Hey, you. Yeah, you.
Do you know your FICO score?
Because you need to.
Your credit doesn’t just affect how much you’ll pay for a car or the interest rate on your mortgage. A bad score can seep into all aspects of your life, wreaking havoc when you least expect it.
Bad credit might cause you to miss out on a great rental property or require you to put down a hefty deposit next time you want to open a new utility line.
Heck, it could even put a damper on your love life if your savvy sweetie doesn’t want to say “I do” to your score.
Now that Discover is offering a free FICO scorecard — even for non-cardholders — you have absolutely no excuse not to know this super important number.
What’s Your FICO Score?
Here’s the thing: You don’t just have one credit score.
“You have hundreds, and they change constantly,” explains NerdWallet staff writer Bev O’Shea.
That’s because multiple credit bureaus track your activity. Each evaluates your history with a slightly different algorithm and might have differing amounts of data in the first place — not every lender will report your actions to every bureau.
So figuring out your credit score — and therefore your credit-worthiness — can be confusing at best. You could see dozens of points’ difference depending on where you get your report.
But luckily, there’s a fairly foolproof solution: knowing your FICO 8 score.
This is the score almost every lender in the U.S. references when deciding how much, if any, credit they’re willing to extend your way.
Although some free credit reports will include this specific score, it’s more common to find derivative scores from lesser-known bureaus.
You could be faithfully tracking your credit report with a free app… and still not have a handle on what your credit history looks like to the majority of lenders.
That’s why Discover is offering everyone — not just Discover customers — the opportunity to get a free FICO scorecard.
“We think that everyone should be informed about their credit so that they can avoid surprises. We want you to check your Credit Scorecard without worry which is why we offer it for free,” reads the site.
Pretty sweet, right? Plus, it doesn’t even ding your score when it checks.
Get Your Free Credit Report
If you’re ready to get informed about your creditworthiness, here’s what to do.
Head over to Discover and enter your personal information. Make sure you have your social security number handy. (Speaking of numbers you should know…)
You’ll be prompted to answer some security questions to verify your identity — multiple-choice questions about streets you’ve lived on, your current employer and the terms of any standing loans you may have.
That’s it — you’ll have instant access to your FICO score, as well as a brief summary of your credit history including important factors like revolving utilization, missed payments and inquiries.
If your score surprises you in a bad way, you can order your free annual report to see exactly what’s up and figure out your next step.
Hopefully, it’s just that your revolving balance is too high — here are 11 ways to pay down those credit cards quickly.
But even if it’s something more catastrophic, take heart. You have the power to fix your credit!
Here’s how I got my score back after I was the victim of identity theft.
This guy found a cool tool to help him raise his score almost 200 points in just six months — and save $1,000 while he’s at it.
And once you have your credit back under control, don’t shred those cards: Just make sure to pay them down in full every month.
What can I say? It pays to be well-informed.
Your Turn: Do you know your FICO score?
Jamie Cattanach is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Her writing has also been featured at Word Riot, DMQ Review, Hinchas de Poesia and elsewhere. Find @JamieCattanach on Twitter to wave hello.