Your credit score impacts whether you’re approved or denied for credit and even whether you qualify for getting utilities connected without a deposit. But, there’s a lot more behind the scenes about credit scores. At RISE, we want to help make sense out of this complex topic.
Credit Score Basics
So, what’s a credit score? It is a three-digit numeric representation of you as a borrower. Lenders look at your score as a piece of data that helps them predict whether you will make on-time payments, late payments, or simply stop paying your loan. Other groups, such as employers, insurance companies, landlords, etc., look at your credit score to get a sense for how you manage your personal credit. Do you pay your bills on time? Regularly payoff your loans? Carry a balance on your credit cards? Responsible borrowing habits reflect in higher credit scores, which make lenders more comfortable.
Although your credit score is a representation of you as a borrower, it isn’t set in stone. Your credit score is built from information contained in your credit report so changes in your payment behavior, balances, and credit types (personal loans, credit cards, etc.) can result in increases or decreases to your score. Therefore, it pays to know what your score means, where it comes from, and how your scores might vary between the big three credit bureaus (TransUnion®, Experian™, and Equifax®) based on the differences in your credit report with each agency.
FICO vs. VantageScore
There are several organizations that generate credit scores, but the two most common are FICO® and VantageScore. FICO® and VantageScore generate credit scoring models and they use your credit history to generate your personal, numerical credit score. These credit scoring agencies are different from the credit bureaus, which compile and maintain credit information that is used to calculate your credit score.
You’ve likely heard of FICO® if you’ve applied for a credit card, mortgage, or auto loan. In fact, FICO® claims their credit score is used by about 90% of the top lenders for mortgages, credit cards, and auto loans. FICO® uses multiple models to generate credit scores, with the current model being number 8. FICO® recently released the UltraFICO™ which can use your banking information as part of its input for the score. Most FICO® scores range from 300 to 850, and the higher the score, the greater the borrowing power with lenders. VantageScore is the other major credit scoring agency. VantageScore’s most common model is 3.0 and their scores range from 300 to 850. Many companies use VantageScore to provide free credit score listings to customers—including RISE via Credit Score Plus!
With both credit scoring models using a range of 300-850, you might wonder if there are any differences between the scores. Since both companies developed the scoring models independently, it’s not uncommon to see variances in your scores between the models even from the same credit bureau. In fact, your FICO® score and VantageScore can vary by as much as fifty points or more. Lenders can ultimately choose which credit score(s) to use and some don’t use FICO® or VantageScore.
Know your Score(s)
A best practice is to regularly check your credit scores, so you know what to expect if you’re looking for a loan, renting an apartment, applying for a job, etc. You’re entitled to receive one free credit report a year from the big three bureaus at annualcreditreport.com. When checking your credit score you should make note of both the scoring model (FICO® vs VantageScore) as well as the credit bureau that provided the data (Transunion®, Experian™, Equifax®).
To learn more about FICO® and VantageScore, check out the following websites: