What You Need to Know About FICO and VantageScore
Most people are already familiar with their FICO Score, but there are more credit scoring systems out there. Two reign supreme: FICO and VantageScore. They have many similarities and differences, and financial institutions vary on which one they use.
FICO vs. VantageScore
There are two primary credit scoring systems: FICO and VantageScore. Other scoring systems exist — like those for car insurance and home insurance — but they don’t have much of a day-to-day effect on average consumers.
The FICO Score was created by a company formerly known as Fair, Isaac and Company, while the VantageScore was developed by the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax).
They’re the only two scores that are tri-bureau, which means they’re available from all three credit reporting agencies.
It’s important to know the similarities and differences between FICO and VantageScore, as having a firm understanding of what each number means can help you maintain or grow your credit score.
How FICO and VantageScore are alike
Let’s take a look at what these two scoring models have in common.
Both scores measure your creditworthiness
Both FICO and VantageScore have the same objective, which is to measure a consumer’s creditworthiness. Financial institutions reference your credit score to determine whether to approve you for products (like credit cards or personal loans) and at what level and rate.
They have the same score range
The credit score range for both FICO and VantageScore is 300 to 850. Versions 1.0 and 2.0 of VantageScore had a range of 501 to 990, but that caused some confusion among consumers. Beginning with Version 3.0 of VantageScore in 2013, and now onto Version 4.0, the range is 300 to 850.
Both scores are available from all three credit bureaus
Both FICO and VantageScore are available from the three major credit reporting agencies. This means that each of the three bureaus generates its own version of your credit report and credit score using both the FICO and VantageScore models. You can obtain a copy of your credit report for free from each bureau once every 12 months. However, these reports will not include your credit score. You will need to pay to access your credit score or check it using a free online tool.
It’s worth noting that your FICO and VantageScore credit scores will likely vary slightly across the three credit bureaus, since your credit reports are rarely going to be the same at each credit bureau. This is because not all lenders report the same information to all three credit bureaus.
How FICO and VantageScore are different
Though there are a handful of similarities between the two scoring systems, there are also several fairly significant differences.
They require different credit history lengths to produce a score
Just because you have a credit report doesn’t mean you’ll also have a credit score. For a report to be scored, a consumer has to qualify, and qualification requirements vary between the two scoring systems.
To be scored with FICO, a consumer has to have at least one undisputed tradeline that is at least six months old, as well as at least one undisputed tradeline that has been updated in the past six months. A tradeline is any credit account that appears on your credit report, including credit cards, mortgages and auto loans. The term “undisputed tradeline” means the credit account has not been disputed by the consumer.
Consumers can be scored with VantageScore as long as they have one tradeline, even if it’s less than six months old. Recent activity isn’t required — all that matters is that the credit account was active at one point. For example, if you haven’t had anything updated on your credit report in the past six months, but you have updates that are more than six months old, you’ll still qualify for a score.
Inquiries affect the two scores differently
Both scores are affected by hard inquiries, which happen when a lender checks your score because you’ve applied for an account. But the rules vary slightly.
FICO treats mortgage, auto and student loan inquiries differently because it acknowledges that many consumers shop around to find their best rates. As long as these inquiries are within 45 days of one another, the scoring system treats them as one inquiry.
VantageScore’s treatment of inquiries is simpler. Any inquiries, regardless of type, are considered a single inquiry if they’re within 14 days of one another.
Why your credit score is important
A good credit score can greatly improve your financial well-being. A good score can give you access to credit cards and loans you otherwise wouldn’t qualify for and help you secure better interest rates and more optimal terms once you do qualify. Having a good credit score may also be a requirement to rent an apartment or home.
How to check your credit score
Although you can pay to access your credit score, there are many free tools available.
Even though there are differences between VantageScore and FICO, it’s important not to get too caught up in the details. Your numbers might differ between the two scoring systems, but a little variation is nothing to worry about.