What Is My Credit Score?

Man Holding Credit Cards

What is my credit score? This is an important question everyone should know the answer to.

What Is My Credit Score?

Having a good credit score is one of the keys to financial success; a good score can make it possible for you to qualify for credit cards and attractive interest rates for mortgages or car loans.

Your credit score is the three digit number that lenders use as a shortcut to determine if you are credit worthy. Just as students get grades from 1-100 on a test, individuals receive a 3 digit numerical score that evaluates their credit worthiness and tells lenders whether they are good with credit or bad with credit. Lenders use that number to decide whether to grant a loan and, if so, how much to charge for it, based on how risky that credit score makes them believe you are.

Credit Score Range

Your credit score ranges from 300 to 850, although in reality there are few people with a score at the very high end of the scale or the very low end of the scale. There is some dispute as to exactly what constitute a good credit score or a bad one, and although most lenders use a FICO score, there are several scoring systems which are used. Generally, the following scale is accepted:

  • Anything above 700 is a good-to-excellent score
  • Anything between 650 and 700 is a fair-to-good score
  • Anything between 620 and 650 is a fair credit score
  • Scores between 580 and 620 are considered poor
  • Anything below 580 will make it difficult to get credit and you will be relegated to sub prime lenders.

Finding Out Your Credit Score

If you are wondering, what is my credit score exactly, you will need to obtain that score from the credit bureaus. Unfortunately, while you can obtain your credit report free once a year from each of the major credit bureaus, you generally cannot obtain your official credit score for free. Instead, you will have to purchase the rights to your score for a price ranging anywhere from $4.99 to $12.99 depending on the company. It is usually cheaper to order the score directly from the company after you obtain your free credit report, as they offer a special rate at that time.

You may be able to obtain your credit score for free from the official credit bureaus- Equifax, Experian or TransUnion- in one of several ways:

  • If you apply for a loan, your lender may be willing to share your credit score with you. Note that some lenders are under contract with the credit reporting agencies to not share this information with applicants.
  • If you are denied credit, you may have a right to request both your report and score.
  • You can join a credit score or identity monitoring program's free trial but remember to cancel before the service starts charging so you don't end up paying for the service monthly.

Unofficial Scores

There are two other ways in which you can find out what is my credit score for free, although the data may not accurately reflect your exact score. Still, these sites can offer a good estimation of your score and can be used as a rough guide to track the fluctuations of your score as you work to raise your credit or as you make changes that affect your score.

The sites were you can obtain your score for free are:

  • Quizzle: This site allows you to pull your report, with a score, once every six months
  • Credit Karma: This is an ad-supported website that allows you to check your credit score for free. You won't get a lot of detail, nor will you get your report, but you will be able to track your score over time, as well as compare your score with other Credit Karma members and with national averages.

Tracking Your Score

If you are getting ready to make a major purchase, such as a house, it can be a good idea to pay the fee and check your credit score before you apply.

Likewise, if you are in the process of improving your credit, it can also be worthwhile to subscribe to a credit score monitoring service so you can track your progress and see how you are doing. If you are or have been the victim of identity theft, tracking your score can also be a helpful way of keeping tabs on what is going on.

However, if you aren't planning a major purchase and have no reason to suspect your score will be subject to large fluctuations, pulling your credit reports for free periodically (try to get them once every four months, since you are entitled to three free reports a year) and using the free services is usually sufficient to keep watch on your score and make sure nothing is going wrong.

What Is My Credit Score?