When you think “credit score,” you probably think “FICO.” The Fair Isaac Corporation introduced its FICO scoring system in 1989, and it has since become one of the best-known and most-used credit scoring models in the United States. But it isn’t the only model on the market.
Another popular option is called VantageScore, 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.
Each scoring model has multiple versions and multiple applications—you don’t have just one FICO score or one VantageScore. Depending on which bureau creates the score and what type of agency is asking for the score, your credit score will vary, sometimes siginifcantly. One credit score isn’t more “accurate” than another, they just have different applications. Learn more about the different types of credit scores below.
What Is a VantageScore?
VantageScore was created by the three major credit reporting agencies—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. It uses similar scoring methods to FICO but yields slightly different results.
One of the primary goals of VantageScore is to provide a model that is used the same way by all three credit bureaus. That would limit some of the disparity between your three major credit scores. In contrast, FICO models provide a slightly different calculation for each credit bureau, which can create more differences in your scores.
FICO vs. VantageScore
So, what are the differences between an Experian credit score calculated using VantageScore and one calculated via the FICO model? 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.
Understanding the 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.
Here’s what FICO uses to determine your credit score:
- Payment history. Whether or not you pay your bills in a timely manner is critical, as this factor makes up around 35% of your score.
- Credit usage. How much of your open credit you have used—which is called credit utilization—accounts for 30% of your score. Keeping your utilization below 30% can help you keep your credits core healthy.
- Length of credit. The average age of your credit—and how long you’ve had your oldest account—is a factor. Credit age accounts for around 15% of your score.
- Types of credit. Your credit mix, which refers to having multiple types of accounts, makes up around 10% of your score.
- Recent inquiries. How many entities have hit your credit history with a hard inquiry for the purpose of evaluating you for credit is a factor for your score. It accounts for about 10% of your credit score.
VantageScore uses the same factors, but weighs them a little differently. Your VantageScore 4.0 will be most influenced by your credit usage, followed by your credit mix. Payment history is only “moderately influential,” while credit age and recent inquiries are less influential.
Each company also gathers its data differently. FICO bases its scoring model on credit data from millions of consumers analyzed at the same time. It gathers credit reports from the three major credit bureaus and analyzes anonymous consumer data to generate a scoring model specific to each bureau. VantageScore, on the other hand, 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 with VantageScore 3.0. Having numerical ranges that are somewhat consistent helps make the credit score process less confusing for consumers and lenders.
Your score may also differ across the credit bureaus because your creditors aren’t required to report to all three. They may report to only one or two of them, meaning each bureau likely has slightly different information about you.
Variations in Scoring Requirements
If you don’t have a long credit history, VantageScore is the score you want to monitor. 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 the following.
- How recently the last late payment occurred
- How many of your accounts have had late payments
- 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.
Because FICO has indicated that it factors late payments more heavily than VantageScore, late payments on any of your accounts might cause you to have lower FICO scores than your VantageScores.
Impact of Credit Inquiries
VantageScore and FICO both penalize consumers who have multiple hard inquiries in a short period of time. They both also conduct a process called deduplication.
Deduplication is the practice of allowing multiple pulls on your credit for the same loan type in a given time frame without penalizing your credit. Deduplication is important for situations such as seeking auto loans, where you may submit applications to multiple lenders as you seek the best deal. FICO and VantageScore don’t count each of these inquiries separately—they deduplicate them or consider them as one inquiry.
FICO uses a 45-day deduplication time period. That means credit inquiries of a certain type—such as auto loans or mortgages—that hit within that period are counted as one hard inquiry for the purpose of impact to your credit.
In contrast, VantageScore only has a 14-day range for deduplication. However, it deduplicates multiple hard inquiries for all types of credit, including credit cards. FICO only deduplicates inquiries related to mortgages, auto loans, and student loans.
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 8.0 also ignores all collections where the original balance was less than $100 and FICO 9.0 weighs medical collections less. It also doesn’t count collection accounts that have been paid off. VantageScore 4.0, on the other hand, ignores collection accounts that are paid off, regardless of the original balance.
What Are FAKO Scores?
FAKO is a derogatory term for scores that aren’t FICO Scores or VantageScores. Companies that provide FAKO scores don’t call them this. Instead, they refer to their scores as “educational scores” or just “credit scores.” FAKO scores can vary significantly from FICO scores and VantageScores.
These scores aren’t completely valueless, though. They can help you understand where your credit score stands or whether it’s going up or down. You probably don’t want to shell out money for such scores, though, and you do want to ensure the credit score provider is drawing on accurate information from the credit bureaus.
Is Experian Accurate?
Credit scores from the credit bureaus are only as accurate as the information provided to the bureau. Check your credit report to ensure all the information is correct. If it is, your Experian credit scores are accurate. If your credit report is not accurate, you’ll want to look into your credit repair options.
Our free Credit Report Card offers the Experian VantageScore 3.0 so you can check it regularly. If you want to dig in deeper, you can sign up for ExtraCredit. For $24.99 per month, you can see 28 of your FICO scores from all three credit bureaus. ExtraCredit also offers rent and utility reporting, identity monitoring and theft insurance, and more.