You’re thinking about applying for a loan, so you go to a reputable credit website to check your credit score. Then you go to another credit site, and your score is different from the first one. Oh, and then your lender says your score is different than both websites’ scores. It may leave you wondering who’s right and who’s wrong.
If you’re confused, you’re not alone. Credit scores often differ between credit companies, credit bureaus and lenders. We’ll delve into the reasons why your scores may be different based on who’s looking and when.
Different Scoring Models
A credit score model is the set of criteria that the credit bureaus use to evaluate your creditworthiness, and the criteria they use to calculate your score. While most scoring models are similar, there are dozens of different scoring models being used by the credit bureaus and lenders with slightly different criteria.
The FICO® Score
The FICO® Score is one of the most commonly used scores by lenders; however, there are many different versions.
As the chart shows, the three credit bureaus use different scoring models, and lenders will use different models based on whether you’re applying for a mortgage, credit card or auto loan.
All of these scores are based on the same basic criteria – payment history, the amount owed, the age of your credit, credit inquiries and types of credit – however, different weights may be placed on each factor.
FICO® is constantly updating their scoring criteria to ensure it accurately predicts credit risk. For example, FICO® 9 was the most recent update, and it included rental payment history; before this, only negative behavior would be reported (i.e. if you paid your rent, it wouldn’t get recorded, but if you didn’t pay, it would be recorded).
If your credit companies or lenders are saying they use the FICO® score model, they may be using different versions, resulting in different scores.
The VantageScore was created by the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, TransUnion and Experian and have had various versions through their history.
In previous versions of the VantageScore, the scoring range was 501 – 990. However, the 3.0 version was updated to range from 300 – 850. If the credit company you looked at for your credit score uses a later version of the VantageScore, your score could be calculated on a different scale.
While the VantageScore and the FICO® Score both take similar factors into consideration, the most recent version of the Vantage Score (the 3.0 version) only requires one month of credit history to calculate a score, as opposed to many scoring models that require at least six months. Similarly, it doesn’t take into consideration any collections that have been paid off.
Different Pull Dates
Time influences your credit score, so your score may change based on the date it was pulled. For one, your credit utilization ratio (the amount of debt you have relative to your credit limit) impacts your score and can change from month to month. If you charge more or less on your credit card in one month than the previous month, your credit utilization may be different, and that will affect your score.
The more time that has passed since you made a late payment or had a credit inquiry, the longer your score has to recover – so a credit score that has been pulled later may reflect this.
In general, if you pay your bills on time and keep debt low, a longer credit history tends to positively impact your credit, as you’ve had longer to prove you’re a responsible borrower.
Lenders don’t have to report information to all three of the credit bureaus, so some bureaus may not have a complete view of your credit history. If your credit union only reports your paid-off auto loan to one bureau, the other bureaus won’t be able to calculate your new score accurately.
This is why it’s so important to look at different credit reports, particularly if you’re applying for a mortgage. Equifax, TransUnion and Experian may have different information about you, but you won’t know unless you check each report.
Which Score Is Most Accurate?
No matter which credit bureau or company you use, they all follow strict guidelines. If your scores differ slightly, don’t worry. Month-to-month fluctuations, slightly different information and different scoring models are most likely at work.
However, if your scores are drastically different, you might want to contact the credit bureaus of each report, as there may be inaccurate or fraudulent information on one of them.
If you need to file a dispute, you can do so online at each of the three credit bureaus’ websites:
If you’re looking for a reputable credit website to check your credit report and score, Rocket HQ offers your TransUnion credit report and score every seven days, free of charge.
Regardless of your actual scores, it’s important to check up on all three of your credit reports at least once per year to ensure all your information is accurate and complete. This helps ensure you understand the factors impacting your score and what you can do to impact it.
Do you have any additional questions about credit scores? Let us know in the comments below!
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