Information from the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions

A Guide to Credit Reports and Scores

Understanding credit scores and reports and how they are used will help you greatly throughout life. Let's get started.

What is a Credit Report?

Your credit report is a detailed record of your credit history. It includes:

  • Personal information: Your name, address, etc.
  • Credit accounts: Credit cards, loans, and other accounts.
  • Recent credit inquiries: Who has checked your credit and when.
  • Bankruptcies or legal judgments: Also includes bankruptcies or legal judgments.

This information is reported to the three main credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. They gather all this information and put it into your credit report.

What is a Credit Score?

Your credit score is a number between 300 and 850 and is based on information found in your credit report. The two major credit scores used are FICO and Vantage. The higher your score, the better.

Your score is based on:

  • Payment history: Have you paid your bills on time or have there been missed payments
  • Credit utilization: How much of your available credit are you using. Experts recommend using at most 30% of available credit.
  • Length of credit history: How long have you had credit?
  • New credit application: Have you recently applied for new credit?
  • Credit mix: Do you have different types of credit, like credit cards and loans?

Why Credit Reports and Scores Matter

The information on your credit report and your credit score can affect your ability to get loans and the interest rates you pay. It's important to ensure your credit report is accurate and take steps to improve your credit score, if necessary.

How to Check Your Credit Report and Score

You can get a free credit report yearly from each of the three major credit bureaus. Just go to Annual Credit Report.

You can obtain your credit scores by checking your credit or loan statements or buying your score from one of the credit bureaus.

Common Credit Report Errors and How to Fix Them

Sometimes, credit reports have errors such as:

  • Incorrect personal information
  • Incorrect payment history
  • Fraudulent accounts

If you find an error, you can dispute it with the credit bureaus. They must investigate and report back to you.

Additional Resources