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Credit Score vs. Credit Report

Published June 19, 2023
5 min read

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Key points about: credit score vs. credit report

  1. Your credit report is a summary of your credit history, and your credit score is a three-digit number derived from the information on your credit report.

  2. Financial institutions use your credit score to help determine whether they’ll lend you money, and what terms they’ll offer you.

  3. Consider checking your credit report regularly to ensure there are no discrepancies.

You may hear the terms “credit score” and “credit report” uttered within the same sentence. While they are closely related, there are key differences between the two. A credit score is a three-digit number representing how well you manage your credit and how likely you are to repay your bills on time. A credit report is a summary of your credit history. Lenders use your credit score and credit report to help determine if they want to lend you money and at what interest rate. 

What is a credit score?

A credit score is a three-digit number derived from the information in your credit report. Lenders use this number to predict your credit behavior.

Did you know?

Credit scores range from 300 to 850, with higher scores indicating that you’re a lower risk to creditors. Credit scoring companies such as FICO and VantageScore® use mathematical models to calculate your credit score based on the information found in your credit report. 90% of top lenders use FICO® Credit Scores, including Discover. Get your FICO® Credit Score, plus see important details that help make up your score for free1. The factors that affect your score can vary slightly between credit scoring companies and credit bureaus, which is why you may have more than one credit score.

Check Your Credit Score

Typically, your credit score is calculated based on a combination of the following factors:  

  • Payment history. Do you pay your bills on time? Payment history is the most important factor in determining your credit score. 
  • Credit utilization. How much of your available credit are you using? Experts recommend using as little as possible of your available credit. 
  • Credit history. How long have you had credit accounts open? As a rule of thumb, the longer your credit history, the better. 
  • Mix of credit. What types of credit do you use? Lenders like to see a mix of different types of credit, such as credit cards and a mortgage. 
  • New credit. How often are you applying for new credit? Too many inquiries in a short amount of time can appear as a concern to lenders. 

Why is your credit score important?

Your credit score is a snapshot of your creditworthiness at a moment in time. Lenders use it to decide if they want to extend you credit, such as a loan, credit card, or even an apartment lease. Your credit score also helps to determine the interest rates and terms you will receive. 

Your credit score matters because it determines how much it will cost you to borrow money and can increase or decrease the chances of a company agreeing to lend you money. 

How do you check your credit score?

While you might assume that your credit score is on your credit report, this isn’t always the case. Credit reports from the three main credit bureaus don’t always list your score. Luckily, there are several ways to check your credit score. Many credit card companies provide your score on your monthly statement. As a Discover cardmember, you can get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score and more.1 Or you can purchase your credit score from any of the credit bureaus by calling them or visiting them online. 

What is a credit report?

Your credit report is a summary of your credit history and includes:

  • Personal information. Your name, address, birth date, and Social Security number.
  • Credit information. How many credit accounts you have open, available credit limit, account balances, payment history, the date you opened the accounts, and the name of each creditor. 
  • Credit inquiries. A listing of any companies that have recently requested a view your credit.
  • Public record information. If you’ve ever filed for bankruptcy or had a foreclosure.

Three credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) are responsible for creating credit reports. They collect information from financial institutions, collection agencies, and public records, compile it into a report, and then sell it to banks and other lenders who use it to decide if they want to lend you money and at what rate. Other businesses might use this information to decide if they want to rent you a house or provide you with a cell phone. Some employers might review your credit report before deciding if they want to offer you a job. 

If you review your credit report from each credit bureau, you may find differences between them. This is because the information on your credit reports comes from financial institutions and collection agencies that may not report to all three credit bureaus. Reviewing your credit report from all three bureaus allows you to see if there are any differences. 

Why is your credit report important?

Lenders, prospective employers, landlords, and government agencies may request your credit report to measure your level of credit risk. Your credit report contains useful information that helps to predict how likely you are to pay your bills on time. The information on your credit report is also used to calculate your credit score. 

Your credit report is an important document because it can greatly impact your financial future. It helps to determine whether you can purchase a home, buy a car, rent an apartment, or land a new job. 

How do you access your credit report?

You can request a free copy of all three of your credit reports (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) annually from annualcreditreport.com. This is the only website authorized to provide a free credit report annually that you are entitled to by law. After receiving your free copies, you can still request additional credit reports but for a fee. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a credit reporting company can’t charge more than $14.50 for a credit report. 

When you request a copy of your own credit report, this is known as a soft credit inquiry and will not impact your credit score. When a company or lender requests to see your credit report as part of an application for new credit, this is considered a hard credit inquiry and can impact your credit score.   

How does a credit score differ from a credit report?

Lenders use your credit scores and reports to measure your credit risk. There are differences between your credit report and credit score based on how they are derived and used.

Your credit scores are calculated by credit scoring models from companies like FICO and VantageScore using your credit report, while your credit report is generated by one of the three main credit bureaus using information from different creditors, banks, collection agencies, and public records. Lenders and companies use your credit score as a snapshot of your risk as a borrower. The lower your score, the more hesitant a lender may be to extend credit to you. Your credit report is a more detailed summary of your creditworthiness. 

Check Your Credit Score and Credit Reports

To get a clear picture of your overall credit health, check both your credit score and credit reports regularly. This will also help to confirm that there aren’t any discrepancies between the two so you can set yourself up for financial success.

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