What is a credit report?
When you make a payment on a credit card or loan, the company that gave you the loan or credit keeps a record of how much and often you pay. Those companies and other sources also report your credit, loan and payment history to one or more credit reporting companies. The credit reporting companies combine the information from your different credit, loan and payment reports into a single credit file. Three nationwide companies prepare credit files for people in the U.S.: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
A credit report is an organized list of the information in your credit file.
Credit reports may include:
- A list of companies that have given you credit or loans
- The total amount for each loan or credit limit for each credit card
- How often you paid your credit or loans on time, and the amount you paid
- Credit reports may also include:
- Companies that have asked to see your credit report within a certain time period
- Your address(es) and/or employers
- Other details of public record
A consumer disclosure contains some of the same information as your credit report, but it has more information. It includes your total history of credit information. Some of this information is not displayed on the credit report viewed by lenders. Under Federal law, you are entitled to receive one free copy of your credit report from each credit reporting company every 12 months.
What is a credit score?
A credit score is the result of a mathematical formula that uses the information in your credit file, such as how well you have paid your bills in the past, to calculate how likely you are to pay your bills in the future.
The credit scores you get from different companies may not be the same.
There are a number of reasons for that:
- Each company uses its own formulas for calculating credit scores. The differences in the formulas may lead to differences in your credit scores.
- Companies may produce scores that give results on different scales.
- Creditors or lender reports don't always report to every credit reporting company. This means that information that the credit reporting companies plug into their formulas may differ from credit reporting company to credit reporting company.
- Most people's different credit scores are very close, despite that the different credit reporting companies calculate your scores using different formulas, and sometimes from different information. If one of your three credit scores is very different from the others, you may want to research why.
- Your credit score estimates how likely you are to pay back loans or services that a lender may give you during the next two to three years. People with higher credit scores may be more likely to pay back their debts. People with lower credit scores may be less likely to pay their debts. Lenders take bigger risks when they lend money or provide services to people with low credit scores.
- Credit reporting companies can show your credit report and/or credit score to other companies who have a lawful reason to ask for it. These may include potential lenders. Lenders use credit scores to help decide how risky it will be to lend you money or provide you a service. Potential employers may use credit scores to help evaluate how dependable you are.
What makes my credit score go up or down?
Your credit score is based on your credit history, such as how much money you owe, how long you've owed it, how many new accounts you have, how often you miss or are late with payments, and what type of credit accounts you have. Changes in any of those factors will cause your score to go up or down.