My credit score is something I had no idea what it meant until I was in the crappy situation of having to lease a car (not by choice)… quick story about that here:
I was still driving a 2007 Kio Rio after I graduated college, and did not want to make an investment on a new car just yet. My plan was to start my full time job, and get some money saved up so I could possibly finance the car.
But we all know life doesn’t always go as expected! So, my mom offered as an alternative for me to drive my brother’s cute sports car which was a 350z Nissan. Let me just say I had a BLAST in this car. I had never driven a sports car, and it was seriously the most fun I’ve had driving.
That all came to an end when I unexpectedly woke up (hungover lol) on a Saturday morning to a loud crash in my driveway. I rushed outside after hearing my Stepdad yell, and realized someone was playing a really weird prank on me. My car was horizontal in my driveway, and there was a car right next to it. What kind of joke is this? Did my brother do this?
Long story short, a stranger driving on my street lost control of their vehicle and drove straight into the 350z, completely damaging the drivers side. Thankfully the person was ok! I was told that he had a diabetic seizure and lost control of the wheel. We called an ambulance and they assured as that he would be ok which I was extremely thankful for.
So that story is what brought me to the decision to get a new car, and one of the factors in getting a new car includes an evaluation of your credit score. I did not have a credit card until post- college, so you can imagine my score wasn’t its best. I wanted to share an overview of where you can check for your credit score free, what it means, and how it affects you and your life choices.
What impacts your credit score?
On-time Payments (35%): Pretty self explanatory, but making payments by their due date can positively affect your credit. Setting up auto-payments or setting up reminders 3-7 days before can really help you stay on top of this. Payments that are considered include car loans, student loans, credit cards and mortgage loans. Missing one payment probably won’t affect your score but if you miss multiple payments and you’re reporting to the credit beareu this will for sure affect your score.
Credit Used (30%): This is a score that is calculated based on your current credit card debt and the total available credit. For example, if your total available credit that your credit card offers you is $10,000 and your debt is $600, then your Credit Utilization Score is 6% which is excellent! Keeping your spending habits under 30% of what’s available to you is key.
Oldest Credit Line (15%): The longer you have had open lines of credit= the better! Not closing out accounts is key here. Just keep usage to a minimum if you want to use another card.
Recent Inquiries (10%): There are soft and hard inquires. Only hard inquired affect your score. This includes a car loan, mortgage, student loan or opening a new credit card. Soft inquires includes reviews of your credit score (usually on a background check) or pre-approved credit card offers that you get in the mail. These do NOT affect your score.
Current Credit/ New Accounts (10%): Having a mix of accounts is key. This means maybe like 2 credit cards, a car loan and a mortgage rather than just having 5 credit cards.
Opening up multiple accounts is not advised. If you’re looking into a new credit card, you should carefully review all your options before selecting and wait a couple of months before applying for another one. I had a non-rewards card for one year before I opened up a new credit card and this did not negatively impact my score. At least not for long.
Where I check my credit score free:
There are three main Credit Reporting Agencies that calculate your credit scores: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. But they may not provide an exact credit score that you’re looking for which will be a number between 300-800.
There are a couple of banks, however that are now offering a free credit score check to their customers. They even send you emails when there’s a change to your credit report. This has been super helpful for me to keep track of my credit scores and to notice patterns when my credit score is changing.
The best thing is that you do not have to pay to check your credit score, and you can check it at any time. Just keep in mind that your score is typically calculated on a monthly basis, or when lenders let credit bureaus know you have opened a new account which is then shown on your credit report. Here are the credit cards I have that send me emails about changes in my credit score:
Capital One (Creditwise): This was the first credit card I ever got approval from. This is a great card for someone who has never had one before and that is trying to build credit. (I have the platinum one so there aren’t too many rewards).
Through Capital One’s mobile app and on their website that have a section that lays out your credit score, and when it was last updated, and you have the option to see additional details about what’s affecting your credit score. They do a great job of making you really understand your credit score, how your choices impact them, and tips on how to improve your credit score.
On the screen shot to the right you can see the screen when you click on the areas of “What Impacts Your Credit?” You can see that my payments are on time, my oldest credit line is 6 years, and the percentage of credit I’ve used across all of my open lines of credit.
These are all factors that go into your overall score and these are all things you should keep in mind when you’re paying bills, loans and outstanding debts.
When you click on each factor, they also break down what exactly that number/ percentage means, and they dumb it down so you understand exactly why that number is the way it is.
No confusing Jargon it’s great! So you can see here that I have made 100% of my payments on time, and this is an excellent impact on my credit score.
To the right is another screenshot of what it looks like when you click on another fact that impacts your credit score. You can see that I have used 6% of my credit out of all of my open lines. This is ranked as Excellent and has a very high impact on my score. This means that if I am approved for a line of credit of $10,000, I am only using 6% of it, which is $600. I’m telling you guys right now that this is not the most up to date version because I have totally spent more than that. Having less than 10% is very difficult, but if possible it can really boost your credit score! You can also see that they take the time to explain why it’s important, they give you a credit tip, and share how you compare to other people. You can find out more information about getting a credit card with Capital One here:
Chase (Credit Journey Powered by TransUnion): Powered by TransUnion. This is actually my second credit card that I got just a couple of weeks ago and it is my BABY!
I am super excited about this card because it’s the first card that I have that I can actually get rewarded for spending money….. like WHAAAT. Chase even offered me a sign-on bonus of double the cash back on ALL purchases (total of 3% cash back) and even extra cash back if you make a purchase for a retailer through them. (i.e. buying a MacBook from Apple through the Chase link that directs you to Apple gives you an extra 2% cash back for a total of 5% cash back—- which is about $85 back on one purchase if you’re spending $1,700 on a MacBook!!)
Maybe I’m just a saving money geek but this is basically free money that you can be getting right now on stuff you’re going to buy anyways. You can sign up for the cash back credit card that I have here:
Chase’s credit score section on their app isn’t as obvious as Capital One’s, but you just have to scroll down to where you see it say Credit score by Credit Journey to click into the main credit score page.
So this is the home page for the Chase Creditwise page. It’s pretty similar to the Capital One homepage where it shows your overall credit score, and when you scroll down it shows the main factors that affect your credit. What’s really cool about the this is if you scroll to the bottom of the page you’ll see a Credit Score Simulator section where you see in real time how certain actions would affect your credit score.
An example I did was seeing how opening a credit card with a $5,000 balance would affect my score. Here’s what it would look like:
So it would actually increase my credit score by 4 points. I didn’t realize that opening a new card would increase my score, did you?
I think this tool is awesome to play around with when you’re thinking about making a life change like adding a mortgage, getting a personal loan, or even how missing a payment could affect your score.
Before I enrolled for a credit card Credit Karma and Mint were the two places that I visited to keep track of my credit score. But checking your score in my opinion is the easiest through your credit card companies. But in case your credit card doesn’t offer a free credit score, there are other places for you to keep track.
What’s great about Credit Karma is that when you first open up your account you are able to compare your credit score on TransUnion and Equifax. It’s important to keep track of your credit score on various credit reports because it can be different and there may be an error that you have to fix. This has never happened to me thankfully but just something to keep in mind!
Credit Karma is great because it breaks down ALL of your open accounts. Your car payments, student loans, credit cards, etc. So you see every single thing that you’re held accountable for… kind of scary but a great tool for you to take control of your finances.
They also give you recommendations and offers based on your personal credit file, and even share your approval odds. Overall, I think Credit Karma is a great website to use to compare multiple credit reports, and as a starting point if you’re looking into getting a new credit card or loan. Learn more about Credit Karma here.
Want your own Personal Financial Assistant? That’s Mint. I am a huge Mint advocate because it’s been life changing for me to have this account. I have used Mint as a resource for budgeting, and it’s where I decided to go with the two credit cards that I currently have. Mint has helped me establish myself in the credit world, help me monitor my spending and see exactly where my money is going. Just. Freaking. Awesome.
The only thing I would say might scare people away is the fact that it requires you to enter all of your account log ins. So for my car payment I had to link it to my car dealership sign in page. I’m scared in general of identity theft so I was scared that this can happen on Mint.
What made me feel better was the fact that it was the same company that created TurboTax, which is the site I’ve used to file my taxes for the past 2 years and yet another great tool by Intuit. I can say after having a Mint account for 1 year I’ve never had any sketchiness for entering my information. Just wanted to share a concern that I certainly had while debating to open this account.
When you log into your mobile or web account, you will see right away an area to check your credit score. For privacy purposes I will share the web version so you don’t see all my student loans….trust me it’s not pretty.
You can see here that it is the second tab, credit score. When you click on it you can see that it’s pretty similar to the credit card’s screens when checking your credit score. It shows you your overall credit score and the factors that are affecting it.
They also include links within some categories that link you to other areas of your Mint account that show the exact transactions that lead to your score. If you’re looking for a place to not only check your credit score but also to track your finances throughout all of your open accounts I would 100% recommend Mint.
If you haven’t already, check your credit score now!
The sooner you get on top of this, the sooner you will feel like you have control over your finances. Monitoring your credit score is a big deal in the adult world. It can affect whether or not you’re approved for a new car or a new mortgage. Although these may seem like things we don’t want to do now, we will eventually so why not prepare now to have less stress in the future?