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What Is Credit History?

Last Updated: September 12, 2023
4 min read

Key points about: The definition of credit history

  1. Your credit history is a summary of your experience managing credit accounts and debts.

  2. Credit history is important because it’s used by credit card companies, mortgage lenders, landlords, and employers to determine your creditworthiness and risk.

  3. Your credit score is a number based on your credit history, but the two aren’t the same thing.

If you’re applying for an additional credit card, seeking additional funds with a loan, or other ways to expand your credit, you may need to review your credit score to assess whether you’ll be approved. Or you may be applying for a credit card for the first time and want to know how important your credit history is for your financial future.

If you’re curious about credit history and credit scores, review this guide to help you better understand these important financial terms.

Definition of credit score and credit history

What is a credit history, and what is a credit score? These two important concepts can impact a person’s finances but can be difficult to understand.

Here, we’ll break down what you need to know about credit history and credit scores, and why they’re important.

Credit history

Your credit history is the information recorded about your experience managing credit accounts and debts. Someone with a good credit history might be eligible for favorable loan terms and flexible account types. Meanwhile, someone with a poor credit history might be subject to higher interest rates.

Your credit history is displayed on your credit reports as a list of various financial accounts that are in your name and their status, information about the companies that lent you money, activity on those loans, and more. Your creditors (banks, lenders, utility companies, etc.) report this information to credit bureaus. There are three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Your credit history may be different at each credit reporting agency because some creditors may not submit information to all three.

Your credit history includes:

  • The number and types of credit accounts you have open, such as credit cards, mortgages, student loans, and car loans
  • How long your credit accounts have been open
  • Your credit utilization ratio, which is calculated by dividing your outstanding balances by your total credit limit
  • Whether or not you’ve made on-time payments
  • The number of recent hard credit inquiries
  • Any bankruptcies and collections

Credit score

Not to be confused with a credit history, a credit score is a three-digit number that reflects a consumer’s creditworthiness. Your credit score is calculated based on your credit history, and it can vary depending on which credit bureau you get your credit score from. This is because credit bureaus may use different credit scoring models and as noted above, may have different information they're using to calculate your score. Some credit scoring models are more widely used than others. For instance, 90% of top lenders use FICO® Credit Scores.1

Why your credit history is important

Credit history is important because credit card companies, mortgage lenders, and landlords use this information to assess your creditworthiness. Basically, they want to understand how you’ve managed your financial commitments in the past to determine whether you’re someone they could trust with a loan of money or property.

These businesses may pull your credit history and credit score to determine the risk of working with you and decide which products and terms you’re eligible for.

Good credit score and history

Lenders may review the specifics of your credit history to see what kinds of accounts you’ve had in the past and how long you’ve had them, in addition to looking at your credit score. A good credit score can help you get approved for lower interest rates and more credit options. A high credit score (which is based on your credit history) tells lenders that you make on-time payments, responsibly maintain your accounts, and keep your credit utilization ratio low. According to FICO, most lenders consider a “good” FICO® Score to be 670 or higher.

Poor credit score and history

On the other hand, a low credit score and poor payment history show lenders that it may be risky to work with you because it suggests that you might have difficulty making payments on time and managing debts. As a result of this increased risk, poor credit history may lead a lender to offer a higher interest rate and a lower credit limit.

Did you know?

If you’ve had trouble managing your finances in the past and have accumulated a poor credit history, it can be hard to get new forms of credit. But it’s not impossible. You can build or rebuild a credit history with a secured credit card. Build your credit history with the Discover It® Secured Credit Card 2 and stay on top of your credit score.

No Credit History

In addition to having a poor credit history, having no credit history can make it challenging to qualify for new credit. You may not have a credit history if you have never had a credit account or borrowed money in your own name, among other things. Lenders who can’t review your credit history are less likely to lend you money.

If you don’t have a credit history, it’s a good idea to open your first account to start building one. While it may be difficult to be approved for certain leases and loans, there are ways to get a credit card with no credit history.

As mentioned before, a secured card can help you start a credit history. If you’re enrolled in college, a you can also build your credit history with the Discover student credit card2. Using your card responsibly by making on-time monthly payments and keeping your balance low can contribute to a strong credit history.

How to check credit history

Your credit history contains a wealth of important information about your financial standing. It’s a good idea to check your credit history regularly to track your progress and meet your financial goals. Through December 2023, you can access your free credit report from each credit bureau once a week. You can request your credit report and credit history for free at

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  1. FICO® Credit Score Terms: FICO is a registered trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation in the United States and other countries.

    Discover Financial Services and Fair Isaac are not credit repair organizations as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. Discover Financial Services and Fair Isaac do not provide “credit repair” services or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history or credit rating.


  2. Build Credit History (Student Card): Discover reports your credit history to the three major credit bureaus so it can help build your credit if used responsibly. Late payments, delinquencies or other derogatory activity with your credit card accounts and loans may adversely impact your ability to build credit.
  • Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.