Credit file vs credit score: Spotting the Differences

In the world of consumer credit, some terms may look or sound similar in semantics but oceans apart in actual meaning. For instance, a credit file has often been confused with a credit report. Though they carry almost the same information, think of a credit file as the universe of data from where credit reports are generated.

To help us clear the air, let us look briefly look at the differences between a credit report and a credit file before bringing in the credit score. The reason why this is important is that the more you understand your credit status which includes your credit file, credit report, and credit score-the better equipped you’ll be in managing your credit.

What Is a Credit File?

Credit reporting agencies (CRAs) such as Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion continuously collect raw, unsorted data concerning individual credit management history. This universe of data is collected from data furnishers among other sources. The data so collected is organised into electronic pools known as credit file databases.

The kind of information stored in credit files include names, addresses, social security numbers, employer information and date of birth of individuals. Credit files also contain information regarding your credit management history such as debt repayment, collection records, loan applications and so on.

For instance, if you have taken additional loans during COVID-19 period, that information will be captured on your credit file.

Differences Between a Credit File and a Credit Report

Think of a credit report as a subset of a credit file. Normally, credit referencing agencies provide your credit information to lenders and other institutions in need at a fee. The information that they give out is not your credit file, but rather custom reports that are drawn from the credit file known as credit reports.

As a customer, you can also request or purchase your credit report often known as customer disclosure. 

One striking difference with the credit file is that the information it contains is updated frequently. For instance, when creditors update your account management history or when you open a new account, information gets sent to CRAs which in turn update your credit file.

On the other hand, your credit report only changes when you request or purchase a new credit report copy. The CRAs will extract the updated information from the credit file and package it into a credit report with a credit score. 

What Is a Credit Score?

Having understood what a credit file is and the difference there is between a credit file and a credit report, let us now turn to credit scores. What are the credit scores and how are they generated? 

A credit score is a numerical quantification of your credit status which helps lenders estimate the likelihood of you honouring your debt once granted. It is a three-digit number generated using credit scoring models which are essentially complex statistical software. The software analyses your historical data as pulled from the credit file and generates a score.

The two most common scoring models are the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) score and VantageScore. FICO is the most common credit-scoring model and is used by CRAs such as Experian and Equifax. The Financial Conduct Authority regulates credit scores in the UK. 

While lenders of loans for bad credit no guarantor usually advance credit even to people with a bad credit score, it is not an excuse for you not to improve your score. The first step is to know the factors used to determine your score.

Factors That Affect Your Credit Score

Credit scores are determined on a weighted model. The following are some of the parameters that are included in the model.

  • Payment history-Making timely payments on your credit facilities is important. Missing even a single payment can pull down your score significantly. Lenders prefer borrowers who are reliable when it comes to honouring their payments. In terms of scoring, payment history makes up 35%.
  • Total debt– Credit utilisation which refers to the ratio of the amount of credit available for use to the credit limit is an important credit score measure. Lenders find individuals having a ratio of 30% and above as being higher-risk borrowers. On the scoring model, total debt takes on a 30% weighting. 
  • Length of credit history-This refers to the length of time a file has been reported open. Borrowers with a longer credit history are often considered more experienced in handling debt. On the FICO score, this parameter weighs 15%.
  • Types of credit- There are three main types of credit – revolving, open and instalment credit. The more diverse your credit accounts, such as credit cards, student loans, car loans and mortgages, the higher your credit score. The weight that a credit mix attracts in the credit scoring model is 10%
  • The number of credit searches– A search is a check that a lender does with a credit reference agency. Depending on the CRA, these searches can remain on your report for up to 2 years.  Having many searches or hard enquiries can damage your credit history. They make up 10% of the score. To avoid many of these searches especially if you have bad credit is to apply for loans for bad credit no guarantor. These loans are a sure bet and you can get approved for up to £25,000 with money deposited into your account the next day. 

What Is a Good Credit Score?

Having a good credit score doesn’t automatically guarantee you access to credit, but it puts you in a much stronger position to be accepted. Most credit providers consider a score of 650 and above on either VantageScore or FICO as being fair or good. However, it is important to note that credit scores vary from one credit reference agency to another. Here is a breakdown of the different scoring based on the CRA.

Experian 

  • Fair: 721-880
  • Good: 881-960
  • Excellent: 961-999

Equifax

  • Fair: 380-419
  • Good: 420-465
  • Excellent: 466-700

TransUnion

  • Fair: 566-603
  • Good: 604-627
  • Excellent: 628-710

Experian is the largest CRA followed by TransUnion and Equifax comes in third. Always remember that the better your credit score, the more choices, and chances you have of getting approved when applying for credit. 

In summary

Knowing what goes into your credit file and what makes up your credit score is important.  Access to credit including loans during COVID-19 is almost always dependent on your credit report and score. However, that is not all, when applying for car insurance and mobile phone contracts, credit files and scores come into play to help lenders assess how much of a risk you are. 

Therefore, understanding how to differentiate a credit file from a credit score could mean the difference between a rejected and an approved loan application. Bear in mind that lenders are not obliged to disclose why they turned down your loan application. Some may instead decide to approve a smaller amount than requested or give you a higher rate if they feel your score shows you up as a high credit risk.