Credit

Credit Score vs. Credit Report: Are They Different?

Knowing the difference between your credit score vs. credit report matters as you build your financial health. Learn how they are different and similar.
A woman with a concerned expression looks at her credit report
By Miranda Marquit
Posted on: December 22nd, 2021

You often hear about how important your “credit” is. But what are people referring to when they talk about your credit?

In some cases, it might be your credit score, while in others, it could mean your credit report. So, what’s the difference between these two?

Your credit report is an extensive history of your debt-related transactions, while your credit score is a three-digit representation of the information in your report.

Let’s take a closer look at what goes into a credit score and credit report and how to use them.

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Similarities and Differences Between a Credit Score and Credit Report

Credit Score vs. Credit Report Similarities

  • Provides information about your history with debt.
  • Used by various entities to decide whether you represent a financial risk to them.

Credit Score vs. Credit Report Differences

  • Credit reports offer detailed information, including payment histories and amounts owed.
  • Credit scores are numerical representations, based on the information in the report.

Provides information about your history with debt

Both credit scores and credit reports are designed to provide information about your history with debt. Financial service providers and others can get an idea of how you’ve handled credit transactions in the past by looking at your credit score or credit history.

Your FICO credit score takes the information in your report and sums it up using a three-digit score between 300 and 850. With a FICO score (and other types of credit scores), a financial service provider is supposed to be able to get an idea of how you’ve handled debt in the past, with just a quick glance. Your credit report is more in-depth, offering more context around your credit history, including providing your payment history and balance history.

Used by various financial service providers and others

Both a credit score and a credit report might be used to determine what type of financial risk you present. For example, a lender might look at your credit score to get a quick idea of whether you’re likely to default on your loan. Mortgage lenders use different credit scoring models than auto lenders, and those scores emphasize different factors that can be found in your credit report.

On top of that, some providers look at your credit report to get an idea of your history. For example, a landlord might pull a version of your credit report to see whether you make payments on time before deciding whether to rent to you. Additionally, there are special versions of your credit report that an employer might look at to see if you present a risk of bribery or some other financial security breach.

Credit reports are more detailed

A credit report is much more detailed than a credit score. Your credit report not only includes your payment history, and whether you’re up-to-date on your payments, but can also include month-by-month information. On top of that, your credit report might include additional information, like whether you’ve missed rent payments and if you have accounts in collections. Public information like bankruptcy filings and foreclosures might also be noted in your credit report.

Not all information is used for credit scoring, however. For example, your past workplaces might be listed in a credit report, but your employment status isn’t included in your credit score.

Information about you is reported to credit reporting agencies, which are also sometimes called credit bureaus. The major bureaus, TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian, compile the information that is provided to them. Not every creditor reports to all the bureaus, so you might have different information in each report.

Credit scores are based on your credit report

There are several different credit score models, but the most popular is the FICO score. There are five main factors, which are weighted differently in the basic scoring model:

  • Payment history (35%)
  • Credit utilization (30%)
  • Length of credit history (15%)
  • Credit mix (10%)
  • New credit accounts/inquiries (10%)

However, there are different versions of the FICO score, and some lenders and financial service providers add their own tweaks to credit scoring models to better fit their needs.

No matter the credit score, though, the information in your report is used to create the score. The information is fed into an algorithm, and that algorithm is used to distill it into three digits. There isn’t a lot of nuance in a credit score, but for some lenders and service providers, it provides a starting point.

 

Which One Matters More?

Both your credit score and your credit report matter when it comes to your financial life. However, each might have more emphasis, depending on the situation.

Credit scores matter more when…

Your credit score matters more when you’re getting pre-approved for a loan and shopping around for rates. Some lenders perform a “soft” inquiry to determine if you fall in a specific range. Additionally, your credit score can matter when you’re applying for a loan, especially a credit card, auto loan, or mortgage. Some programs expect you to meet minimum requirements. For example, to qualify for an FHA loan, you must have a score of at least 580, although many mortgage lenders want to see a score of at least 620.

Credit reports matter more when…

You’re working on your financial situation or getting ready to make a major purchase or apply for a loan. Because your credit score is based on your credit report, it makes sense to look through your history before you start looking for a home or when you begin researching a car purchase. Fix errors on your report so that they don’t negatively impact your score. Your report can also be useful in helping you identify areas where you could improve, such as paying down your high debt balances.

 

FAQ: Credit Score vs Credit Report

Are a credit score and credit report the same thing?

No, a credit score is a three-digit representation of the information in your credit report. A credit report is much more detailed and includes information about your loans, balances, and payment history.

Why do I have different credit scores?

Credit scoring models weigh different factors in different ways. Additionally, your scores might vary depending on the credit report it’s based on. For example, a credit score based on information from your Experian credit report might be different from a credit score based on information in your Equifax report. This is because creditors report information differently, or may not report to all of the bureaus.

How can I check the information in my credit report?

You’re entitled to a free report each year from each of the credit bureaus. Access it by going to AnnualCreditReport.com. You’re also entitled to your credit report from an agency when the information is used to make a credit decision. So, if you’ve been turned down by a loan, you are entitled to the credit report that was used to make that decision. Finally, consumer websites like Credit Sesame and Credit Karma can show you information from specific credit reports and give you an idea of how that information is impacting your credit score and your finances.