Credit Score vs. Credit Report: What’s the Difference?

Photo illustration to accompany article on the difference between credit score and credit report Grant Crowder and Getty Images
We want to help you make more informed decisions. Some links on this page — clearly marked — may take you to a partner website and may result in us earning a referral commission. For more information, see How We Make Money.

You’ve almost certainly heard the terms “credit score” and “credit report” used when applying for credit cards, car loans, mortgages, or rental properties. But have you ever wondered what the difference is?  

Basically, one is a report of your financial history, and the other is a numerical score based on that report. 

Both metrics are used by lenders, brokers, utility providers, and even employers and landlords to judge your creditworthiness. And because your credit score is calculated using the information on your credit report, it’s important to monitor your credit report regularly. 

The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) reports one out of five people find an error on their credit report. These errors affect your credit score and ability to qualify for loans, rentals, credit cards, and more. 

What is a Credit Report?

Your credit report is an extensive summary of the credit history you’ve accumulated over your lifetime. The three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — gather this information and outline it in a report. 

Think of your credit report as a school exam; it’s a report on your financial behaviors. Your credit score is the grade for the exam.    

How to Access Your Credit Report

To access your credit report, all you need to do is visit AnnualCreditReport.com. Be prepared to provide personal information and verify your identity with the bureau.

In response to the pandemic, credit bureaus are offering weekly access to your credit reports through April 2022 (previously you were only entitled to one report from each bureau per year). You can also submit a request by phone or mail.

What is a Credit Score?

Your credit score is a single three-digit number lenders can use to assess your overall creditworthiness quickly. This score is based on the information found in your credit report. FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) will then use the report to calculate a score. 

A common misconception, according to Rod Griffin, senior director of consumer education and advocacy at Experian, is you’ll get to see your credit score when you ask the credit bureaus for a copy of your report. To access your credit score, you’ll need to check your credit card statement, online bank account, or purchase it from one of the credit bureaus. 

Pro Tip

Your credit score is a three-digit number based on the financial history recorded in your credit report. To protect your credit score, monitor your credit report to make sure it’s up-to-date and accurate.

Most Important Factors That Determine Your Credit Score

There are five main categories that FICO uses to determine your credit score, and they’re all weighted differently. Here’s what goes into determining your FICO credit score

  • Payment history (35%)
  • Balances owed (30%)
  • Length of credit history (15%)
  • Credit mix (10%)
  • Recent credit activity and new accounts (10%)

How to Access Your Credit Score

There are three different credit bureaus —  Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax —  and they all calculate your credit score differently. This means that you actually have more than one credit score, and different lenders may check different versions of your score when you apply for a new loan or credit card. You can check your credit score a few different ways: 

  • Check with your bank or credit card issuer. Log into your online bank or credit card account to locate your score. If you can’t access it, try checking your monthly statement for more information or calling a representative.
  • Use a credit score service. These may be free services or require monthly payments, so read the terms carefully before you sign up. 
  • Buy a score directly from a credit reporting agency, either Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian.

Credit Score vs. Credit Report: Key Differences

Your credit report and your credit score are based on similar information, but by no means are they the same. Here is a breakdown of the key differences.

Credit ReportCredit Score
A lengthy text-based report including detailed information on: 
Personal I nformation 
Employment information
Public records
Accounts in collection
Payment history
Balances owed
Credit account age
New credit accounts 
Mix of credit types
A single number assessing your overall creditworthiness based on the information in your credit report 
Created from data compiled by the three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnionCreated using a scoring algorithm, usually by FICO® or VantageScore
A stand-alone assessment existing separately from credit scoresCan only be calculated using the information found in a credit report
Judges creditworthiness based on the details of your current debt obligations and past credit history, including any prior derogatory marksUses five weighted factors to determine creditworthiness: payment history, balances owed, length of credit history, credit mix, and recent activity
Can be accessed directly through the credit bureaus or at AnnualCreditReport.comCan be accessed through one of the credit bureaus, your bank, your credit card company, or a credit counselor
Used by banks, lenders, collection agencies, insurance companies, utility providers, employers, and landlordsUsed by banks, lenders, collection agencies, insurance companies, utility providers, and sometimes landlords. Employers cannot access your credit score based on the FCRA.

Why This Matters 

Understanding the roles and functions of your credit score and credit report can be crucial to your financial well-being. 

Check your free credit report and FICO score at least once per year. Pay attention to behaviors on your credit report that are heavily weighted toward your credit score. If something looks off, look into it. It could be the difference between approval or denial, so get ahead of it.