Q. Will checking my credit report hurt my score?

A. Many people believe pulling their credit report for the purpose of checking it themselves can inadvertently cause their score to drop, since credit inquiries account for a small part of credit scores, but they are mistaken in almost every case.

“There are many different types of inquiries,” John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education for SmartCredit.com, says. He explains that typically, though, these fall into two different categories: hard inquiries, which are generated whenever a lender pulls your credit to see if you are likely to pay back a loan, or soft inquiries, which occur whenever your credit is pulled but no debt is likely to be incurred because of it. (For instance, when an employer does a background check or a bank pulls your score after you apply to open a basic checking account.)

“The model is built to differentiate between the two,” Barry Paperno, manager of consumer operations for MyFICO.com, confirms, explaining that only hard inquiries impact your overall score.

And, since pulling your own credit report – termed a consumer disclosure inquiry – is considered a soft inquiry it’s not going to impact your score as long as you go through the normal channels to get it.

“The only time you can run into trouble is if you have your buddy who works at a car dealership or for a mortgage lender pull your credit report for you,” Ulzheimer says, explaining that some consumers do this to avoid having to pay to find out their score. “Then the system is going to think you’re trying to get a loan.”

As such, stick to paying a credit bureau or credit counseling agency when you need to see your score. Or visit annualcreditreport.com to find out more information on how you get the one free credit report you are entitled to every year from each of the three major credit rating agencies.

Want to know what affects your credit score? Email your questions to editors@mainstreet.com.

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