Your credit report and your credit score are two different things, and it’s helpful to know about both of them.
A credit report is based on a consumer’s credit history and compiled by credit reporting agencies. One expert referred to it as your “borrowing rap sheet.” Lenders use this information to determine credit-worthiness. You’re entitled to a free credit report every year from each of the major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) through annualcreditreport.com. It’s best to look at all three reports because they sometimes contain different information. You also don’t know which credit bureau a lender might use.
A credit score has, until recently, been a more mysterious and harder-to-determine numerical score assigned to a borrower. It’s calculated using payment history reported to credit bureaus. Think of it like getting a grade on how you handle debts. Lenders and landlords use the number to assess a consumer’s credit risk. Credit scores range from 300 to 850 (the higher the better). Many banks and credit card companies are making it easier than ever to find out your credit score. It might even be listed on your credit card or loan statements.
Just for fun, why don’t you see how much you really know about your credit score? The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and VantageScore Solutions developed this 12-question quiz to improve people’s understanding of credit scoring. I was surprised that I missed two of the questions on my first try, but I got a perfect score the second time, so I learned something.