Credit Scores vs Credit Reports - What’s the Difference?

You’ve no doubt seen the terms ‘credit report’ and ‘credit score’ all over our website.
Last modified: 4th July 2024
William Jolly  |  

These two things are critical to your finances, but the average Aussie doesn’t know much about them or that they’re different at all. 

According to CHOICE, 68% of us have never seen our credit reports, and one in three don’t understand how they work. Meanwhile, Finder reported that around 73% of Australians have never checked their credit score.

To remedy this, we dive into the specifics of what a credit report is, how it differs from a credit score, and the details contained within your credit report.

On this page:

What is a credit report?

A credit report is a detailed record of your credit history compiled by credit reporting agencies. Often called a credit file, it provides a comprehensive overview of your borrowing and repayment behaviour, including information about credit accounts, loans, repayment history, and any defaults or bankruptcies. 

Essentially, your credit report is a snapshot of your financial reliability. We’ll discuss the specific information contained in your credit report further down.

Are ‘credit history’ and credit report the same thing?

While the terms are often used interchangeably, they are not exactly the same. Your credit history refers to the record of your financial transactions over time, including how you’ve managed credit accounts and loans. 

A credit report, on the other hand, is a document that summarises this history prepared by credit reporting agencies.

What is a credit score?

A credit score, also known as a credit rating, is a score given to you based on your borrowing history from credit providers. The main difference between this and a credit report is that a credit score sits within a credit report and is just a single snapshot that sums up all sorts of different credit behaviours.

If the credit score is the dot points at the beginning, the credit report is the essay.

When you apply for a credit product (such as a home loan, car loan or credit card), your credit score can essentially act as a numerical representation of your reliability as a borrower.

Credit scores can range between 0 and 1,000 to 1,200.

What details are in your credit report?

To be more specific, a credit report includes:

  • Personal identification details: Name, address, date of birth, and employment history.
  • Credit accounts: Information on current and past credit accounts, including credit cards, loans, and mortgages.
  • Repayment history: Records of your payments, indicating whether they were made on time.
  • Credit inquiries: Details of recent applications for credit.
  • Negative listings: Defaults, bankruptcies, and court judgments.
  • Public records: Any relevant information from public records that affects your creditworthiness.
  • And, of course, your credit score!

You can see a more complete list of credit report information via Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC).

Who creates your credit report?

Technically, you do! Your credit report is compiled using all the information we mentioned above, so you’re kind of continuously creating and adding to your credit report.

However, in another, more accurate way, credit reports in Australia are created by credit reporting bodies, also known as credit bureaus. These agencies collect and maintain your credit information, which is used to compile your credit report.

The different credit reporting bodies explained

In Australia, the three main credit reporting bodies are Equifax, Experian, and illion.

Equifax

Founded in 1899 and headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, Equifax is one of the oldest and largest credit reporting agencies globally. Operating in 24 countries, Equifax offers comprehensive credit reporting and analytics services, including credit reports, scores, fraud prevention, and identity verification solutions.

Experian

Established in 1996 and headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, Experian is a global leader in information services with operations in over 37 countries. Experian provides data and analytical tools to manage credit risk, prevent fraud, and automate decision-making processes. 

In Australia, Experian operates out of North Sydney.

Illion

illion, formerly Dun & Bradstreet Australia, was founded in 1887 and is headquartered in Melbourne, Australia. While its primary operations are in Australia and New Zealand, illion focuses on providing data and analytics solutions, including consumer and commercial credit reports, risk assessment, and decision-making tools. Illion is a significant player in the Australian market, especially after rebranding from Dun & Bradstreet Australia.

Does each credit bureau give a different credit score?

Yes, each of the major credit reporting agencies above uses a different internal formula to work out someone’s credit score, which is why you might have three or more different scores.

Here’s how each of them classify credit scores as of 2024: 

Equifax

Experian

illion

Below Average

0 - 459

0 - 549

1 - 299

Average

460 - 660

550 - 624

300 - 499

Good

661 - 734

625 - 699

500 - 699

Very good

735 - 852

700 - 799

700 - 799

Excellent

853 - 1,200

800 - 1,000

800 - 1,000

Do you know where your credit score sits?

How do lenders use your credit report?

Lenders use your credit report to assess your creditworthiness when you apply for credit. They review your repayment history, existing credit accounts and any negative listings to determine the risk of lending to you. A favourable credit report with timely repayments and low credit utilisation can enhance your chances of approval and secure better loan terms.

In most cases, lenders will partner with just one credit reporting body over another when retrieving your credit score and report. For example, the majority of the big banks use Equifax.

How to access your credit report for free

You can freely obtain your credit report from the big three credit reporting bodies in Australia online or by written request. There are also some smaller agencies and third-party services you can get a copy from, like Talefin, CreditSavvy, and ClearScore.

Equifax says that you should have the following information on hand before you request a copy of your report:

  • Your full name & date of birth
  • Your current address and previous address
  • Your driver’s licence
  • Your current Employment

Equifax and Experian offer free credit report checks every three months. However, doing so more often might incur a fee. You’re also entitled to a free report if you’ve been denied credit in the past 90 days or if your credit report has been corrected.

Checking your credit report does not hurt your credit score at all. That is a common credit myth, and it’s actually recommended that you check your report and score at least once every 12 months.

What about checking your credit score?

You can also check your credit score from those three major credit bureaus as often as you like, for free, as well as through other third-party processes and businesses. The process for doing so is usually very similar, but you should get your credit score faster than you get your credit report, which can take a few days.

You can check your credit score for free in our Better Credit mobile app. Simply log in and fill in your details so we can give you your free credit score courtesy of Equifax.

Download the Better Credit App now!

Why you should actively monitor your credit report

Credit report errors can have a significant impact on your credit score in Australia and your finances. Actively monitoring your credit report is crucial for maintaining good financial health, and regular checks can help you:

  • Detect and dispute errors: Mistakes in your credit report can negatively impact your credit score.
  • Identify fraudulent activity: Monitoring your report can help you spot unauthorised accounts or inquiries.
  • Improve your credit score: Understanding what affects your score allows you to take steps to improve it.
  • Prepare for credit applications: Knowing your credit status can help you better prepare for loan or credit card applications.

Spotted something wrong in your credit report?

If you find an error in your credit report, it’s important to dispute it immediately. Contact the credit reporting body that issued the report and provide evidence of the mistake. They are required to investigate and correct any inaccuracies. 

Ensuring your credit report is accurate helps maintain a healthy credit score and improves your chances of securing credit on favourable terms.

See our article on how to dispute errors on your credit report for more information.

Written by - William Jolly

Content Manager
William is the Content Manager at Jacaranda Finance. He has worked as both a journalist and a media advisor at some of Australia's biggest financial comparison sites such as Canstar, Compare the Market and Savings.com.au, and is passionate about helping Australians find the right money solution for them.

You can get in touch with William via williamj@jacarandafinance.com.au.
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