Credit Reports vs. Credit Scores: What’s the Difference?

Credit Report vs Credit Score


As a consumer and a television viewer, you hear the terms “credit report” and “credit score” all the time. Contrary to popular belief, though, these terms are not synonymous. Credit reports and credit scores have different formats, different uses and different availability, and as a consumer it’s important to be familiar with each and every one of those differences. Below are basic definitions and uses for each term.

What Is A Credit Report?

A credit report is a compilation of information about your credit history and the current status of your credit accounts. This information comes from lenders, utility companies and landlords, and can include a wealth of information from your name and social security number to the types of credit you use, balances on your cards, whether you pay your bills on time, whether your bills have been passed to a collection agency and whether you have filed for bankruptcy.

All of this information is collected by the big three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Consumers can and should get one free copy of their credit report per year by visiting It’s important to keep an eye on this report in order to find and correct any possible errors.

A variety of companies use credit reports to gather insight on an individual’s credit history. Lenders often use credit reports to see whether consumers have paid their debts in the past. Many employers check credit reports to see whether job candidates have a clean credit history. Finally, landlords can use credit reports to find out if potential tenants have paid their bills on time in the past.

What Is a Credit Score?

A credit score is a numerical value that is based on the information found within your credit report. Your credit score is calculated using complex and proprietary algorithms from various companies. The FICO Score is calculated by the Fair Isaac Corporation and has become one of the more commonly used credit scores. While the weight of each credit score component varies from person to person, in general FICO uses this breakdown:

  • 35% payment history
  • 30% amounts owed
  • 15% length of credit history
  • 10% new credit
  • 10% types of credit used

The Fair Isaac Corporation provides specific definitions for each credit score component.

  • Payment history looks at whether you’ve paid past credit accounts on time.
  • Amounts owed looks at how much money you currently owe.
  • Length of credit history looks at how long your accounts have existed.
  • New credit looks at how many credit accounts you have opened in a short period of time.
  • Types of credit looks at the combination of credit types you use, including credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans and mortgages.

While consumers are entitled to one free copy of their credit report per year, credit scores are not quite as accessible. When you get your free credit report there is an option to see your credit score, but typically you’ll have to pay to access this information.