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 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 the same information, with some small variations in how they weight the factors, but 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 the three credit bureaus vary a bit in the kind of information they list and how it’s reported.
The reports cover a lot — open accounts, amounts owed, credit limits, late payments, collections actions, court judgments and more — and they can look daunting. Use this handy guide to check your reports for errors. Most credit experts suggest you do this at least every year.
How can you get your reports and score for free?
Credit scores used to be available only if someone paid for them, and 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, including NerdWallet. When picking a source of a free score so you can monitor your credit, look for one that includes credit report information as well.
In addition, you’re entitled to a free credit report every year direct from each of the three big credit bureaus. And the Fair Credit Reporting Act allows you to get an additional free credit report if a company or creditor takes what’s called adverse action against you, such as denying an application for credit. You may also get a free copy if your report is inaccurate because of fraud.
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.
Updated Sept. 30, 2016.