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What Are the Different Types of Credit Scores?
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When people discuss credit scores, they often make it seem as though you only have one. But the truth is, you actually have multiple credit scores.
The primary scores used by the three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — are your FICO® Score and VantageScore®. We explain why you have more than one credit score and break down the differences among the credit scores.
Credit scoring models
Both your FICO Score and your VantageScore are designed to measure how financially stable you are and how likely you are to be able to pay back debt. Here’s a brief overview of each one.
What is a FICO Score?
Your FICO Score, which was developed by Fair Isaac Corporation, is used in 90% of all lending decisions, and while it’s been around since 1956, it was only recently made available to consumers in 1989. The three-digit number typically ranges from 300 to 850. According to FICO, a score in the range between 670 and 739 is considered a good credit score and can help you secure lower interest rates on your mortgage, car loan or any other type of loan.
FICO uses the following ranges to determine your credit rating:
|Credit ratings||Credit scores||Impact on applicant|
|Poor credit||300 to 579||May be required to pay a fee or deposit, or may not be approved for credit at all.|
|Fair credit||580 to 669||Considered a subprime borrower who may have difficulty repaying debt.|
|Good credit||670 to 739||Not considered likely to become seriously delinquent in the future.|
|Very good credit||740 to 799||Likely to receive better than average rates from lenders.|
|Exceptional credit||800 to 850||Likely to receive the best rates from lenders.|
The five factors that determine your FICO Score and how much each factor is weighted are:
- Payment history (35%): This measures on-time payments.
- Amounts owed (30%): This measures how much debt you’re carrying relative to your credit limits.
- Length of credit history (15%): This measures how long you’ve been handling credit.
- New credit (10%): This measures how often you apply for new credit.
- Credit mix (10%): This measures how you handle different types of credit, such as credit cards and loans.
What is a VantageScore?
The three major credit bureaus created the VantageScore in 2006 as an alternative to the FICO Score to better address changes in behavioral trends and advances in data collection.
The most current versions of the VantageScore (3.0 and 4.0) now have the same range as the FICO Score (300 to 850). However, where it can take up to six months of credit activity to generate a FICO Score, it only takes one month of credit history to generate a VantageScore.
VantageScore ranges are as follow:
|Credit ratings||Credit scores||Impact on applicant|
|Very poor credit||300 to 499||Not likely to be approved for credit.|
|Poor credit||500 to 600||May be approved for some credit, though interest rates may be high and larger down payments may be required.|
|Fair credit||601 to 660||May be approved for credit without competitive rates.|
|Good credit||661 to 780||Likely to be approved for credit with competitive rates.|
|Excellent credit||781 to 850||Most likely to receive favorable rates and terms on credit accounts.|
While both the FICO Score and VantageScore take payment history into consideration, the VantageScore places more emphasis on other factors, such as credit age and utilization. The following factors are used to calculate your VantageScore:
- Total credit usage, balance and available credit (Extremely influential)
- Credit mix and experience (Highly influential)
- Payment history (Moderately influential)
- Age of credit history (Less influential)
- New accounts (Less influential)
Other types of credit scores
While your FICO Score and VantageScore are the most widely used credit scores by lenders, they aren’t the only ones. Many large lenders use custom scoring models created by in-house statisticians or external third parties.
For example, FICO generates 49 types of credit scores for lenders, each focusing on a different lending requirement for a variety of financial providers in the United States. The six major scores by FICO include the Generic FICO Score, FICO Mortgage Score, FICO Auto Score, FICO Bankcard Score, FICO Installment Loan SCORE and FICO Personal Finance Score.
Why do I have so many credit scores?
Each of the big three credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — generates two main types of consumer credit scores, the FICO Score and VantageScore. The information reported to the credit bureaus isn’t shared between them, which may lead to different scores.
“Each credit bureau receives information that creditors voluntarily report to them,” said Adam Beaty, a certified financial planner at Bullogic Wealth Management in Pearland, Texas. “That means Experian and TransUnion may record an item on your credit reports, but Equifax won’t. When this happens, credit scores may be different across each bureau.”
As Beaty explained, since each bureau has its own algorithm to create your credit score, it’s a good idea to pull reports from all three bureaus when checking your credit. Ideally, there won’t be any significant differences among the three of them.
Plus, there are different versions of these credit scores as the credit scoring companies routinely update their formulas. Some lenders may rely on older versions of a FICO Score or VantageScore, which may further lead to discrepancies between scores.
However, these discrepancies shouldn’t be too far apart from each other and should generally fall within the same range. If, however, you find big differences of, say, 50 to 100 points or more, then you should review your credit reports to find out what’s triggering that difference. It could be as simple as a credit card account not being recorded by one credit bureau, or a late payment recorded by one credit bureau but not the other two.
Finally, know that when you check your credit score, it’s a snapshot in time: Your scores rise and fall a few points here and there depending on lender-reported activity, such as payments, balances, accounts opened or closed and more.
How to check your credit scores and reports
Knowing what your credit score is prior to applying for a new credit card or loan can help give you insight into which products you may qualify for and what interest rates you can expect.
You can check your credit score for free in a variety of ways without negatively impacting your credit. For example, you can request a copy of your FICO Score every 30 days through Experian. You can also access your FICO Score through Discover Credit Scorecard (if you are a Discover cardholder), or view your free VantageScore through LendingTree. Know that your existing bank, credit union or credit card issuer may also offer a free credit score tool.
Additionally, it’s important to check your credit report for errors, potential fraud and identity theft (which can all hurt your credit score) on a regular basis.
“Get into the habit of pulling your credit report at least once a year through AnnualCreditReport.com,” said Beaty. “Take the time to comb through it and make sure that everything is correct.” In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, you can now access your credit reports through the site for free on a weekly basis through the end of 2022.
You may also receive free access to your credit report through Experian or CreditWise from Capital One.
If you notice any incorrect information on your credit report, you should file a dispute with the credit reporting company to let them know what information is inaccurate. Be very clear about what is wrong and why, and support your claims with whatever documents you can provide.