Your credit score affects your financial future, so it’s important to know where your score comes from and the different ways it can be calculated. Most important, you should know that the score you’re seeing may not be the score your lender is seeing. Why is this, and what can you do about it?
Two major companies are responsible for billions of credit scores (this is no hyperbole) provided to lenders and consumers: FICO® and VantageScore® Solutions. The difference between VantageScore vs. FICO credit scores is subtle, reflecting each company’s special calculation.
We’ll explain what goes into score calculations. We’ll also tell you where to find your score, how to use it, and which score lenders use in their decisions.
Why Credit Scores Are Important
Before we get into score calculation, let’s review why credit scores are so important. When you need to borrow money, you want to do it as cheaply as possible. This means you want a great interest rate and terms that help you repay your debt as efficiently as possible.
Generally speaking, the higher your credit score, the more likely you are to get the best interest rate and loan terms. Over the course of your life, a good credit score can save you a significant amount of money.
Knowing how to read a credit report and how your credit score is calculated can help you make moves to improve it. Take a look at how the two major players come up with your credit score.
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What FICO Takes Into Account
The Fair Isaac Corporation, more commonly known as FICO, developed the FICO score in 1989. Scores range from 300 to 850. The higher the number, the better your score.
FICO scores are calculated based on how a consumer handles debt and weighted according to the following categories:
• Payment history: 35%
• Amounts owed: 30%
• Length of credit history: 15%
• Credit mix: 10%
• New credit: 10%
As you can see, FICO scores give the most weight to your payment history and amounts owed. FICO also considers your length of credit history, credit mix, and new credit.
FICO has multiple versions of their credit scoring models, much like software has multiple updates. FICO provides different scoring models to lenders that serve different needs. Credit card issuers, auto loan lenders, and mortgage originators may use different FICO scores to make lending decisions.
What’s calculated in a FICO vs. a VantageScore is subtly different.
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What VantageScore Takes Into Account
VantageScores were developed in 2006 by the three main credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and Transunion. Scores range from 300 to 850, just like FICO scores. However, even though the scores are calculated on the same scale, a VantageScore will be different from a FICO score. That’s because the factors, and how they’re weighted, are a little different. VantageScores are based on:
• Payment history: 40%
• Depth of credit: 21%
• Credit utilization: 20%
• Balances: 11%
• Recent credit: 5%
• Available credit: 3%
Naturally, this results in a different score. Since many lenders use FICO Score and consumers often see VantageScores, some lending decisions can take consumers by surprise.
The most common VantageScore versions are VantageScore 3.0 and 4.0. Many banks and credit issuers use VantageScore 3.0 vs. FICO Score.
VantageScore vs FICO: The Differences
The major differences between VantageScores and FICO Score are outlined in the table below. These include the amount of time you have to shop for a loan, the number of categories factored into score calculation, differences in weighted categories, and length of credit history.
|Shopping Window||45 days||14 days|
|Weighting||Amounts owed weighted more||Payment history weighted more|
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Who Tends To Use VantageScore
Some banks and credit card issuers supply VantageScores to their customers for free. Scores are provided largely for consumer education, meaning to help people understand what factors affect their credit score, rather than lending decisions.
Consumers who want to purchase a credit score will find Equifax and TransUnion both advertise a credit score monitoring service that uses VantageScore 3.0 as their model. If you’re comparing Transunion VantageScore vs. FICO, you’ll see that Experian sells a FICO score 8 model.
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Who Tends To Use FICO
FICO claims that 90% of top lenders use FICO Score to make lending decisions. Consumers who visit the Experian website will see the credit score monitoring service it offers uses the FICO Score 8 model. You can also purchase your FICO Score directly from FICO.
FICO and VantageScore credit scores are used by a variety of sources to consider your credit history and credit score. These can include lenders, landlords, employers, and insurance companies. (Read more about how credit checks for employment work.)
It’s also possible to get a tri merge credit report, which combines data from the three credit bureaus in one report.
Which Credit Score Costs the Least To Check?
Many people don’t know how to find out their credit score for free. While you are entitled to a free credit report each year from AnnualCreditReport.com, that report won’t include a credit score.
Here are some ways you can find your credit score without having to pay for it:
1. Bank or credit union. Many financial institutions provide credit scores to their members. The score is often found by accessing online accounts.
2. Credit card issuer. Many credit card issuers provide credit scores to their customers.
3. Finance apps. Some money tracker apps and similar businesses provide credit scores to their users.
By the way, pulling your credit report and checking your own score don’t negatively affect your credit score. Learn more about soft credit inquiries vs. hard credit inquiries.
The two main credit score companies are FICO Score and VantageScore. Each company calculates your score in a slightly different way. Checking your credit is a great way to stay on top of your financial health. Although you may not know exactly which credit score your lender uses to make decisions, you can get a pretty good idea of your range. A number of businesses can provide your credit score free of charge, including banks and credit unions, credit card issuers, and finance apps. Obtaining a credit score from either FICO or VantageScore can help you identify your strengths and the areas where you need to improve.
The SoFi Insights app offers free credit monitoring. In addition to tracking your credit score, monitoring can help you manage your credit utilization and better understand the factors that drive your credit score.
Does TransUnion use FICO or Vantage?
TransUnion uses the VantageScore 3.0 model.
Which is more accurate: VantageScore or FICO?
Both VantageScore and FICO Score are used to make lending decisions, so the score that is most accurate is the one your lender is planning to use. According to FICO, 90% of top lending institutions use their score to make lending decisions.
Which credit score is better: FICO or TransUnion?
TransUnion provides credit scores from the VantageScore 3.0 model. Both FICO and VantageScore can provide insights into a consumer’s behavior with credit.
Photo credit: iStock/nattanapong
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