Home > Credit Score > The Experian Credit Score vs. FICO Score: Differences to Know

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When you think credit score, you probably think FICO. The Fair Isaac Corporation introduced its FICO scoring system in 1989. Since then, “what is my FICO score?” is a common question. The FICO Score also has also made its way into all kinds of lending decisions, most notably decisions about mortgages, credit cards, and rentals.

More recently, FICO’s credit score market dominance has been challenged by a newcomer called VantageScore. VantageScore is the product of a collaboration between the three major credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. It uses similar scoring methods to FICO, but yields slightly different results.

Experian credit scores regenerated using FICO scores and VantageScores. When you get your free Experian score from credit.com, it’s your calculated using the VantageScores model.

Experian also has its own scoring model, Experian PLUS. Experian PLUS scores range from 330 to 830 and are calculated similarly, but not identically to, to FICO Scores. People with very different credit histories can have the same FICO Score. The Experian PLUS score is a more accurate reflection of a person’s real credit history because Experian uses a person’s actual credit history that it has on record when calculating the score. However, lenders don’t use the Experian Plus score, it’s used only to educated consumers.

So, what are the differences between an Experian credit score calculated using VantageScores and FICO score. More importantly, does the score used matter to you, the consumer? The answer is usually no. But you might want to look at different scores for different needs or goals.

In this article, we cover the five main differences between FICO scores and VantageScores and recommend which one to watch.

The Difference in Scoring Models

FICO and VantageScore aren’t the only scoring models on the market. Lenders use a multitude of scoring methods to determine your creditworthiness and make decisions about whether or not to give you credit. Despite the numerous options, FICO scores and VantageScores are likely the only scores you’ll ever see yourself.

FICO and VantageScores rate you using the same basic criteria:

  1. Payment history
  2. Length of credit
  3. Types of credit
  4. Credit usage
  5. Recent inquiries

However, each company gathers its data differently.

FICO bases its scoring model on credit reports from data from millions of consumers analyzed at the same time. It gathers credit reports from the three major credit bureaus and analyzes the reports’ anonymous consumer data to generate a scoring model.

VantageScore uses a combined set of consumer credit files, also obtained from the three major credit bureaus, to come up with a single formula.

Both FICO and VantageScore issue scores ranging from 300 to 850. In the past, VantageScore used a score range of 501 to 990, but the score range was adjusted when VantageScore 3.0 was issued in 2013.

VantageScore’s numerical rankings now match FICO’s, which makes it easier for consumers and lenders to implement the VantageScore model. The equality also makes credit scores less confusing for consumers who check both their FICO Score and VantageScore.

Variations in Scoring Requirements

If you don’t have a long credit history, VantageScore is the score you want to monitor. Why? Because to establish your credit score, FICO requires at least six months of credit history, and at least one account reported to a credit bureau within the last six months. VantageScore only requires one month of history and one account reported within the past two years.

Because VantageScore uses a shorter credit history and a longer period for reported accounts, it’s able to issue credit ratings to millions of consumers who wouldn’t yet have a FICO Score. So, if you’re new to credit or haven’t been using it recently, VantageScore can help prove your trustworthiness before FICO has enough data to issue you a score.

The Significance of Late Payments

A history of late payments impacts both your FICO Score and your VantageScore. Both models consider:

  1. How recently the last late payment occurred
  2. How many of your accounts have had late payments
  3. How many payments you’ve missed on an account

FICO treats all late payments the same. VantageScore judges them differently. VantageScore applies a larger penalty for late mortgage payments than for other types of credit payments.

If you’ve had late payments on your credit cards, it will impact your FICO Score and VantageScore the same. But if you’ve had late payments on your mortgage, you might find you have a higher FICO Score than VantageScore.

Impact of Credit Inquiries

VantageScore and FICO both penalize consumers who have multiple hard inquiries in a short period of time, and they both do “deduplication.” Deduplication is the practice of allowing multiple pulls on your credit for the same loan type in a given timeframe without penalizing your credit. Deduplication is important for things, such as auto loans, where your application may be sent to multiple lenders, which results in multiple inquiries that can affect your credit, but also ensure you get the best interest rate possible. FICO and VantageScore don’t count each of these inquiries separately—they deduplicate them or consider them one inquiry.  However, the timespan they use for deduplication differs.

FICO uses a 45-day span to deduplicate your credit inquiries. VantageScore limits its focus to only a 14-day range. VantageScore also deduplicates multiple hard inquiries for all types of credit, including credit cards in the 14 day period. FICO considers only mortgages, auto loans, and student loans in its 45-day period.

Inquiries aren’t the biggest concern when it comes to a credit score, but they do have an impact. If you want to buy a house or a car, restrict hard inquiries as much as possible to avoid lowering your credit score.

Influence of Low-Balance Collections

VantageScore and FICO both penalize credit scores for accounts sent to collection agencies. However, FICO sometimes offers more leniency for collection accounts with low balances or limits. FICO ignores all collections where the original balance was less than $100. It also doesn’t count collection accounts that have been paid off. VantageScore, on the other hand, ignores collection account that are paid off, regardless of the original balance.

Keep Your Credit Score High

Regardless of any variation between your FICO Score and VantageScore, advice for keeping your credit score high is the same:

  • Avoid late payments.Pay your bills and pay them on time.
  • Keep your credit balances low. Don’t max out your credit cards and try to keep your cumulative balance to less than 30% of your total available credit—the lower, the better.
  • Apply for new credit only when you have to.Don’t open a multiple new cards in a short period of time, and don’t close old accounts without a good reason.

Check Your VantageScore Monthly

You can get a free Experian credit score, which is VantageScore and is updated every 14 days, on Credit.com. You can also see how your score compares to others and get a custom action plan for your credit.

FAKO Scores?

FAKO scores is a combination of FAKE and FICO and is used to nean any scores that aren’t FICO Scores or VantageScores.

Companies that provide FAKO scores never refer to them as such. Instead, they refer to their scores as educational scores or just credit scores. FAKO scores can vary significantly from FICO scores and VantageScores.

Knowing your FAKO scores for educational purposes may be helpful, because it can show if your credit rating is above average or falling. Companies that offer FAKO scores are also trying to make their scoring models more closely match the actual FICO and VantageScore models.

If you check any of your FAKO scores, make sure that the company you get the score from is affiliated with a credit bureau. Also find out there are any fees associated with getting a score.

For the most reliable version of your credit score, the FICO scores and VantageScores are the best choice and provide the most helpful and accurate information about your credit history and credit files.

Understanding All Your Credit Scores

To understand your credit health, it’s important to learn and understand the weight of all of your credit scores. While credit scores vary, they all typically look at the same information including your payment history, credit history, types of credit accounts, the amount of debt owed, and hard inquiries.

If you don’t have a lengthy credit history, then VantageScore is the credit score you want to check. And if you have more than six months of credit history, you can monitor either your FICO Score or VantageScores. You can monitor your Experian credit score using the VantageScore model for free on credit.com or you can monitor your Experian score using the FICO model for $1 thru Experian CreditWorks.

This article was originally published December 5, 2017, and has been updated by another author.

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  • Jeanine Skowronski

    It depends on what score they’re using — which could even be different from the two scores you mention. That being said, there are a few things you can do to try to give your credit (and all your scores) a quick boost. More info here:




  • Eve Rizzageno

    Can you tell me if the VantageScore® credit score is similar to the score a lender would pull if they used FICO? I have been working on improving my score for awhile now and have frequently pulled a score through sites such as CreditKarma and other ” free score” sites that are higher than a lender might . Like Lisa below, It’s very frustrating and disappointing. I just pulled an updated score from Quizzle today 9/11/16 that is 653 which is wonderful as I am trying to be pre-approved for a USDA loan however I don’t want to contact the lender and have him pull up a FICO score that is below 640.
    Is the VantageScore a reliable indicator or should I pull up a FICO and if so, which site is most accurate? Thanks.

    • Jeanine Skowronski

      It’s a bit like comparing apples to oranges. Both scoring models have differences and similarities, but even if we were to break all those down, it still might not reflect the score your lender is looking at, since they may have a proprietary version of either. What you want to do is track a single consumer score over time as your work to improve and focus on information on your report summary — what areas are you scoring well on? What areas can you do better? You also should focus on what range you fall in to get an idea of how creditworthy you may be to lenders. Here’s a quick rundown:

      Excellent Credit: 750+
      Good Credit: 700-749
      Fair Credit: 650-699
      Poor Credit: 600-649
      Bad Credit: below 600

      You can view your scores for free on Credit.com here: https://www.credit.com/free-credit-report-card/





      • Eve Rizzageno

        Thanks Jeanine. this scoring system in not helpful to the consumer at all. I found out recently that companies have to pay monthly to keep the negative reporting on a person’s record. Is that accurate? How about positive reporting?
        I pulled my credit score from several different sites on 9/12/16 and the numbers are all over the place. Is it possible to get pre-approved now with these scores? I surely do hope so. I have very little debt right now and am going to pay down significantly my current credit card debt which is only 1500.00 next week. It should only be about 600.00 total debt after that. How long before I see a bump in my low credit scores? Will it take 30 days?
        Here are my current scores. Weird how wildly spread the numbers are.
        Equifax: FICO® Score 8
        powered by Equifax 727
        Transunion: FICO® Score 8
        powered by Transunion 615
        Experian: FICO® Score 8
        powered by Experian 601
        Transunion Vantagescore 653
        Credit.com score: 670

        • Jeanine Skowronski

          Companies pay to pull reports from the bureaus and as part of the deal report to the bureaus. Is that what you’re thinking of? Negative info can stay on reports for 7 years , by law. Some bankruptcies can stay on for 10. Companies can’t continue to report after those windows, so if you have info on your credit report that is older than that, you can dispute it.

          You can find more info here:




  • Funguy 2020

    Why am I feeling that the Vantage Score is not taken very seriously, and was created to make the consumer feel good, with an artificially-high score? That’s like changing the 2 points you get for scoring a basket in basketball, to 4 points. Same game, just double the points.

    • Yuliya Zborovskaya

      ugh so true, most places still use the FICO, so when i checked creditkarma for my “credit score” it said 640 (they use the vantage), tried to apply for preapproval for a mortgage, they use FICO and my credit score was really 588. huge difference, and i obviously got denied.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    That certainly is a big difference. Are both scores based on information from the same credit reporting agency? When you say “true” FICO score what do you mean–did you purchase it directly from FICO and have you confirmed the score range is 300-850? (One FICO score provided by a major card issuer, for example, goes up to 950.)

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    The VantageScore you are getting through TU must be VantageScore 2 which runs on a scale of 501 – 990. So that is quite a different scale to begin with. The other VantageScore you got may be VantageScore 3 which runs from 300 – 850. I know it gets confusing! We talked about the different credit scoring scales in this article: What Is a Good Credit Score?

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    It may be a different model. Do they tell you which model they are using? (There is more than one Experian score…)

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Glad I can help though I wish I could offer you more specific suggestions. My concern with a secured card is that it will be a new account and so it’s not going to provide that much of a credit reference. I wonder if it’s worth talking to another mortgage lender with more experience on the credit side…

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler


    I truly wish I had a simple answer for you. My first thought is that when those negative items came off your credit reports you “jumped scorecards.” Within scoring models consumers are further segmented into buckets and compared to other consumers in those groups. When the serious derogatories were no longer reported you may have moved into another group.

    My other thought is that perhaps you removed more recent information which affects how your score is calculated.

    And that’s the problem with quick fixes like this; there is so much going on within the scoring model that it is really hard to tell which items will have exactly what effect.

    The only thing I can think of that might have a positive effect is if someone you live with can add you to a positive longstanding credit card account – “piggybacking” – but that may or may not work as we wrote about here: The Credit Building Trick That Won’t Help You Buy a Home

    As for comparing the Experian NES score with FICO, I wouldn’t suggest you do that. Even if you knew how the numbers correspond, the individual variables both scores consider may be treated differently. So right now your goal should be to focus just on the FICO scores used by your mortgage lenders.

    That’s not to say you didn’t do the right thing. Cleaning up these negative items will help in the long run but clearly it is not helping you in the short term.

    There is a tool called CreditXpert that some loan officers use to help borrowers like you. Have you asked your loan officer if he or she has access to it and can run an analysis for you? It is supposed to show them legitimate ways to get your scores up based on the credit scoring models lenders use.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Hi Tina –

    We compared FICO and Plus score ranges in this article: The Credit Score Range. The FICO score goes up to 850 and the Plus score goes to 830 so all other factors being equal, a similar Plus score will likely be a little lower.

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  • http://www.creditplus.com Adam Pope

    I recently had a client who’s borrower had a $5 collection on their file in error. They had it removed and score went up 54 points! I was always told FICO ignores small collections, but no way to explain that. Nothing else changed on the file?

    • Barry Paperno

      I knew someone would bring up this excellent point, Adam! Most likely, the score in question was not FICO 8, the latest version of FICO. The older versions don’t exclude collections of any amount. (Note: I added a reference to this in the above post after the initial publication, and no doubt after you read it.)

  • http://www.eCredable.com Steve Ely

    Outstanding explanation of the differences of these two scores. As long as consumers focus on good financial habits and pay their bills on time, the score will generally take care of itself.

    • Barry Paperno

      Isn’t that the truth, Steve! But you’ve got to admit that credit reports and scores can present some head-scratching surprises, even for those who manage their credit perfectly.


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