’s worth checking your credit report first. That’s especially true if you haven’t looked at it for a long time (or ever).

Lenders will check your credit history so they can make an informed decision about whether to lend money to you as it shows whether you’re likely to make payments on time. The higher your credit score is, the better your chances of being accepted for credit at the lowest interest rates.

Checking your credit file a few months before making an application for credit can give you time to rectify anything that could be harming your credit score.

It’s worth knowing that the different credit reference agencies score differently but, basically, the higher your score the better.

See more on what makes a good credit score.

Check your credit score for free

How often can you check your credit score?

You can check your own credit report as often as you like without it affecting your credit score. There are three main credit reference agencies that hold information on your credit history – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You can get a free copy of your credit report from any or all of the credit agencies.

You can also monitor your credit report by getting an alert whenever a change is made to it.

When checking your credit file, keep an eye out for anything that doesn’t look familiar. If you find any details you don’t recognise or you think are inaccurate, contact the relevant lender first. If you want to dispute an error or you think someone has been using your credit file fraudulently, report it to the credit agencies.

It’s a good idea to check your credit file at least once a year to make sure there are no mistakes and you haven’t missed any credit repayments without realising it. It can also be sensible to check your report if you are:

  • changing job or moving home
  • applying for credit
  • are worried about fraud or ID theft

Soft inquiries and hard inquiries

There are two types of credit check searches.

A soft credit check is when you check your own credit report or use an eligibility checker to find out if you’re likely to be accepted for particular credit cards or loans. Employers and landlords may also use soft checks to run a background check on you, with your permission. Some lenders may run a soft search when you apply for credit. Soft searches don't have an impact on your credit score because you’re not making a formal application for credit.

A hard credit check is when a lender reviews your full credit history because you’ve made an application for finance, like a credit card, loan or mortgage. This will leave a mark on your file. Multiple applications for credit within a short space of time, resulting in multiple hard searches, could affect your credit score.

What can lower your credit score?

Checking your own credit score won’t lower it, but there are plenty of other things that can, including:

  • Late payments: a missed or late payment can remain on your credit file for up to six years and will cause your credit score to drop. Avoid missing payments by setting up a direct debit for utility, mobile phone and credit card bills.
  • Credit utilisation rate: this is how much of your credit limit you’ve used. For example, if your credit card spending limit is £1,500 and you use around £750 a month, your utilisation rate is 50%. Try not to use more than 30% of your available credit as anything above this could damage your credit score.
  • Length of credit history: the longer you’ve been using credit, the better it generally is for your credit score. But the average age of your accounts also makes a difference. So, even if you’ve been using credit for 15 years, your ‘credit age’ could be much lower if you’ve recently opened several new credit accounts.
  • New credit: almost every time you apply for credit, the lender will run a hard search on your credit report. A single application shouldn’t reduce your credit score by that much, but if you make several applications for credit in a short space of time, it can be damaging. That’s because it could signal to lenders that you’ve taken on too much debt or had multiple applications declined.

How to check your credit score

Some services let you monitor your credit report for free, while others will ask for a monthly fee after the free trial is up.

  • Compare the Market can give you free access to your Experian credit score via our app.
  • Credit Karma gives you free-for-life access to your TransUnion credit report.
  • ClearScore gives you free lifetime access to your Equifax credit score.
  • Equifax offers 30 days’ free access, after which there’s a monthly charge of £7.95 to continue.
  • CreditExpert, offered by Experian, gives you free access for 30 days, then charges £14.99 a month.
  • CheckMyFile lets you check your Experian, Equifax and TransUnion reports all in one place. It offers 30 days’ free access, then charges £14.99 a month.

All prices correct as of September 2021.

Frequently asked questions

Does your credit score recover after it has been checked?

Checking your own credit report or using credit monitoring services is a soft check, so won’t have any impact on your credit score.

But a hard credit check when you have applied for credit, for example, can stay on your file for up 12 months, although it may not affect your credit score for that long. In fact, most credit scores will recover after a few months. It’s only if several hard checks are made within a short space of time that the impact may be bigger. But even this fades with time.

How much can your credit score drop after a hard credit check?

A hard search made by a lender will typically lower your credit score by around five points, but it could be more or less than this. If you have a good credit history without any payment issues, it may hardly impact your score at all. In any case, the drop is only temporary. Your score will usually bounce back within a few months, assuming there are no new negative entries in your credit file. 

Checking your own credit report won’t cause your score to drop.

Why does your credit score drop after paying off debt?

This might come as a surprise, but if you pay off a credit card and close the card, it may raise your credit utilisation ratio – the overall amount of credit available to you. This may impact your credit score.

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