While there are multiple credit score models, there are two that are most commonly used. Here’s a breakdown on the similarities and differences.
Do you know you have more than one credit score? Sure enough, you have multiple and some with different variations. But to simplify things, you’ll be happy to know that there are two main sources of scores for lending decisions, such as auto, home, and personal loans. Those sources are Fair Isaac Corporation, which makes the FICO® score, and the three credit bureaus — Experian®, Equifax®, and TransUnion™ — who generate the VantageScore®.
So What’s The Difference Between The Scores?
When You Get A Score
FICO scores are generated once you have one or more accounts with at least six months of payment history and at least one account with activity within the last six months. To generate a VantageScore, you need one month of payment history and activity on one account within the previous 24 months.
The criteria that makes up each of your scores is similar but weighed differently depending on which model is being used.
Relative Scoring For The Same Information
While both scores use the same 300-850 range, various sources have found that VantageScores tend to be about 50 points higher for the same information, on average.
It’s important to compare apples to apples with any lender you’re discussing an application with. For example, they may want you to have a 760 score to qualify for the best interest rate on a loan, but if you’re looking at a VantageScore and they’re looking at FICO, you might not be getting the rate you thought you were.
When you apply for a loan or credit, a hard inquiry is generated and the lender accesses a copy of your credit report to consider your application. If you have too many inquiries, this can negatively impact your credit score in both models. To minimize this effect for people shopping for a car loan, mortgage, or student loan, in its more recent scoring models, FICO has counted all of these inquiries as a single inquiry if they happen during a 45-day window. VantageScore narrows that window to just 14 days.
It’s estimated that 90% of lenders use the FICO score. Keep in mind that number used to be higher – VantageScore is gaining market share.
It’s also important to understand that you have separate VantageScore and FICO scores from each of the three credit bureaus and that there are different versions of each score that emphasize specific components more than others. For example, when you apply for a car loan, the lender might look at a FICO score that puts a heavier emphasis on past auto payments.
The fundamental factors that give you a good score are essentially the same in all models though. So as long as you make payments on time, keep your balances low on revolving accounts, keep older revolving accounts open, limit credit applications, and diversify your credit, you’ll be fine.
Now that you know the differences and similarities between the scores, how do you know which one to focus on? It’s pretty simple: ask your lender. Once you know the score they’re using, you know which one to track. If your financial institution or credit card provider doesn’t offer you a free score, you can access your scores directly from FICO and VantageScore.
*Based on VantageScore®