Written by Spotloan

How to track your FICO® credit score

Do you know your current FICO score?

If so, good job. If not, don’t worry: Tracking your credit score using websites and apps is easier than ever. Here’s what you need to know about FICO scores. Plus, find out how to track your score—for free.

A quick intro to FICO scores

The publicly traded company behind FICO scores, itself called FICO, was founded in 1956 and is based in San Jose, Calif. The FICO name evolved from the company’s original name, Fair, Issac and Company. FICO scores were introduced in 1989.

Many U.S. banks and credit lenders use FICO scores and credit reports to decide if a consumer is a ‘good’ credit risk or not. The scores are based on the credit files of the three national credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Your FICO score can vary somewhat from one credit bureau to another.

Exactly how the scores are calculated is a bit mysterious. But FICO has said that its scores are based on the following criteria:

* Payment history—which accounts for 35 percent of a FICO score;

* Amount of current debt—30 percent;

* The length of your credit history—15 percent;

* New credit and credit inquiries—10 percent;

* Types of credit used, such as mortgages, consumer finance, revolving credit—10 percent.

Can applying for credit lower your credit score?

As mentioned above, 10 percent of your FICO score can be affected by new credit inquiries. There are two types of inquiries: a soft pull and a hard pull.

* A soft pull doesn’t affect your credit score. Whenever you check your own score online (more on that later), it’s considered a soft inquiry. A credit card issuer might do a soft pull on you to determine if you’d quality for one of its cards before mailing an offer.

When you apply for a Spotloan, we do a soft inquiry, so it won’t lower your credit score. Also, Spotloan reports back to credit reporting agencies on your loan payment performance. (Remember that 35 percent of your FICO score is based on your payment history.) So, if you don’t pay your loan back according to your loan terms, it could negatively affect your credit score. On the other hand, timely payment of your loan might help your score. For more, see our FAQs page.

* When you apply for a mortgage, car loan, credit card, business loan, or other major credit line, the lender typically does a hard pull. That inquiry becomes part of your credit report and can reduce your FICO score by about five points—which is why you want to be careful applying for new credit cards, especially more than one at a time. For further explanation, read NerdWallet’s recent blog post.

What FICO scores mean

Though there are several types of FICO scores, the ‘classic’ score is the one to watch. The score’s range is 300 to 850 and breaks down like this:

* 300 to 579 is considered a poor score;

* 580 to 669—average;

* 670 to 739—good;

* 740 to 799—very good;

* 800 to 850—exceptional.

How to track your FICO credit score

Every consumer is entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus once a year. The three bureaus collaboratively run a website, AnnualCreditReport.com, where you can get your free report.

Ideally, you should monitor your score more than once a year. Many banks and credit card lenders now let you see your most recent FICO score online, updated monthly, at no charge. For example, Wells Fargo personal banking customers can see their scores as supplied by Experian, while Bank of America customers can view their FICO scores from TransUnion.

Finding the link to view your FICO score can be easy, depending upon the website. Once you’ve signed into your Wells Fargo account, from the Account Summary page, you should see ‘View your FICO Credit Score’ on the right-hand side of the screen, under ‘Planning & Tools.’ But if you logged into your Bank of America online banking account, you’d have to click the ‘Tools & Investing’ tab, then select ‘View Your FICO Score.’

If all else fails, do a Google search along the lines of how to find FICO score wells fargo, substituting Wells Fargo with the name of your bank, credit union, credit card lender, or other financial institution.

Other tools for tracking your credit score

Discover Bank’s Free Credit Scorecard offers free FICO scores (from Experian) to anyone—you don’t have to be a Discover customer.

FICO itself offers various tools—for pay—that let you proactively monitor your score. For $15/month or $150/year, FICO Score Watch tracks your score based on Equifax’s data and provides text-message alerts when your score changes. If you want updates and reports based on data from all three bureaus, you’d need the FICO Ultimate 3B plan. At $30/month, it’s expensive, but you cancel it anytime.

Other tools, such as Credit Karma and Credit Sesame, offer free credit scores and monitoring for consumers, in hopes of getting you to sign up through them for credit cards from their lender partners. Both companies base their scores on the VantageScore scoring model.

For more information, read “Are Credit Karma Scores Real and Accurate?” and “Credit Sesame Addresses the Confusion: What Credit Score We Use.”

Resources for improving your credit score

Tracking your score with any of the above services won’t hurt your credit score. To learn more about what can lower—or raise—your score, check out the following:

“The 5 Biggest Factors That Affect Your Credit” (Investopedia, September 2017)

“11 Credit Myths: Don’t Fall for ‘Em” (Experian, undated)

“15 Things That Hurt Your Credit Score” (The Balance, September 2017)

“How to repair my credit and improve my FICO Scores” (MyFICO, undated)