What Is the Difference Between a Credit Score and a Credit Report?

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  • Credit scores and credit reports are both tools used by lenders to measure your credit risk, or the likelihood you'll pay your bills on time.
  • Your credit report offers potential lenders and creditors a summary of your credit history.
  • Your credit score is a three-digit number, typically between 300 and 850, that represents your overall credit risk at a glance.

When you apply for a loan or credit card, potential lenders review your credit report and credit score as part of their approval process. Lenders may also use your credit report and credit score to set the interest rate and other terms on any credit they offer.

Your credit score and credit report are both tools used by lenders to measure your credit risk, or the likelihood you'll pay your bills on time. However, they aren't the same thing. So, what's the difference?

What's the difference between a credit report and a credit score?

Your credit report is a summary of your credit history, including the type of credit accounts you've had in the past and your payment history. It's important to know that you have more than one credit report. Each of the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) might include different reported information such as your current credit limits and account balances, as well as information on certain public records like a bankruptcy.

On the other hand, your credit score is a three-digit number, typically between 300 and 850, that represents your overall credit risk at a glance. Higher credit scores generally suggest to lenders that you have a history of using credit responsibly. Lower credit scores may suggest that you need to improve your financial habits before taking on a new credit account.

Your credit scores are calculated using scoring models that consider the information in your credit report. Your payment history, the amount of debt you owe and the length of your credit history are all factors that contribute to your credit score.

Why should I check my credit report?

Potential lenders and creditors use your credit report as a factor when they make lending decisions. So, it's important to understand what a lender might see when they check your credit. That way, you can make informed decisions about financial milestones like applying for a new credit card, taking out a loan or buying a home.

Checking your credit report regularly can also help you ensure that the information included is accurate and complete. When reviewing your credit report, be sure that your lenders and creditors have accurately reported your payment history. Also, keep an eye out for any credit accounts you don't recognize. Unfamiliar accounts could be a sign of identity theft.

Checking your credit report does not negatively impact your credit scores.

How can I get a free credit report?

You can receive free Equifax credit reports with a myEquifax account. Sign up and look for "Equifax Credit Report" on your myEquifax dashboard. You can also get free credit reports from the three nationwide credit reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com.

You may be eligible for additional free credit reports under certain circumstances, including if:

  • You're unemployed and intend to apply for employment within 60 days
  • You're receiving public welfare assistance
  • You believe your credit report contains inaccurate information due to fraud
  • You've been denied credit or insurance within the past 60 days
  • You've placed a fraud alert on your credit report

How can I check my credit scores?

It's a common misconception that if you check your credit report, you'll find out your credit score as well. However, this isn't generally the case. Credit reports from the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies don't usually contain credit scores.

Instead, you can check your credit score in one of the following ways:

  • Purchase scores directly from Equifax or other providers such as FICO.
  • Check your credit card, financial institution or loan statements, as banks and credit card companies sometimes provide credit scores for their customers.
  • Use a credit score service or an online credit scoring site. Some sites provide free credit scores to users. If you use a credit monitoring service, you may also receive a score through your provider.
  • Get a monthly free VantageScore 3.0 credit score as part of Equifax Core Credit™ (no credit card required). A VantageScore is one of many types of credit scores.

Keep in mind that you actually have multiple credit scores and they may vary depending on the source. These differences occur because there are many scoring models that providers use to evaluate your credit history and calculate credit scores. Lenders and creditors also may not report information to all three nationwide consumer reporting agencies. Some report information to only one or two, or even none at all.

It's a good idea to regularly check both your credit score and your credit report so that you can identify any issues and feel confident in your credit health.

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