We explain the differences between your credit score and credit report, and how they work together to create a picture of your financial health.
While the terms credit score and credit report are often used interchangeably, they’re actually two different things. Both credit scores and reports are based on how you've handled credit in the past, but there are some key differences to know about.
What is a credit report?
A credit report is a record of your borrowing history. It’s like your CV or your school report. Only instead of information about your previous employment or academic performance, it contains information about how you’ve borrowed money and paid it back.
Most of the information in your report comes from lenders. This information is compiled by companies that create credit reports - credit reference agencies.
Your credit report has three main parts:
1. Personal information
This section contains:
- your name
- your date of birth
- your address history
- whether you’re registered to vote at your current address
Your address is particularly important because credit reference agencies use it to match up all of your credit history. So it’s important that all your financial accounts are registered at a single address (and that you use this address to sign up to ClearScore). If you move home, make sure you tell your lenders in good time, so that they can update your information. This way your credit report will be accurate and complete.
2. Credit account history
This is a list of your credit accounts (e.g. a credit card) and current accounts (e.g. a bank account). You’ll also be able to see how much debt you currently have (your balance).
This section will list your:
- current accounts (these will show £0 balance unless you’ve taken out an overdraft )
- credit cards
- short-term loans and long-term loans, like a mortgage.
However, it may also include other, less obvious information, such as accounts with:
- utilities providers
- internet service providers (ISPs)
- mobile phone networks.
Strictly speaking, these are credit accounts too. You’re receiving a service today and paying for it later. Whether they’ll show on your credit report, though, depends on the individual provider. Not all providers send reports to credit reference agencies.
3. Payment History
Your credit report will show whether you’ve paid your debts on time each month or whether you’ve made late payments, or missed any entirely.
At the risk of stating the obvious, regularly paying your debts on time is a positive. Missing payments reflects badly on you.
Here’s a more in-depth look at your credit report and how it works.
What is a credit score?
If your credit report is like a school report, your credit score is your overall grade. In other words, it sums up how likely you are to be accepted for credit - and how favourable your credit terms are likely to be - based on the information in your credit report.
So, what’s a ‘good’ credit score?
Essentially, the higher your score is, the better. Having a high credit score suggests to lenders that you are more reliable, and therefore more ‘credit worthy’. This means you are more likely to be accepted for credit.
One thing to bear in mind is that there's no universal credit score in the UK. There are three main credit reference agencies in the UK - Experian, Equifax and CallCredit - score differently. This means all of us have 3 credit scores - and the score you get may vary depending on where you look.
ClearScore gets your report from Equifax, which scores as follows:
- Very poor: 0 to 278
- Poor: 279 to 366
- Fair: 367 to 419
- Good: 420 to 466
- Excellent: 467 and above
Credit reference agencies also have different maximum scores. Experian’s score is out of 999, Equifax’s is 700, and Callcredit’s is 710. They have different scales, too. So your credit score might be 459 with Equifax, 999 with Experian and 609 with Callcredit, even with the same information. This is nothing to worry about — as long as your information is accurate, this won’t affect your creditworthiness.
Here’s a more in-depth look at credit scores, how they’re calculated and which factors could negatively affect your score.
What's the difference between a credit score and credit report, and how do they work together?
Your credit report is the detailed record of all your financial behaviour. A credit score is a number, calculated by credit reference agencies and lenders, which sums up the information in that report.
Your credit report tells the story of how you’ve handled credit in the past. Looking at your report allows credit providers to answer important questions about your financial habits, such as:
- How much debt do you currently have?
- Do you usually pay your debts on time?
- Do you tend to take on more debt than you can afford to repay?
These and other questions help credit providers decide:
- whether or not to give you credit at all
- on what terms to give you credit (in particular, what kind of interest rate and repayment schedule they’ll offer you).
If you just look at all the information in your credit report, it's pretty hard to guess how a lender might interpret it. Your score sums up all the assorted information in your report into one number. This makes it easier for you to see how you're doing in comparison with what lenders are looking for.
However, here’s a word to the wise.
Your credit report isn’t the only data a credit provider will use to make a decision. The information you provide in your application, their past relationship with you, and other factors like your income are important too.
Different providers also tend to work out their own credit scores. So, even if your Experian, Equifax or CallCredit score is high, it’s no guarantee you’ll get credit, but it is a good indicator. Similarly, just because one provider turned you down doesn’t necessarily mean others will do so too.
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