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Understanding the Types of Credit Scores

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Okay, we all know that everyone has a credit score. Hopefully you check yours regularly. But did you know that everyone has multiple credit scores? That’s right—we have many types of credit scores. And not everyone has the same number of scores.

To get a full picture of your credit score, it’s important to check all your scores from time to time. Sounds overwhelming? Don’t worry. We’ll go over the basics of the different types of credit scores.

Credit Scores: The Back Story

Credit scores didn’t become important for lenders until the 1970s. Before then, there were many credit bureaus, but the decision about whether or not to extend credit to a consumer was largely based on the person’s character. This meant that even if you had a good credit score, you could get rejected if the banker didn’t like you.

In the 1950s, Bill Fair and Earl Isaac created the original automated credit scoring models, but they were initially unsuccessful. Fair and Isaac continued to refine their scoring models though, and today, those models have given us the FICO score.

When The Fair Credit Reporting Act was passed in 1970, a regulated system was created to help fairly determine what kind of information could be reported and how it could be used to impact creditworthiness.

What Are the Three Different Credit Scores?

Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are three major credit bureaus. Each compile their own credit reports. But they don’t share information with each other, so your credit report for each bureau may be different. Creditors are also not required to report to the bureaus, and many don’t report to all three, which is another reason your credit score from each agency is different.

Each credit bureau can have different credit information considered in each type of score model, so what might qualify has an excellent credit score for one bureau might only be considered good for another. The score models can be divided into three major types: FICO, VantageScore and other credit scores.

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    FICO Scores

    FICO, also known as the Fair Isaac Corporation, is a well-known and popular scoring model. FICO scores can be industry-specific and even based on the type of loan a consumer is applying for. They can also be customized for client-specific needs.

    FICO was established in 1956 and has updated its formulas over the years, so many lenders use different FICO score versions. The company launched FICO Score 9 in 2014, which was updated to include rental payment history and to reduce the negative impact of unpaid medical accounts and paid third-party collections.

    VantageScore Scores

    VantageScore launched its scoring model through Equifax, Experian and TransUnion in 2006 as an alternative to the FICO Score. VantageScore has score ranges that may vary. A VantageScore 2.0, for example, has a 501 to 990 credit score range, while the 3.0 and 4.0 versions range from 300 to 850.

    Other Types of Credit Scores

    While VantageScore and FICO models can be seen as the major scoring models and the most commonly used, they aren’t the only ones out there. “It is also important to know that many large lenders use custom scoring models built by in-house statisticians or external third parties,” Jeff Richardson, a VantageScore spokesperson, said. According to Richardson, those custom scoring models use credit bureau-based risk scores as input.

    Credit scores will typically fall somewhere between 300 and 850. In general, having a score above the 670 mark is considered good while a score over 800 on this same scale is looked at as excellent. Scores below 579 are seen as poor.

    How to View Your Credit Scores

    You can see your credit reports from each bureau for free once each year by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com and requesting copies. Through April 2021, you can actually get your reports weekly, as the credit industry is working to help people better manage credit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Keep in mind that when you get your free credit reports through AnnualCreditReport.com, you only get your report and not your score. If you want to see your actual credit score, you’ll need to buy it from the credit bureau or other service, or you can use Credit.com’s Free Credit Report Card.

    Tips to Understand Your Scores

    With so many credit scores out there, it can be hard to know which one to look to when trying to understand your credit scores. Focus on good credit behaviors—they’ll reflect positively on you no matter which score a potential lender is looking at. These good credit activities include:

    • Having a good payment history with no late payments
    • Avoiding closing old accounts if possible
    • Maintaining a strong credit utilization ratio

    Another best practice for raising your credit score or maintaining an already-good score is to monitor it regularly. That’s where ExtraCredit comes in. Our newest product lets you monitor 28 of your FICO scores from the three major bureaus.


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