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Understanding the difference between your credit report and your credit score

BlogCreditUnderstanding the difference between your credit report and your credit score
Sep 03, 2023
Understanding the difference between your credit and your credit score

Understanding the difference between your credit report and your credit score

Understanding how credit works can be overwhelming. It sometimes feels like people are speaking a different language.

Two terms that often get mixed up are "credit reports" and "credit scores." Learning how they're different – and how they work together – can help you better understand and improve your credit.

Your credit report is simply a detailed record of how you've used credit in the past, including your lines of credit and your payment history. Credit scoring companies, like FICO®, use that information to calculate your credit score.

Ready to learn more? Let's break it down.

What’s a credit report?

Your credit report is a detailed history of how you’ve handled money – whether you pay your bills on time, if you've ever defaulted on a loan, and how much you owe.(1) A credit bureau collects and stores that information and creates your report. The three main consumer credit bureaus in the U.S. are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

These credit bureaus maintain similar information about how you’ve managed money and debt in the past, but because not all creditors report to every bureau, there may be slight differences. Also, a lender or creditor may use a credit bureau that's not one of the three major credit bureaus, especially if you are applying for subprime credit.

The major credit bureaus create your report based on information from banks, credit card companies, and other sources. The information in your credit report includes:

  • Personal information, such as your name and address
  • Accounts you have with lenders, including credit cards, loans, and mortgages
  • Payment history, including any late or missing payments
  • The amount you've paid off of each loan's original amount
  • Any bankruptcies or legal judgments against you

If you have a limited credit history, the credit bureaus may not have enough information to create a credit report. That's why it's important to establish a good credit history as quickly as you can. If you're starting with no credit history, it generally takes about six months of consistent credit activity to establish a FICO® credit score. Getting a higher, more desirable score will take much longer.

What’s a credit score?

Your credit report and credit score are closely linked. The information in your credit report is used to calculate your credit score, which is typically a three-digit number from 300 to 850.

The higher your credit score, the better. Lenders use your credit score to decide if it's risky to loan you money. Your score is also used to calculate the interest rate you’ll pay and other terms.

While "credit score" is often talked about as a single score, there are different types of credit scores. FICO is the most widely used, but there are other credit scoring companies and models.

Here's what makes up your FICO score.

  • Payment history. How promptly you pay your bills affects your score the most. Even a single missed payment can have a negative impact.
  • Amounts owed. How much do you owe compared to your credit limit? If you’re using a lot of your available credit, it could signal that you’re overextended.
  • Length of credit history. The longer you’ve been using credit responsibly, the more it boosts your score.
  • Credit mix. A healthy mix of different types of credit, such as credit cards and auto loans, can positively affect your score.
  • New credit. Frequently applying for new credit can temporarily lower your score.
What's in my FICO score?

What lenders consider a good score varies, but a FICO score below 670 can be a roadblock to traditional financing.  

Who checks my credit score?

Lenders and other companies check your credit before they decide to do business with you. They want to see how reliable you are with your money and your credit - and if it would be risky to work with you.

Credit is most often offered by lenders, including banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions, and credit card companies. They use your score to decide whether to loan you money or give you a card, and what interest rates, credit limit, and other terms they'll offer you.

Landlords might check your credit score before they rent to you. Utility companies, insurers, and even potential employers may also look at your credit score.

How to check your credit

You should also look at your credit history and your credit score. By law, every consumer can request a free credit report every 12 months from the major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) through Also, many banks and credit card companies will provide their customers’ credit scores for free. When you get your credit report, make sure everything is correct as mistakes could impact your credit score.

Taking control of your credit

Bad credit doesn't have to be a life sentence. Regularly monitoring your credit, paying your bills on time, and maintaining good credit habits will help you improve your score and open access to new financial opportunities.

If less-than-perfect credit is keeping you from getting what you need now, Snap Finance can help. Snap offers lease-to-own financing for all credit types.(2)

Learn how Snap can help you shop now and pay later.


The advertised service is a lease-to-own agreement provided by Snap RTO LLC. Lease-to-own financing is not available to residents of Minnesota, New Jersey and Wisconsin.

1 “What is a Credit Score?” MyFICO.

2 Not all applicants are approved. While no credit history is required, Snap obtains information from consumer reporting agencies in connection with submitted applications, and your score with those agencies may be affected.

The content of this article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as personalized legal, financial, or other advice. This article represents paid promotional material provided by or on behalf of Snap Finance, LLC, or its affiliates.