The Difference Between Credit Reports and Credit Scores

Knowing the difference between a credit report and a credit score is important if you plan on making a major purchase in the near future. Credit reporting agencies crunch items on your credit report down to a numerical value which becomes your credit score. The better your credit report looks, the higher your credit score will be.


Difference Between Credit Score and Credit Report

Creditors can report your account to a credit reporting bureau for inclusion in their credit report. They have no direct access over your credit score, which is calculated based on what is in your credit report.

Your credit report will be a long list of accounts, both current and past, that includes information such as the creditor’s name, when the account was opened, payment history, amount owed, etc. Your credit score will be a number, between 300-850 (depending on the credit reporting agency) that represents your risk to a lender. The higher the number, the better you will look to someone who might be willing to lend you money.


Do Lenders Look at Credit Scores or Credit Reports?

Some lenders take into account both your credit report and your credit score when deciding whether or not to give you a loan and what kind of interest rate you will be paying. For most credit card applications and car loans, your credit score is going to be the only thing they look at. Mortgage lenders will usually look at your credit report in addition to your credit score, to make sure you appear responsible enough with your finances to handle a home loan.

Financeography Tip: You can find more information regarding improving your credit and overall complete credit repair with this fairly all-inclusive guide to credit cleanup


Why is My Credit Score Different Across All Three Agencies?

Each credit reporting agency has their own method of coming up with your credit score. A few things they all have in common are:

  • Collections and charge-offs hurt your score pretty badly
  • Older negative information counts less towards your score
  • The more of your credit you use, the lower your score will be
  • Late payments hurt just about as bad as collections accounts

This is why even if everything is the same across all three of your credit reports, chances are the scores will be close, but not matching. Each of the individual items above are weighted differently depending on which company you pull from.

Which Credit Reporting Agency Has the Highest Score?

Generally, Experian credit scores are higher than your Transunion score, which is usually higher than your Equifax score. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but it does seem to be a common pattern.

One thing you will notice if you pull all three of your credit reports is that if you have any sort of court judgment against you, chances are it will show up on your Equifax report, bringing down that score. If it’s big enough, it may show up on your other reports as well, but Equifax has a habit of reporting judgments from most states.

Experian tends to give a little less weight to collections accounts and more weight to the length of your credit history, recent on-time payments, and total number of positive accounts. If you’ve had problems in the past, but have been doing well financially over the course of ~1 year, you will probably notice that this score will be higher than your other two scores.
Transunion credit scores are a middle ground between the other two companies. Usually, your Transunion score will be closer to your Equifax score as opposed to your Experian score. When lenders pull only one credit score, it’s often your Transunion information they are pulling.

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