In the tumultuous world of finances, different numbers and scores can start to blend together into one confusing blob. Thankfully, there is a bounty of helpful guides and articles to help you differentiate between contrasting numbers and their meanings. In this week’s blog, we’ll discuss the main differences between Credit Reports and Credit Scores—and how to maintain them.
While the words “Credit Report” and “Credit Score” are sometimes used interchangeably, there is one main difference between the two.
Your Credit Score illustrates how much of a credit risk you are to lenders. It is a numerical value most commonly scored between the ranges of 300 and 850 (we’ll delve deeper into what constitutes a “great” score a little later).
Your Credit Report is a record of your credit and lending history. This includes payments, debts, number and types of accounts you’ve had, and so much more.
Why Should I Maintain Them?
If the chance to be labeled “excellent” on your credit score isn’t incentive enough, it’s important to note that having a score above 700 usually leads to lower interest rates and more member perks. Having a good credit score isn’t just a financial title. It can help save you hundreds of thousands of dollars over your lifetime. You won’t be hit with high-interest rates and can negotiate loan terms more freely. Plus, having a great credit score can instantly make you eligible for bigger loans and higher credit limits, ensuring that you never have to cough up the full payment amount for any big purchases. You’ll automatically get better rates when signing up for things like insurance, and approval for apartments or leases will be a breeze.
Do I Need to Look at Both?
The short answer—yes! It’s important to stay up-to-date on both your credit report and credit score. Doing so will allow you to know how lenders will assess your financial responsibility before approving or denying things like loan requests or opening a new credit card. Sites and apps like Credit Karma provide free access to your credit score and will send you copies of your credit report upon request. You can check as often as you need, or want, and it won’t negatively impact your score. Conversely, if you are trying to raise your credit score, monitoring your credit report will allow you to see what may be impacting it and how to take preventative measures in the future.
It is important to note that checking both your credit score and credit report regularly can help prevent fraud. Always be sure to analyze for anything that looks faulty or incorrect, and if anything seems out of place always reach out for further information. Your credit score is one of the most important things you have in your possession and can make or break anything from purchasing a pair of boots to purchasing your first home.
What Is Used to Calculate Your Credit Score?
This aspect of credit is where both credit scores and credit reports cross paths. There are a few main aspects of your credit report that impact how your numerical credit score is calculated. Although it is important to note that each credit-reporting system utilizes their own unique formula to calculate your score, generally it is made up of the following:
- Payment history accounts for 35% of your credit score. If you have not historically made your credit card or loan payments on time, your score will naturally go down.
Tip: To keep your score in tip-top shape, you should make a point to schedule all payments before the due date. Doing so will also save you money – say good-bye to accumulating more and more debt via hefty interest rates!
- How much you owe on your accounts makes up 30% of your credit score. Especially if you don’t make payments on time, you may see a dip if you continuously rack up debt on your open accounts. Do you really need those sparkly heels?
Tip: Try to avoid accumulating too much debt on credit cards or loans at any time.
- Length of credit history accounts for 15% of your credit score. The longer, the better. This portion illustrates that you have been financially responsible for longer, and are more-likely-than-not going to continue making payments on time and are thus less of a risk.
Tip: Even if you haven’t used your high school credit card in years, keeping it open can help lengthen your credit history.
- Opening new cards is a significant factor in the equation. In fact, 10% of your score is based on new credit, and how many accounts you have opened recently.
Tip: even if a $100 best buy gift card or low APR is at stake, don’t open too many new credit cards at once. Not only are they hard inquiries, but doing so categorizes you as a credit risk and can quickly lower your score.
- Multiple lines of credit and being able to maintain them can positively impact your score by illustrating that you are financially responsible. 10% of your credit score is based on existing lines of credit. Do you have a variety of accounts? Do you have multiple accounts?
Tip: explore ways to maintain multiple lines of credit (without opening a bunch of credit cards at once). Successfully managing multiple accounts—car loans, credit cards, school loans—can yield major positive dividends for your score.
Keeping the above factors in good standing is crucial to maintaining your credit score. Don’t fret if you have an off-month, though. One missed payment won’t completely diminish your score. And if you happen to have a few mishaps, you’ll be relieved to know that they do eventually fall off your report. Just keep making on-time payments and maintaining your credit lines—eventually, your score will fully recuperate!
What’s a “Good” Score?
Your FICO® credit score falls into five general categories:
- BAD: 300 – 560
- POOR: 560 – 650
- FAIR: 650 – 700
- GOOD: 700 – 750
- EXCELLENT: 750 – 850
Not instantly listed as “Excellent” or even “Good”? Not to worry. Over time, as long as you keep up with your payments, your score is sure to pick up.
Got Credit Q’s? Looking to open a new line of credit? Have questions about your credit score, report, or just need some quick credit advice? We’re here to help. At Common Trust, we thrive on helping our members successfully manage their credit in every way, from HELOCs to car loans to credit cards and everything in between. Give us a call today or shoot us a message and we’d be happy to chat. We look forward to hearing from you!