Actually, a consumer viewing his/her own credit report and score DOES NOT affect the score. A creditor pulling your report and score will affect your score.
A consumer can pull a free credit report from each of the bureaus once a year - the website is www.annualcreditreport.com - this does not include a credit score - you can purchase a credit score separately.
When getting a credit card - you can purchase on it, do not go over 30% of your limit (each scoring model is different but the general rule is 30% usage). You can pay it off in full each month and then spend again - there is no need for you to keep a balance. If you do get a secured card from a bank, make sure the bank reports that card to the bureaus, not all banks report.
If you want to monitor your credit reports/scores - each of the bureaus have a credit monitoring service. You can sign up at one of them and get all 3 bureau monitoring, or individually at each bureau.