What’s the difference between a credit score, report and history?


What’s the difference between a credit score, report and history?

They all have the prefix ‘credit’ and all concern your financial behaviour, so really what IS the difference between a credit history, score and report? 

In financial terms, these words are banded about quite a lot – when applying for something small like a phone contract to applying for something large like a mortgage. But most of us would struggle to spot how they differ, or even whether they do.

In this article, we call out some of the differences and explain what sets them apart. Starting with credit history.

Credit history

This is held by the three credit reference agencies in the UK (Experian, Callcredit and Equifax) and is a list of all the credit arrangements you’ve made and how you’ve handled that debt – so any loans, credit cards, overdrafts and so on. It shows what form of credit you used (a loan for example), who it was with (the lender), how long the agreement lasted (and if it’s still ongoing) and whether you made (or make) your repayments on time.

Your credit history also includes any credit searches that have been made in your name (for example, when you’ve tried to apply for credit in the past – regardless of whether this has been approved or not), any County Court Judgements you’ve had and if you’ve ever been insolvent – so, if you’ve been made bankrupt or been on an IVA - or if you’ve been on a Debt Management Plan.

This record goes back six years, and when you apply for credit lenders can access it to help determine how responsible you are as a borrower and whether they’re willing to lend to you. If you always make your repayments on time, this will stand in your favour, but if you’ve missed payments, made lots of applications for credit within a short timeframe or been insolvent, this may stand against you.

You can access you statutory credit history from each of the three credit reference agencies – there is a standard charge of £2.

Credit report

On the other hand, while your credit history is accessible to a lender, your credit report is not. So what is it?

Well a credit report works like any other report in that it takes information and provides an analysis. In this case, it takes the data from your credit history and breaks it down to show what this means for you.

It is for your eyes only as a borrower, and it can help you understand why you may be struggling to obtain additional credit. You can access it through one of the main credit reference agencies – or through free providers such as Clearscore and Noddle.

Credit score

Based on both of the above, a credit reference agency or lender can assign you a score based on their own criteria. What that criteria consists of is unique to the lender, but it can help them determine whether or not they should lend to you. However, there is no such thing as a universal credit score.

It all depends on the company you’ve asked what score you’ll be given. You may be given a credit score by the credit reference agency you sign up to for your credit history, but you won’t necessarily get the same figure from a lender – in fact, they may not even mark you out of the same number. And because the borrowing criteria is always unique, a lender wouldn’t tell you what score they’d given you anyway.

The bottom line is, if you’ve been a responsible borrower in the past and always made repayments on time, you will appear more attractive to the lender. If you’ve fallen behind with repayments or appear to have borrowed more than you can afford to repay, you’ll appear less desirable. This may mean you struggle to obtain additional credit, or are offered credit at higher interest rates.

Don’t forget, you don’t have to wait until you apply for credit to check any of the above information. You can either buy your statutory credit history from one of the credit reference agencies, you can sign up to one of their credit report services (but beware that these have a monthly charge after an initial free trial) or you can use a free service such as ClearScore or Noddle.