Many think that your credit report and your credit score are basically one and the same. While there’s 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 many 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.
Other than FICO scores, lenders sometimes use VantageScores. The most recent versions are VantageScore 3.0 and VantageScore 4.0. Both FICO scores and VantageScores range from 300 to 850.
When you apply for credit, the lender requests your credit score 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 FICO scores and VantageScores have the same numeric range, each score weighs the factors included in your credit score calculation a little differently. Keep reading, 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’s each factor and the weight it’s given by the FICO score algorithm:
— Payment history: 35%.
— Amounts owed: 30%.
— Length of credit history: 15%.
— New credit: 10%.
— Credit mix: 10%.
Now let’s take a look at VantageScores so you can 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 considers how influential the factor is. Here’s each factor and the weight it’s given by the VantageScore algorithm:
— Total credit usage, balance and available credit: extremely influential.
— Credit mix and experience: highly influential.
— Payment history: moderately influential.
— Age of credit history: less influential.
— New accounts opened: less influential.
If you’re new to credit, it takes about six months of reported payment history to generate a FICO score. With VantageScore, the age of your credit history is less influential, so it only takes about two months to generate a score.
[Read: Best Cash Back Credit Cards.]
Before we move on to credit reports, there’s one more thing I want to point out. Note that an excellent VantageScore begins at 781. But a 781 FICO score is only considered very good credit. When you’re looking at a free credit score, find out if it’s a FICO score or a VantageScore so you interpret your credit standing correctly. Other than your credit card’s free credit score, you can also get credit scores from a variety of websites.
What Is a Credit Report?
There are three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You have a credit report at each bureau. This report contains identifying information, your payment history, a listing of your credit card accounts, and details about your mortgage and personal loans, if applicable.
Examples of negative items include delinquent accounts, late payments and late fees. Your report also shows some public records, which might contain negative items, such as a bankruptcy or a 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.
You won’t see your credit score listed on your credit report. But when you apply for credit and your lender requests your credit score from one or more bureaus, the data that’s in your credit report is used to calculate your score.
Now, your score may differ from bureau to bureau. Not all lenders report payment history to all three bureaus, and this can result in different scores from the bureaus. Note that checking your credit report doesn’t impact your score at all. So, check your reports regularly to make sure that the data is accurate and that there are no signs of fraud.
[Read: Best Starter Credit Cards.]
Credit Report Errors and Your Credit Score
You’re entitled to a free credit report from each credit bureau every 12 months. Due to COVID, you can get free weekly reports through April 20, 2022. You can request your credit report that’s authorized by federal law at AnnualCreditReport.com.
It’s important to check your credit reports and review them for accuracy. An error in your report could impact your credit score. For example, if someone opened an account in your name and didn’t pay the monthly bill, you might have a late fee or delinquent account listed in your report.
A less dramatic example might involve having the wrong date on a collections account. Since items like this stay on your report for seven years, you want to make sure the date is correct so 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 do encounter errors or identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission has detailed steps to take as well as a sample dispute letter you can use for reference.
More from U.S. News
Credit Score vs. Credit Report: What’s the Difference? originally appeared on usnews.com