The American public is inundated with advertisements to help you increase your credit score, get your credit score, or track your credit score over a period of time. Knowing your credit score is very important for specific financial decisions in your life such as qualifying for a home mortgage or buying a car with a loan. But is it worth the added cost to track your score on a monthly, weekly, or daily basis?
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Why Your Credit Score Matters
Before you decide whether or not to track your credit score, you need to understand why your credit score is so important. A credit score is an indication of financial risk to companies that are lending money to you. A low score can eliminate your ability to obtain a home mortgage at a reasonable rate and can drive up your interest rate costs on all types of loans. But your score doesn’t just impact your purchase decisions: it is often used in the qualification process to rent an apartment and can impact your ability to be hired by some companies. A low score can also increase your car insurance costs.
3 Reasons to Track Your Credit Score
While knowing your credit score is important, do you need to know it all of the time? There are several companies that allow you to pay a monthly fee ranging from $10 to $20 to track your score. You can usually log in and see where you are on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Here are a few instances where it makes sense to pay a premium to track your actual credit score over a period of time:
- There is a big loan in your future. If you are planning on buying a home, financing a vehicle, or taking out a home equity loan, you want your credit score to be as high as possible so your interest rate is as low as possible. Tracking your score so you know exactly where you stand when you walk into the bank makes a lot of sense.
- You are aggressively getting out of debt. Part of your credit score comes from your debt utilization (essentially, how much of your available credit you have used). If you are maxed out on all of your loans and credit cards, your credit score will suffer. As you aggressively pay down debt you can track the impact it has on your credit score. This tracking can be used as motivation to continue with your debt payoff plan.
- You are correcting errors on your report. One of the wisest things anyone can do is to check their annual credit reports for free. You can spread them out so you check one report every four months. While doing this, you might discover errors on your report. Those errors can cost you a big hit to your credit score, so tracking your score while you dispute the wrong information can be a smart thing to do. You should notice an increase in your score after the incorrect information is removed from your credit report.
3 Reasons to Not Track Your Credit Score
As shown above, there are certain instances where paying to track your credit score makes sense. However, many people sign up for free credit scores and report only to discover they’ve been enrolled in a credit monitoring program with hefty charges. They figure they might as well try it or they are too lazy to cancel the service. Here are three reasons you shouldn’t track your score.
- Changing your score is a long term process. While removing incorrect information from your report can have an impact on your score, most of the time increasing your score isn’t a short process. You need to reduce your debt, pay on time, or wait for delinquencies or late payments to fall off the report. You could end up paying those monthly score tracking fees for years before seeing a huge jump.
- You have no major life changes coming up. If you don’t plan to buy a home or really use any type of new financing, you have no need to worry about your score to the point of needing to know what it is on a daily basis. Your time is better spent making sure you pay off your debt or earn more income.
- You already have great credit. If you already have great credit (scores more than around 740), then you don’t need to watch your score like a hawk. If for some reason you are declined a loan due to bad information on your report, you can have it removed quickly. The rest of your time should be spent maintaining your great score by paying debts on time and not maxing out your credit lines.
If tracking you score for a while is necessary, do so. Otherwise focus your energy on earning more income, paying down your debts, and avoiding late payments. That $20 monthly fee you pay to track your score could be used to accelerate your debt payoff rather than monitoring the impact of paying down your debt.
Kevin Mulligan is a debt reduction champion with a passion for teaching people how to budget and stay out of debt. He’s building a personal finance freelance writing career and has written for RothIRA.com, Discover Bank, and many others.