Your credit score determines the interest rate that lenders charge you for debt (and whether you can secure a loan at all). That means your credit score affects everything major you buy—your car, your house, and even your education. It makes sense not only to track your credit score but also take the necessary steps to improve it. These apps will help you do both.

Will Checking My Credit Score Impact My Credit Score?

No. Checking your credit score is usually a “soft request” or a “soft pull,” which means it does not affect your credit score. This is different from “hard requests,” that do affect your credit score; those happen when you do things like apply for credit cards or loans. Credit Karma has a great article highlighting the difference between the two types of requests if you’d like to learn more.

And with that, let’s get to the apps.

Credit Karma: Best for Most People

Credit Karma is perhaps the most popular free service for checking your credit score and it’s the one we think is best for most people. Creating an account is quick, and you don’t even need to share your credit card number. The score is updated weekly and fetched with a “soft pull” so that your credit score is not impacted at all.

Credit Karma pulls your credit report from Equifax and TransUnion—both of which use VantageScore 3.0. Your credit report will include a report card, which will list the factors that affect your credit score. You can check your credit score any number of times and changes in your score will tell you if your score is improving or not. Credit Karma lets you check in on the different accounts that make up your credit report so you can always see what’s up on your report.

Credit Karma’s iOS and Android app also alert you about any important changes to your credit score and also let you report disputes if you find any.

Mint: Not Bad, Especially if You’re Already Using Mint

Mint is a well-known personal finance service with helpful apps that let you check your accounts and your current financial status on the go. In 2016, Mint added a feature for checking your credit score and you can access it from the iOS and Android apps.

The Mint Credit Score service is free. It’s available once per quarter and pulls an Equifax three-bureau score (Equifax, TransUnion, Experian). You get your credit score and a summary of your credit report.

Mint also offers a Mint Credit Monitor service for $16.99 a month. It gives you a monthly Equifax score from all three bureaus, a full monthly credit report, identity monitoring, and many more features.

In general, we recommend Credit Karma over Mint’s service. Even though Credit Karma only offers your score and report from two bureaus (Equifax and TransUnion), you get updates much more often. If you specifically need the Experian report or if you’re already using Mint, then Mint’s service might work better for you.



Experian: Limited, but Free and Useful for Experian Scores

You might have noticed that both the apps we’ve discussed so far use the Experian credit rating model. Wouldn’t it be great to get your credit information directly from them? Well, you can. Experian offers a free credit reporting service that’s available on their iOS and Android apps. You can get an updated Experian Credit Report from either app every 30 days.

Should You Pay for Your Credit Score?

Since you can find out your credit score for free on the apps discussed above, you might wonder if it is useful to pay for your credit score.

The vast majority of the time, the answer is no; free credit score apps should be just fine. One big exception to that is if you’re going to apply for a mortgage. Mortgage lenders sometimes use different versions of a FICO score and it’s helpful to know which version the lender is using before applying. A few points difference in a score can affect your interest and even slight changes to interest can make a big impact on long-term loans like mortgages. You can see the difference yourself using the CFPB Mortage Rate Tool. Ordering a FICO score directly from the source can show you multiple versions of your score.

Image Credit: one photo/Shutterstock