Understanding your credit score can be hard. And to make things even more confusing, you may have heard that there are different types of credit scores.
No matter what credit score model you use, it’s important to understand what your score means and how it is calculated. Use this guide to learn the difference between credit score, FICO Score, and VantageScore.
Types of Credit Scores
The term “credit score” includes several types of credit scoring models. These scores tell both the consumer and lenders where your credit stands. Each score is calculated and used differently depending on the circumstances.
The most common types of credit scores used are FICO Scores and VantageScores.
What is a FICO Score?
The term “FICO score” is often used interchangeably with the term “credit score.”
Since 1956, FICO (formerly called Fair Isaac Corporation) has provided different types of credit scoring services to help lenders and creditors evaluate their customers’ creditworthiness.
They created the FICO score in 1981. This model evaluates a credit report and generates a score between 300 and 850. This score is then used by lenders to determine your creditworthiness.
What is a VantageScore?
In 2006, the 3 major credit bureaus – TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian – joined forces to create VantageScores® to compete with FICO. One of the bureaus, Experian, even went so far as to stop offering FICO score information to consumers.
Since then, they’ve been aggressively marketing VantageScore. The most current version is VantageScore 4.0, which uses a scale the same scale as FICO, ranging from 300 to 850. You can pay extra to get your VantageScore when you order a free credit report from annualcreditreport.com.
What is the Difference Between FICO vs Vantage Scores?
One way the two main credit score models differ is through the method each uses to pull your credit history.
A FICO credit score is determined by a snapshot of all the available credit history data when your score was generated. A VantageScore focuses more on your credit history and informs lenders of your credit behavior.
Both types of credit scores use a variety of similar factors to create your credit score. However, the defining difference is how much these factors influence your score. While both scores look at your credit history to examine your credit usages, balances, payment history, and inquiries, each score is influenced differently by each factor.
What factors affect my credit score?
The specific method used to calculate a score from one’s credit report is a trade secret. No one can predict exactly what FICO or the credit bureaus’ scores will be after evaluating your credit, but we do know some important details about how scores differ between FICO and VantageScores.
1. Length of Credit History
In order to generate a FICO score, you must have at least six months’ credit history with at least one active account. VantageScore only requires one month of credit history in the past two years.
2. Late Payment Penalties
Although both scores are affected by late payments, each model penalizes scores for late payments differently. For example, VantageScores issue higher penalties for late mortgage penalties than FICO. If you’re having a hard time making your payments, talk to a debt coach for free today!
3. Collections Penalties
When you have a credit account that has been sent to collections, both FICO and VantageScore credit scores will be negatively affected. VantageScore will ignore all collections accounts once they have been paid off, and FICO will ignore accounts that are paid off or have an original balance under $100.
4. Hard Inquiry Grace Period
When you’re actively shopping for a loan, both credit scoring models have a grace period that groups all similar credit pulls together as one. VantageScore has a grace period of 14 days, while FICO has a grace period of 45.
5. Multiple Bureaus, Multiple Scores
It’s possible for a lender to pull a FICO score based on only one of the 3 major credit bureaus. That means your FICO score could be different from one lender to another based on which credit report the score was based on. If your Equifax-based score is worse than your TransUnion-based score, one lender might approve your loan application while another might deny you. With VantageScores, there is more uniformity across all three bureaus, so the score doesn’t tend to vary from lender to lender.
VantageScore vs. FICO Score Conversion
There is no official method of converting a VantageScore to a FICO score. Because each scoring uses different criteria and methods of pulling data, it’s nearly impossible to convert. However, keeping both scores in mind can give you a much more well-rounded understanding of your credit health.
For example, a consumer might have a VantageScore of 623, then check their FICO score and see that it’s 721. On the FICO model, the score is squarely in the good credit range.. However, it is right at the cutoff that separates fair from poor credit on the VantageScore scale.
What does this mean? The two scores are different enough that it’s not wise to compare them directly. Take each individual score for what it tells you. For example, when it comes to credit utilization, the VantageScore is an indicator of your most recent credit habits while the FICO score is more of a snapshot of your utilization rate at the current moment. Knowing what each score emphasizes helps you make moves to improve your scores over time.
Which Type of Credit Score is Most Common?
Although both scores are useful, around 90% of lenders use FICO scores to evaluate potential borrowers.
How to Get Your Credit Score
In the past, the only way to receive your credit score was by purchasing it from FICO (at myFICO.com) or through one of the major credit bureaus. Now, there are a number of free apps and websites that allow you to see your credit score for free.
Most online bank sites have an option to view your credit score for free. You can also sign up for tools like CreditWise from Capital One or Experian, to keep track of your scores and see how to improve them.
When you visit some websites to get your free report, you will be offered the opportunity to purchase your credit score. This score is typically your VantageScore, but as most lenders use FICO, it may not be worth your money to pay for your score from that vendor.
There are also a lot of banks, lenders and credit card companies that offer free FICO scores to their customers through the FICO® Score Open Access Program. Over 200 financial institutions and 100 financial counseling agencies (including credit.org) participate in this program.
To learn more about credit scores, check out our Understanding Your Credit Reports and Scores course. Or, if you’re looking to improve your credit score, check out our credit report review service.