Your FICO® Score plays a starring role in your credit profile. This three-digit number can determine whether you get approved for a loan or line of credit, the interest rates you pay, and even if you’ll land your dream apartment.
When it comes to credit scoring, FICO® Score is king. But you may be surprised to learn that you have more than one FICO® Score. In fact – you could have dozens.
When you apply for credit—whether that’s a mortgage, personal loan, or new credit card— lenders need a way to evaluate your trustworthiness as a borrower. One important way they do this is with a three-digit number called a credit score.
Credit scores are calculated using information in your credit report. These scores usually range from 300 to 850 – the higher your score, the more likely it appears that you’ll be able to pay back your credit obligations as agreed. In turn, a higher score means you’re more likely to get approved for credit with favorable payback terms.
While you’re just one person, with a single borrowing history, chances are you have multiple credit scores. That’s because there are numerous credit scoring brands, scoring model versions within those brands, and several different organizations that track your credit history.
When someone references their credit score, they’re usually referring to their FICO® Score, the number generated by the most popular credit scoring model. FICO® Scores are a fixture of the US consumer credit landscape and are used by 90% of top lenders to evaluate borrower risk.
®Other credit scoring models - like VantageScore, the second most popular credit score - use the same information from your credit report as FICO®. While these models can give you a good idea of your credit standing, it’s overwhelmingly likely a lender will pull your FICO® score instead.
You may be thinking “it’s obvious that FICO® is the most important credit score,” but that’s not exactly right. It’s not just different credit scoring models that produce different credit scores. You can also have more than one FICO® Score – in fact, you can have several dozen.
In the United States, nearly every lender uses three main credit bureaus – Equifax®, TransUnion®, and Experian®. Each of these bureaus compiles data about your borrowing history to generate your consumer credit report. Since the three companies operate independently of one another, you can generate a FICO® Score from each.
While they all track the same information, it’s unlikely you’ll have the same FICO® Score across the three credit bureaus. That’s because there are often small differences between your three individual credit reports. For instance, some lenders may not report your information to all three companies. Others may only pull your credit report from one or two bureaus when evaluating you for a loan or line of credit.
The slight variations in data can result in slightly different FICO® Scores, even if they use the exact same methodology. If there are errors in one of your reports, or negative information shows up on one and not the others, the variation can be far more pronounced.
So, three credit bureaus, three credit reports, three FICO® Scores – right? Again, not exactly.
The first FICO® Score debuted in 1989. Since then, FICO has modified its scoring model numerous times to evaluate credit risk more objectively and accurately. Its latest scoring models are FICO® Score 10 and 10T, which now incorporate personal credit “trends.”
Lenders adopt new FICO® scoring models at different rates, and sometimes not at all. Many still use older models like FICO® 9 or FICO® 8. Each version weighs credit factors differently and incorporates different prediction methodology. Thus, they produce different FICO® Scores.
Not only can your FICO® Score vary based on which credit report and scoring version a lender uses, there are also industry-specific FICO® Scores. Some lenders— notably mortgage lenders —use older base models, while others have FICO® Scores specifically designed to predict risk in their industry.
Like the general FICO® scoring model, these models are updated periodically. This means you can have several different scores related to, for example, your auto or credit card lending risk.
Unfortunately, there’s no surefire way to tell which FICO® Score a lender will check. Even for industry-specific loans, there are multiple models available and three credit bureaus they might pull from. However, mortgage lenders tend to take into account a FICO® Score from all three.
Rather than trying to pinpoint which FICO® Score you should focus on, make sure your credit data is accurate with all three bureaus and actively work to build and maintain a healthy credit history. That way, whichever score a lender pulls, they’ll all reflect you at your best.
It’s still smart to keep tabs on your various FICO® Scores, especially if you’re planning on any major borrowing. Most credit card companies, banks, and credit unions offer FICO® credit score tracking in their customer portals. You can also check this list of lenders participating in the FICO® Score Open Access program.
Your FICO® Score plays a key role in helping you attain loans, lines of credit, and more. But it can be challenging to build or increase your score, especially if you have no credit, or a shaky credit history. StellarFi is on a mission to change all that.
With the StellarFi app, anyone can use their monthly expenses to raise their credit score and create a positive credit history. Unlike many other credit-building tools, StellarFi reports to all three major credit bureaus – and using StellarFi improves factors that make up 80% of your FICO® Score
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The StellarFi blog is intended to serve as an informational resource. While StellarFi can help you build your credit, we do not provide financial, legal, or accounting advice. Please consult a trusted advisor for financial, legal, or accounting guidance as needed.