When you pull your credit report, you may be surprised to realize your credit score is not showing up, too.
Why isn't your credit score on your credit reports, and what can you do about it?
What's a credit score?
The first thing to understand is that credit reports and credit scores are totally different products.
The FICO score is a proprietary credit-scoring system created by Fair Isaac Corp. in the 1950s. Its competitor, the VantageScore, was developed jointly by Experian, Equifax, TransUnion — the three major credit bureaus in the U.S. — and introduced in 2006. FICO has multiple models, most of them using a 300- to 850-point scale. The same credit score range also is used by the current VantageScore 3.0.
Credit scores are calculated from the data in credit reports. So a mistake there could be reflected in a lower-than-deserved score.
The credit-scoring formulas look at much the same information, with some small variations in how they weight the factors. They all have the same goal: to predict how likely you are to repay borrowed money.
What's a credit report?
Your credit report, on the other hand, is just that, a report. It lists your entire credit profile for creditors to examine and then evaluate your creditworthiness — both independent of credit scores and in conjunction with them.
The information comes from creditors and public records. Reports are voluntary, and some creditors send data to only one or two bureaus, while others report to all three.
The reports cover a lot — open accounts, amounts owed, credit limits, late payments, collections actions, public records and more. (Here's a guide on how to read your credit reports.)
You're entitled to a free credit report from each of the three big credit bureaus weekly. Use Annualcreditreport.com to get them.
You can — and should — dispute errors on your credit reports and get them corrected. Mistakes on your reports could affect your access to credit, cost you a job opportunity or cause you trouble while renting a home.
How can you monitor your report and score for free?
Credit scores used to be available only if someone paid for them. That someone usually was a potential lender who wanted to estimate the likelihood of a potential customer repaying a loan or credit card charges.
Now, however, scores are widely available to consumers for free from a variety of sources. When picking a source of a free score so you can monitor your credit, look for one that includes free credit report information as well, such as NerdWallet. That gives you a convenient way to check your credit health any time and monitor your progress in between your annual checks of all three reports.