Credit Report & Credit History: What Are the Differences?

You’ve probably heard a lot about credit reports and how they can be used to help determine whether or not you’re worthy of buying a house, car, or other expensive goods. But what is this mysterious thing you keep hearing about? We’ll tell you everything there is to know in the article below!

The “free credit report” is a service that allows users to request their credit report for free. This can be done by visiting the website of the Federal Trade Commission. The “credit history” is what you get when you order your credit report. It includes information on how much debt you have, your payment history, and other details about your finances.

Young man in car leaving home for college illustration.

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Credit. This aspect is extremely important when it comes to understanding personal finance. For some, it’s a derogatory term that should be avoided at all costs. For others, it’s a seductive license, a chance to pursue a lifestyle much beyond their means.

In reality, depending on how credit is utilized, it may be tremendously beneficial or incredibly detrimental. Credit is, in many respects, more of a tool than anything else – a method of reaching a certain goal. A fire, a table saw, or a rifle in the hands of an illiterate, untrained, and inexperienced individual may inflict chaos and injury. They may, however, be quite valuable in the hands of a responsible and knowledgeable people. As a result, credit is given.

Buying a large flatscreen television with a credit card is a questionable use of credit since you’ll get little return on the interest you’ll pay on the debt. Taking out loans to acquire an education or a vehicle to go to and from work is a sensible use of credit; these items will put you in debt in the near term, but will enhance your financial chances in the long run.

When you need to utilize credit in a good manner, your capacity to do so will be determined by the credit history and score you’ve built over the years, beginning when you first went out on your own.

What Exactly Is Credit?

Credit is defined as “the capacity to get goods or services prior to payment, based on the expectation that payment will be provided in the future,” according to the dictionary. Consumer credit instruments include student loans, auto loans, house mortgages, and credit cards, in which you borrow money now to pay for something you couldn’t otherwise afford, with the lender hoping that you’ll repay them later.

Credit is sometimes entirely free, but it typically comes with a cost. In return for providing you the cash and the option to pay it back slowly over time, most banks and institutions will charge you interest on the money they lend you (aka, the principle).

Interest rates vary depending on the kind of credit. Because many student loans are insured by the US government, they frequently offer lower interest rates than other forms of loans. Even if you are unable to repay them, the lender will get funds from the government. Credit cards, on the other hand, often have the highest interest rates among the different forms of credit because: 1) the credit card lender is more likely to be repaid, and 2) managing credit card debt is more costly (at least that’s what the credit card companies claim).

Different interest rates might be found even among the same types of loans. This is due to the fact that people’s “creditworthiness” varies. People with “excellent credit,” “poor credit,” or “no credit” are terms that banks often use. People with excellent credit are seen to be responsible borrowers. They pay their obligations on time and appropriately handle the credit they have. People who have excellent credit may borrow more money and pay cheaper interest rates on their loans.


People with poor credit have a reputation for failing to pay their debts on time or at all. Banks and other companies are less likely to lend money to these people. A person with terrible credit will be charged a higher interest rate even if they are able to get a loan.

People who have no credit have never used credit before, so they’re a bit of a wild card. They could or might not be excellent with credit. When banks lend money to individuals in this scenario, they normally charge a higher interest rate at first, but they’ll be ready to lower it when the debtor shows they can consistently return the total owing.

How Do Banks Determine Your Creditworthiness?

So, how do banks and credit card issuers determine if you have excellent, terrible, or no credit? When you apply for a loan, the person who reviews it is unlikely to know you from Adam. How will they know whether or not they can rely on you to repay them?

Put on your tin foil hats, since the answer is that three major credit bureaus keep track of your credit use, from how much you borrow to how often you default on payments.

You’ve undoubtedly heard the television advertising about how to acquire a free credit report. That is the information that those Big Brother-like organizations have on you. A credit score will almost always be mentioned in these adverts. This is the number that banks use to determine whether or not you are a reliable borrower.

Many young individuals who are just starting started with credit make the mistake of confusing credit reports with credit scores, and vice versa. It’s a simple error to make, but one that can be avoided with a brief refresher on the differences.

What is a credit report, exactly?

What you do with your credit is explained in credit reports. They detail when and where you sought for credit, as well as who you borrowed money from and who you owe money to. Your credit report also shows whether you’ve paid off a loan and if you’ve made on-time monthly payments.

Each of the three main credit reporting agencies is required by federal law to provide you with a free credit report once a year. So, when those TV adverts say you can receive a free credit report, they’re referring to the aforementioned information.

Getting your free credit report from a heavily advertised site like or, on the other hand, is not a good idea. In exchange for a free credit report and score, you must sign up for their monthly credit-monitoring service, which costs $15 per month. The report and score are free if you cancel within seven days, but if you don’t, your subscription to their service will begin. The inconvenience is that you must phone to cancel – you cannot do it online — and you may forget (which is exactly what they want).


Instead, go to for a free credit report with no strings attached. This service provides you with a completely free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus. You may receive them all at once, but I suggest spreading them out throughout the year so you can monitor your credit score more often.

Why Should You Request Your Credit Report Once a Year?

There are many reasons why you should get a free credit report once a year. For starters, it enables you to check for and rectify any errors that may have snuck into your report. You don’t want such blunders to effect whether you receive a better or worse interest rate, or if a bank would even accept you for a loan. When you notice a mistake, you may begin taking steps to correct it.

The second major reason to get a credit report once a year is to guard against identity theft. A con artist may apply for a wallet full of credit cards in your name without your knowledge if they have the appropriate information. Then you start receiving phone calls from collection agencies demanding payment for transactions you never made. A annual credit report allows you to check to see if somebody is applying for credit cards or loans in your name without your knowledge, and take action if necessary.

What is a credit score, exactly?

The information in your credit report determines your credit score. Credit scores are used by businesses and banks to assess the risk of providing money to specific individuals. Your credit score impacts whether you qualify for a loan, the interest rate on your loan, and your credit limit. It’s essentially a lender’s assessment of your trustworthiness.

The Fair Isaac Corporation was the one who came up with the concept of a credit score. That’s why credit ratings are often referred to as FICO scores. You’ll have three separate credit scores since each of the three credit agencies collects somewhat different information about you, albeit they may all be the same.

The range of credit scores is 500 to 850. You’ll have a hard time securing a loan if your FICO score is below 500. Even if you are able to get one, the interest rate will be quite high. You’ll get the greatest prices if your score is more than 720. Banks and credit card firms will examine your credit score whenever you apply for a credit card or a vehicle loan to evaluate whether to lend you money or issue you a credit card in the first place. If they do decide to provide you credit, they’ll use your credit score to figure out how much interest you’ll pay on the money you borrow.

Unlike credit reports, which are free to examine, credit scores are not. They cost about $15 to obtain, and when you have your credit report, you’ll be offered the option to buy your credit score. Bankrate, on the other hand, provides a free FICO score calculator. The estimator asks you ten questions regarding your loans and credit card balances, then generates a credit score estimate. While it won’t be 100 percent correct, it will give you an indication of where you stand and allow you to make improvements to enhance your score.


How Is Your Credit Score Calculated?

Because your credit score has the potential to make or break some major financial and lifestyle choices, it’s critical to understand how credit bureaus calculate your score so you can take steps to improve it.

Credit reporting organizations use a number of criteria when calculating your FICO score, including:

Payment history. Your ability to pay your payments on time accounts for 35% of your total score. Payments that are more than 90 days late will be punished more severely than those that are just 30 days late. In addition, current late payments have a greater impact than previous ones. A single late payment will not ruin your credit score, so don’t worry that you’ll never be able to get credit again because you missed a payment. Simply pay the charge and try not to repeat the mistake.

The amount borrowed in relation to the amount of credit available. This component contributes for 30% of your overall grade. Creditors want to know whether you’re maxing out your credit cards. If you have $10,000 in credit available but frequently carry an amount of $9,999, it’s a warning indicator that you’re not managing your debt well. If you regularly have an amount of $200 in outstanding debt, on the other hand, it’s an indication you’re more credit-savvy. To increase your credit score, limit your debt to roughly 10% of your available credit or less.

Credit history length. This accounts for 15% of your total score. The longer you have successfully borrowed and repaid money, the lower your risk to a lender becomes. Even if you never use a credit card after you pay it off, it’s a good idea to keep it open. When you shut it, you lose your credit history, which may have an impact on your credit score.

Credit Pulls that are “Hard.” This accounts for 10% of your credit score. A credit pull is a form of credit inquiry. Lenders do hard credit checks in order to give credit to you. Multiple hard inquiries can drop your score since they indicate that you’re seeking for loans and may be a bad credit risk. So, when the cashier offers if you’d want to sign up for a store credit card in exchange for a 10% discount, say “no thanks” to avoid the harsh credit draw.

If you’re looking for a car loan or a mortgage, lenders will have to check your credit every time you request a quotation. Don’t be concerned about such pulls lowering your score. Similar enquiries made within the last two weeks will not affect your score.

Debt classifications. This is the last 10% of your total score. It’s ideal to have a balance of automobile, house, school loan, and credit card debt. You’ll be considered as a higher danger if you’re in credit card debt up to your ears.

Other considerations. Lenders will consider additional criteria in addition to your FICO score when deciding whether or not to give you money. Your income, work history, and assets may all play a role in whether or not you can get a loan.


How can I improve my credit score and history?

Because your payment history and duration of credit history account for around half of your credit score, you should start creating a strong credit history as soon as possible. A strong credit history, as well as a high credit score, will benefit you later in life.

Simply opening credit accounts and paying them off when they’re due is the quickest and most reliable approach to establish a credit history. For young individuals, opening a credit card account is a simple method to start building their credit history. A credit card with a low interest rate and a low minimum amount may help a young person just starting out in life create a stable positive payment record by allowing them to pay off a credit debt on a regular basis. Furthermore, the sooner a young person acquires a credit card, the better his credit history will be when he applies for a mortgage later in life.

However, there is a risk. Credit cards, which enable you to spend money you don’t have, may be a major time danger for a young guy just starting out on his own. Because a young man’s schedule might be busy and his life unorganized, he may forget to pay the monthly amount, resulting in penalties and interest, as well as the possibility of going into debt. Don’t obtain a credit card if you don’t have the money or the degree of responsibility to pay off your credit card bill every month.

Even if you are responsible enough to get a credit card, you may dislike the notion of having one and want to avoid credit card debt throughout your youth. It was a wise decision.

So, if you don’t want to have a credit card for whatever reason, is there any way to still establish your credit history, or are you bound to pay exorbitant interest rates when you apply for a mortgage later?

Despite what some may claim, you may build a credit history and increase your credit score without using a credit card. You probably have student debts if you’re a college student. As soon as you graduate, begin making regular payments on your debts. Boom. You have a track record when it comes to credit.

Applying for a modest loan via your bank and having your parents co-sign on it is another approach to create your credit history without a credit card. Make timely payments and pay it off as soon as possible. More credit history is better.

Let’s imagine you’re a die-hard Dave Ramsey supporter who vows to never use credit again: no credit cards, no school loans, no vehicle loans. Nothing. When you’re ready to purchase a property, how can you get a cheap interest rate if you don’t have any credit history (assuming you haven’t achieved the Ramsey pinnacle and can buy a house in cash!)?


By submitting an application for a PRBC Alternative Credit Score. By keeping track of how successfully you pay non-credit expenses like rent, electricity, and insurance on a regular basis, a PRBC Credit Score tells lenders you’re financially responsible and trustworthy. Many lenders will accept a PRBC Alternative Credit Score for establishing interest rates for mortgages and other loans, despite the fact that it is still relatively new. To acquire a PRBC Alternative Credit Score, you must self-enroll, unlike your standard credit history or scores, which begin calculating as soon as you utilize credit.

Is there anything else a person starting out on their own needs to know about credit? Please share them in the comments!



Credit reports and credit histories are a key part of personal finance. They allow people to track their financial history, and they also provide a benchmark for lenders when considering loans. The two terms can be easily confused, so it’s important to understand the difference between them. Reference: free credit report gov.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best site to get a credit report?

A: Credit Card Helps is the best site for you.

How can I get my credit report immediately?

A: The fastest way to get your credit report is through Experians website. You can also order free copies of your credit report from the three major bureaus online, TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian.

What are the 3 types of credit reports?

A: A credit report is a historical view of an individuals financial transactions, compiled from information in their credit history. It shows how they have paid back their bills and whether they are likely to default on those payments again. Three types of reports exist: public, private, and pre-screened.

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