Credit score vs. credit report: What’s the difference?

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably heard the terms “credit score” and “credit report.” You might’ve also noticed how often they go together. That’s because lenders might use both to make decisions about a person’s creditworthiness. 

But what’s the purpose of each? How are they different? And how can you check them regularly to help keep your credit in good shape? Read on to learn more.

Key takeaways

  • A credit score is a 3-digit number that offers a snapshot of someone’s credit situation.
  • A credit report provides a more detailed view of a person’s credit history and activity.
  • Credit bureaus like Experian®, Equifax® and TransUnion® compile credit reports based on a person’s credit history. 
  • Credit-scoring companies like FICO® and VantageScore® use credit reports to calculate credit scores.
  • Credit scores and reports—people typically have more than one of each—are used by banks and other creditors to make lending decisions. 

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What’s a credit report?

A credit report is a statement that provides a record of a person’s credit history and activity. 

Credit reports are compiled by credit bureaus, which are also known as credit reporting agencies. The three major bureaus are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. 

Credit bureaus create credit reports with information that’s provided to them by creditors like lenders and credit card companies. The reports can contain a range of information—everything from personal details like names and Social Security numbers to specifics about foreclosures and bankruptcies.

Credit reports also typically include credit-related details such as:

  • Credit accounts, such as mortgages and credit cards 
  • Names of creditors
  • Account opening and closing dates
  • Account balances and credit limits
  • Payment history, including late payments

There are lots of reasons for working toward good credit by doing things like paying your bills on time. For example, banks and credit card companies may check credit reports before extending credit. Service providers like utilities and insurance companies may check your credit before doing business with you. Some companies may even check a person’s credit before offering them a job.

What’s a credit score?

A credit score is a 3-digit number that typically falls between 300 and 850. It provides a snapshot of an individual’s credit situation. 

People have multiple scores—including those from FICO and VantageScore—that lenders may use to make decisions about creditworthiness.

Credit scores are based on a person’s credit history—among other factors. Credit-scoring companies then use information from credit reports to produce credit scores. They calculate the scores using a mathematical formula known as a credit-scoring model. 

Credit scores can be affected by a variety of factors. They include a person’s payment history, debt and number of recent applications for credit.

A graphic showing an image related to a credit score and another image related to a credit report, highlighting the difference between the two.

Differences between credit scores and credit reports

Credit scores and credit reports have distinct purposes. And they have differences. Compare them in this recap:

  Credit scores Credit reports
What's their purpose? To represent a person’s overall credit risk at a glance To offer a more detailed view of a person’s credit history
Who creates them? Credit-scoring companies like FICO and VantageScore Credit bureaus like Equifax, Experian and TransUnion
How are they produced? Calculated using a mathematical formula known as a credit-scoring model Compiled using a person’s credit history available at each bureau


Credit score vs. credit report FAQ

Take a look at these frequently asked questions about credit scores and credit reports: 

Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are the three major credit bureaus. Each credit bureau is required to follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum accuracy of information they collect and report, and no credit bureau is “better” than any other. 

Still, your credit scores from the three will typically be different. That’s because they’re separate companies—and the businesses that provide them with information may not furnish to all 3 of them. Essentially that means Equifax, Experian and TransUnion may compile reports for one person based on different data.

VantageScore and FICO are two well-known companies that calculate credit scores. 

Scores from VantageScore and FICO vary. That’s because the two companies use different credit-scoring models to calculate scores. And each credit-scoring company has several different versions of their credit-scoring models too.

Their models generally weigh the importance of certain information in a person’s credit report differently—like payment history and the total amount of a person’s available credit that they’re using at the time the score is calculated. 

There are a number of ways to get free copies of your credit reports:

  • Visit or call (877) 322-8228.
  • Sign up for a free service like CreditWise from Capital One. You can use CreditWise to access your TransUnion credit report anytime without impacting your score. CreditWise is free and available to everyone.

But what about checking your credit scores? It may be a surprise to learn that credit scores generally aren’t included in credit reports. But with CreditWise, you can check your VantageScore 3.0 credit score anytime for free. 

Other sources for credit scores may include banks, credit card companies, the major credit reporting companies, third-party companies and credit counselors. While some may provide reports for free, others may charge for them. 

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) advises being diligent about dealing only with reputable companies. That could help you avoid unexpected fees and other complications.

You’ve read about how to check your credit reports. The next question is, how often?

The CFPB says it’s a good idea for consumers to check their reports at least once a year. That could help you find errors that can be corrected as well as evidence of possible identity theft.

It can help to check your report in other situations too, like when you’re applying for:

  • A mortgage
  • A loan or credit card
  • A job
  • A lease

Credit score vs. credit report in a nutshell

You have multiple credit scores and credit reports. They have different purposes but both can play an important role in whether you’re approved for credit cards and other loans. 

For that reason, it can be helpful to maintain good credit. Learning about how creditors evaluate you is another place to explore. 

So is signing up for a free service like CreditWise and monitoring your credit regularly. CreditWise gives you free access to your TransUnion credit report and your VantageScore® 3.0 credit score.

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