Your credit score is a numerical tool that gives potential lenders information about how responsible you have been in the last with various lines of credit. Basically, it helps them answer the question of how risky it would to lend you money.
The credit score itself ranges from 350-800 and it made up of 5 different parts that each have a different weight. Payment history makes up 35% of the total score and lets lenders know how timely you have been in paying off past debts. Amounts still owed makes up 30% of the total score and represents how much current debt you still have outstanding. Length of credit history accounts for 15% of the total score and shows how long you have been paying off various debts. The number of different debt types makes up 10% of the total score and gives information about the range of debt you may have such as home loan, credit card debt, car payments, etc. The last 10% of the total score is made up of how many times your account has been checked by various lenders. This one may be a surprise but every time a lender requests your credit report, the score itself is impacted. The higher your total credit score is, the lower risk you represent to your potential lender.
Your credit history is comprised of more than just the credit score itself. It also includes specific details of all of your past and present credit accounts. Also shown is every time that a past lender has requested your credit report and any dealings that you may have had with a collection agency. Public legal matters are also a part of the report, including past foreclosures, bankruptcies, liens, etc.
Accessing your report is fairly straightforward. Once a year you can request a free copy from any of these large credit reporting agencies - TrasUnion, Experian, and Equifax. If you have been denied credit or feel that there is an error in your history, then you are entitled to view your credit report as well. If you are concerned about your credit history, it would be smart to request your report from all three of the above agencies and check each one for inaccuracies.