Many believe that your credit report and your credit score are basically one and the same. Although there is a connection between the two, your credit score is separate from your credit report.
Your credit score is a three-digit number that represents your creditworthiness. Your credit report, on the other hand, contains information about your payment history and other credit-related details.
What is a credit score?
You have several different credit scores. The most popular score with lenders is a version of the FICO score. There are many versions of FICO scores, including industry specific FICO scores such as FICO Auto Score 9.
Besides FICO scores, lenders sometimes use VantageScores. The most recent versions are VantageScore 3.0 and VantageScore 4.0. FICO and VantageScores scores range from 300 to 850.
When you apply for credit, the lender asks your credit rating from one or more credit bureaus. Each version of a credit score uses an algorithm to calculate your score based on the information in your credit report.
Although the FICO and VantageScores scores have the same number range, each score weighs the factors included in your credit score calculation a little differently. Read on, and you’ll see what I mean.
Here are the FICO score ranges:
- Exceptional: 800-850.
- Very good: 740-799.
- Good: 670-739.
- Fair: 580-669.
- Poor: 300-579.
There are five factors that make up your FICO score. Here is each factor and the weight assigned to it by the FICO scoring algorithm:
- Payment history: 35%.
- Amounts due: 30%.
- Length of credit history: 15%.
- New credit: 10%.
- Credit mix: 10%.
Now let’s take a look at VantageScores to see how they differ. Here are the VantageScore ranges:
- Excellent: 781-850.
- Good: 661-780.
- Fair: 601-660.
- Poor: 500-600.
- Very poor: 300-499.
There are also five factors that make up your VantageScore. But instead of percentages, this score takes into account the influence of the factor. Here is each factor and the weight assigned to it by the VantageScore algorithm:
- Total use of credit, balance and available credit: extremely influential.
- Credit and experience mix: very influential.
- Payment history: moderately influential.
- Age of credit history: less influential.
- New accounts opened: less influential.
If you are new to credit, it takes about six months of payment history to generate a FICO score. With VantageScore, the age of your credit history has less influence, so it only takes about two months to generate a score.
Before we move on to credit reports, there is one more thing I want to point out. Note that an excellent VantageScore starts at 781. But a FICO score of 781 is only considered very good credit. When looking at a free credit score, find out if it’s a FICO score or a VantageScore so you can properly interpret your creditworthiness. Besides the free credit score for your credit card, you can also get credit scores on various websites.
What is a credit report?
There are three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You have a credit report at every bureau. This report contains identifying information, your payment history, a list of your credit card accounts, and details about your mortgage and personal loans, if applicable.
Examples of negative items include overdue accounts, late payments, and late fees. Your report also shows some public records, which may contain negative items, such as bankruptcy or foreclosure. Most negative items stay on your report for seven years, including a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy stays on your report for 10 years.
Your credit score will not appear on your credit report. But when you apply for credit and your lender requests your credit score from one or more bureaus, the data on your credit report is used to calculate your score.
Now your score may differ from office to office. Not all lenders report payment history to all three bureaus, which can result in different bureaus scores. Note that checking your credit report does not affect your score. So check your reports regularly to make sure the data is correct and that there is no sign of fraud.
Credit Report Errors and Your Credit Score
You are entitled to a free credit report from each credit bureau every 12 months. Due to COVID, you can get free weekly reports until April 20, 2022. You can request your federally authorized credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com.
It is important to check your credit reports and verify their accuracy. An error in your report could affect your credit score. For example, if someone opened an account in your name and didn’t pay the monthly bill, you might have late fees or an overdue account listed in your report.
A less dramatic example might involve having the wrong date on a collection account. Since items like this stay on your report for seven years, you want to make sure that the date is correct so that the item falls off your report when it’s supposed to.
As you can see, checking your report not only ensures a more accurate credit score, but also helps you identify fraudulent activity as soon as possible. If you encounter errors or identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission has detailed steps to follow along with a sample dispute letter that you can use as a reference.