While it may hurt one's pride at first, people looking to improve their score can start by doing the most simple of things.
"Consumers often fear that checking their credit score can hurt it - but it's important to understand the difference between a consumer checking their own score and a lender checking a consumer's score - and the impact of each," said Julie Pukas, TD Bank's head of US cards and merchant solutions.
"A consumer viewing his or her own credit report or score is known as a 'soft inquiry,' which has doesn't impact a credit score," Pukas said. "However, 'hard inquiries,' which is when a lender or creditor checks your credit report when you apply for credit, can lower your credit score - but only slightly."
A high percentage of people who said they regularly checked their credit score during the prior year said checking helped improve their credit behavior, according to a recent survey. In fact, nearly three-fourths of regular checkers - those who checked their credit score seven or more times in a year - said checking their scores had a positive impact on their credit behavior, according to the study by Discover Financial Services.
Not just did behaviors improve, however, so did score. More than three-fourths — 76% — of those who checked their score seven or more times during the previous year said their scores improved "greatly or slightly" through that time. Just slightly less — 72% — who checked their score four to six times throughout the year also saw improved scores.
"It's important for consumers to check their credit score to understand their financial health and be aware of factors that may be hurting their score," Pukas said.
Pukas said, for example, checking your credit score frequently can reveal errors, such as payments incorrectly labeled as late, in data that could be affecting your credit.
"If you catch these errors early on, you can bring them up to your credit bureau and prevent them from negatively affecting your score," she added.
While checking one's score frequently can help improve the number, not checking often may continue many of the same behaviors that led a person to their current score. Only 38% of those who checked their score once in the year said their score improved.
Not surprising, Millennials reported checking their credit score the most. Two out of five Millennials said they checked their score at least four times within the last 12 months, compared to 30% of Gen X-ers, and only 25% of Baby Boomers. More than half said the biggest motivator to check their credit score was to improve or maintain it.
Michelle Black, with credit education and restoration site Hope4USA.com, compared the result of improved scores for those who check their credit to those who weight themselves every morning and as a result experience better weight loss.
Engagement is everything, she said.
"I can say without question that the clients I have worked with through the years who took the initiative to keep a close eye on their credit reports and scores are typically much more successful in both: a) improving their credit, and b) maintaining the good credit they worked so hard to earn," Black said.
Frances Williams, with 123 Credit Resolution Consultants, suggests people should get a credit monitoring service that sends monthly reminders to login and view one's credit report, credit scores and changes to one's credit.
"Checking your credit report and score regularly is a great way to keep sight of your credit goals and stay aware of any new changes on your credit report," she said.