Almost daily I get asked why do I have so many different credit scores and which one is my real score. I understand the frustration consumers have related to not knowing what their real scores are.
As of today, there are only two credit score models that are used in lending. Keep in mind there are many additional scoring models that are either educational scores or creditor, self-built stores. One would think with only two commercially available models to choose from, a consumer would only have two scores. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Estimates show that roughly 90% of credit decisions are made where lenders use a FICO score model. The FICO score model was developed by Fair Issac and Company. The other credit score model is called a Vantage Score. In 2006, the Vantage Score model was created by the big three credit reporting agencies to compete with FICO.
So why do I have so many scores and which ones count? The reason consumers have more than 2 credit scores, one FICO and one Vantage is complicated. First off, every credit reporting agency has unique data that gets scored, so right off the bat consumers have three different scores from each of the credit reporting agencies. Secondly, each scoring model has a number of different versions and in some cases, industry-specific models within the model. Each version has its own unique formulas which can alter a consumer’s credit score a great deal. As an example, as of today, Vantage has 3 different versions while FICO has MANY more. To complicate matters further, different versions have different score ranges. Two of the Vantage score versions have a range of 501-990 while their newest version has a range of300-850.
Consumers are not told what credit models are used so this leads to more confusion. If a consumer had a 740 Vantage Score from version 1.0 or 2.0, they would have a very middle of the road score and they would be considered a risk when applying for new credit. If that same consumer had a 740 Vantage Score using version 3.0, they would have a very good score which would indicate a low risk to a new lender. In this example, a consumer has the same score from the same model yet one is good while one is not. Confused? You are not the only one.
Where can I get my FICO score? Many credit card companies now provide a FICO score with their statements. It seems many of these scores are FICO8 scores based off of TransUnion data. While this is a real credit score, as of today, this is not a FICO score that is used in first mortgage lending. To see all of your FICO scores, go to www.myfico.com. BE careful, this is NOT a free site. For many, this site leads to more confusion to what their real credit score is. This site provides many industry-specific scores as well as different versions of scores for each of the industry-specific scores. Their site advertises “Instantly access up to 28 of the most widely used FICO® Score Versions”. While each of their 28 scores is real, a consumer has no idea which one a lender would use. FICO does provide the industry names on most of their scores but each lender chooses what scoring model as well as what credit reporting agency to use.
Keep in mind, credit reports and credit scores are two different things. Consumers can obtain their credit reports for free once a year at www.annualcreditreport.com. While accessing free reports, the credit reporting agencies advertise to sell you a credit score. As described above, be careful what you pay for.
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