Key difference between credit score and credit report

Many consumers know that they are entitled to one free credit report a year, supplied by the federal government. Yet many also falsely assume that this is a chance to check their credit score – it isn’t.

A credit report will give a detailed description of missed payments, defaults, and any other marks on one’s credit, but it doesn’t then break those numbers down into an easy to read and quotable score. For that, a consumer must sign up with one of the major credit bureaus or Fair Issac Corporation (FICO), the company behind the FICO score.

U.S. News and World Report suggests only doing this if a borrower is planning on filling out a mortgage or auto loan application. That’s because knowing the exact score is really only useful during the application process. For the rest of the year, it’s best to simply monitor the report annually and correct any false statements.

The credit bureaus all have programs to sign up for, but they are usually annual programs that come with membership fees and continue to send scores and reports for months afterwards. The news source recommends using a free trial or promotional code and then cancelling the program to avoid paying extra for scores when consumers don’t really need them.