Check your credit report without hurting your credit score

Checking your own credit reports does not always impact your credit scores. Learn how you can check your credit report, the difference between a soft inquiry and a hard inquiry, and how these inquiries may affect your credit score.

How to check your credit report

Under federal law, you have the right to check your credit reports from all three national credit bureaus for free once every 12 months at

How do inquiries impact my credit scores?

Any requests to view your credit reports (or credit scores derived from them) are known as inquiries. These inquiries are categorized as “soft” or “hard”, according to their potential impact on your credit scores.

Soft inquiry

A request for your annual credit report is noted on your credit file as a soft inquiry. A soft inquiry does not affect credit scores.

Aside from self-checks, other examples of soft inquiries include checks performed by lenders with whom you have existing accounts (for account management purposes) and credit checks by lenders for purposes of marketing credit products to you.

Hard inquiry

A hard inquiry, by contrast, is added to your credit file when a lender requests your credit report for purposes of processing a credit application. A hard inquiry can affect your credit scores.

Why do hard inquiries have an impact on credit scores?

The appearance of a hard inquiry on your credit report can be of concern to lenders because it could indicate you’ve taken on new debt that hasn’t yet been added to your credit report. Credit scoring systems acknowledge that uncertainty by deducting a few points from your scores. Scores typically rebound within a few months if you keep up with on-time payments on all your accounts, old and new.

The bottom line

It’s a good idea to review your credit reports regularly to spot and correct inaccuracies and to check for unauthorized activity that could be a sign of credit fraud or identity theft. Doing so can help you protect your credit and promote long-term credit score improvement.

For more information on building and understanding credit, see the following articles