With all the information available online about credit reports and scores, it can sometimes be difficult to determine what's accurate and what's not. We'll help you cut through the clutter and obtain valuable—and often free—information about your credit.
What's the difference between my credit report and my credit score?
It's easy to confuse these two because—while related—they're not the same.
Your credit report does not include your credit score, but it does show your history of using credit-related products like credit cards and loans. The three credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) compile your report using information such as:
- Name, address and social security number
- Current or previously used credit types
- Opening dates for loans or lines of credit
- Balances and available credit
- Bill payment timeliness
- Amount of recent credit obtained
- Collection activity
- Bankruptcy, tax liens or court judgments
Your credit score is a number (for example, 300 to 850) based on a formula that considers information from your credit report. It gives a snapshot of your creditworthiness.
It's important to note that not all credit scores are created equal, and different credit-score models may weigh your information in different ways.
And while your credit report and credit score are two separate things, both can be used by lenders to evaluate your creditworthiness when you apply for new credit.
Can I get a free credit report?
Yes, but proceed with caution. Only AnnualCreditReport.com is explicitly directed by Federal law to provide you with free credit reports.
Remember those three major credit-reporting agencies? You're entitled to a free credit report from each of them every 12 months. Consider setting up a recurring reminder for yourself—something like this:
- January – Request Equifax report
- May – Request Experian report
- September – Request Transunion report
Can I get a free credit score?
Many services and websites offer a "free" credit score, but be sure to read the fine print. For example, some sites may require a monthly subscription in exchange for that free score. Be aware that your FICO score, which is the most commonly used model, is not available for free.
BB&T clients who use U by BB&T can obtain a free VantageScore credit score from Equifax, provided as part of BB&T's educational program to help you understand your creditworthiness. It can help you make sense of your credit situation so you can improve it, if necessary, and make wise credit decisions.
The bottom line
Even though your credit report and your credit score are not the same, they are related—and it's important to monitor each on a regular basis. You can maximize both by making payments on time, keeping your credit balances relatively low, and refraining from opening multiple new credit accounts within a short period of time.