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Everything you need to know about credit reports and credit scores


Katie Ross 
Community Education and Marketing Manager
American Consumer Credit Counseling


One of the most common mistakes that people make is confusing their credit report with their credit score. In addition, many people do not know what is included in a standard credit report. Being able to understand the two indicators is critical because they both reveal a lot about your financial history and directly impact your financial future. Understanding your credit score and credit report will help you identify financial strengths and weaknesses as well as take steps towards financial stability. 

Do   Woman wondering about her credit report and credit score

  • distinguish between your report and score
  • know what’s included on a credit report
  • be aware of the consequences
  • know who can see your credit report
  • know who can see your credit score



  • miss chances to improve your score
  • assume your score is stagnant
  • settle for anything less than your best
  • be a victim of identity theft
  • et inaccuracies on your report ruin your credit



Do distinguish between your report and score 

A credit report is an organized list of information compiled by lenders that includes records of payment history, payment totals, and payment frequency. Unlike the detailed history found on the credit report, your credit score is a simple numerical expression based on several pieces of data from the credit report. Credit scores range from 300 to 850, and higher scores are more desirable. 

Do know what’s included on a credit report 

Many people have misconceptions about the types of information included on a standard credit report. Don’t be on the wrong side of this statistic, know what is contained within your record. Credit reports may include: 

  • A list of companies that have given the individual credit or loans
  • The total amount for each loan or credit limit for each credit card
  • How often a consumer pays credit or loans on time, and the amount paid
  • Companies that have asked to see your credit report within a certain time period
  • Personal address(es) and/or employers
  • Other details of public record 

Do be aware of the consequences 

Credit reports impact mortgage rates, credit card approvals, apartment rentals, and even job applications. For this reason, it is important to work toward a clean credit record and high credit score. 

Do know who can see your credit report 

Your detailed financial history reveals all of the ups-and-downs of your past and it’s important to know who can see your records. Credit reports may be checked by the following: 

  • Creditors
  • Mortgage lenders
  • Landlords
  • Utility companies
  • Student loan lenders
  • Insurance companies
  • Employers
  • Government agencies
  • Collection agencies
  • Judgment creditors
  • Entities that have a court order 

Do know who can see your credit score 

A credit score helps lenders and others quickly determine the likelihood that you will repay your debt responsibly. A credit score may be checked by the following: 

  • Banks
  • Credit Card Companies
  • Auto Dealers
  • Retail Stores
  • Landlords 


Do not miss chances to improve your score 

You can steadily improve your credit score by paying bills on time, using credit cards responsibility, and keeping a low debt-to-income ratio. With some financial planning and responsible decisions, you can increase your credit score over time. 

Do not assume your score is stagnant 

Don’t fret if your credit score is currently low. Scores constantly change to reflect the contents of your credit report. And likewise, don’t assume that you will maintain a high score with late payments and bad spending habits. 

Do not settle for anything less than your best 

Don’t forget to frequently check your credit report. You can check your credit report online by using free credit check services at You are entitled to one credit report from each of the 3 credit reporting agencies every year. It’s a great idea to take advantage of this service and check one credit report every 4 months. 

Do not be a victim of identity theft 

Regularly checking your credit report may help you catch inaccuracies in the record and help you spot possible signs of identity theft early. 

Do not let inaccuracies on your report ruin your credit 

According to a recent study by the Federal Trade Commission about a quarter of consumers have at least one potentially significant error in one of their three credit reports. These errors can result in increased scores and impact a person’s ability to open a credit card, purchase a home or even rent an apartment. If a consumer finds errors on their report they have the right to contact the reporting agency to fix them immediately.



It’s important to distinguish between credit reports and credit scores. Knowing the details of your credit report as well as the meaning of your credit score will help you identify financial strengths and weaknesses. With minimal effort you can be on your way to financial peace of mind.


American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) provides non-profit credit counseling, debt relief, and debt elimination services for consumers nationwide. We offer free credit counseling to help consumers identify the right debt reduction program or debt solution for their unique situation. Since 1991, our certified credit counselors have helped thousands of individuals and families learn how to pay off a credit card balance and how to get out of debt fast through programs designed to payoff credit card debt within five years. Our debt management programs consolidate card credit debt payments and help reduce interest rates and finances charges, reducing the time it takes for getting rid of debt. And we offer comprehensive financial education services where consumers can get answers to questions like "How do I create a budget?", "What is debt consolidation?" and "How can I avoid debt in the future?"

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