If you don’t know your credit score, you have a few options for figuring it out: You can purchase one, get an account with a company that provides them for free or use a credit score calculator.
All these options can help you get an idea of your credit standing and allow you to set goals to improve it, if necessary. It’s up to you how you go about getting your score.
But keep this in mind: As helpful as a credit score calculator is, it’s a limited tool. It’s only as good as your knowledge of your credit history.
How Score Calculators Work
Credit scoring models generally focus on a few aspects of your credit history, with payment history and debt levels among the most important. As a result, score calculators ask you about those things. When using a score calculator, you’ll probably have to enter the number of credit cards and loans you have, how often you’ve paid those bills late and whether or not you have seriously negative credit events in your past (like bankruptcy, liens and judgments).
Once you’ve answered the questions, the calculator spits out a score or range you’ll likely fall in, based on the information you entered in the calculator.
People like calculators because they often don’t require setting up an account or entering a Social Security number, which you need to do to get an exact credit score.
But here’s the thing with calculators: If you enter something incorrectly, your answer will also be incorrect. Even if you use the calculator to the best of your knowledge, you could be missing something. People often don’t know about a negative part of their credit history until they get rejected for a credit application, look at their credit reports or see it reflected in their credit scores (all of those things require a Social Security number, by the way).
Credit Score Options
A credit score calculator also isn’t going to alert you to possible fraud (obviously, if you don’t know about a fraudulent account opened in your name, you’re not going to account for it when using the calculator). If you check your credit score regularly, which you can do for free with Credit.com, you’ll notice a sudden score drop, which may indicate identity theft.
Because the numbers produced by credit score calculators aren’t based on hard data, you may not know what to do if you want to improve your score. Scores you get with a Credit.com account come with an explanation of areas for improvement.
This isn’t to say credit score calculators aren’t great tools — they’re certainly better than being clueless about your score — but if you want to make a plan for boosting your credit standing, it’s best to go with firm numbers. Keep in mind there are hundreds of scoring models, so you’ll want to make sure you’re focusing on the behaviors that determine the numbers, rather than the digits themselves.
More on Credit Scores:
Image: GYRO PHOTOGRAPHY