Being scored on things can have a weird effect on people, suddenly making us feel the urge to get a better score perhaps before even knowing what the score means and why it matters. Credit scores are no exception to this rule.
But in the race to get a perfect credit score, there’s one question many don’t think to ask: How many credit scores are there? The truth is, we actually have several different credit scores. Read on to learn why this is and something you might consider paying attention to more than your score.
How Many Credit Scores Do You Have? A List of Your Credit Scores
There are hundreds of credit score models out there, which is one reason why there are so many credit scores. Here are a few more reasons:
- There’s more than one credit scoring company and different types of credit scoring.
- Each credit scoring company tends to have more than one version of its score.
- Companies using credit scores aren’t required to upgrade to the latest version, which means old versions often stay in play along with new ones.
- Each credit scoring company usually has different algorithms for different financial products to help lenders get a score more relevant to the product they’re selling.
- Besides the credit scores lenders use to assess the risk of a potential borrower, there’s also something called an “educational credit score,” which is often what you see when you view your credit score for free via a service that offers this feature.
See how these can add up? Now, to help you understand more about what lenders see when they evaluate your score, here are the main players in the field of credit scores.
Fair, Isaac and Company (FICO®) was the first company to create the credit score as a way for lenders to evaluate the risk of potential borrowers. Even as new players come along, it’s still the dominant name in credit scores.
Although FICO® has been working on its various models for decades, they claim that FICO® Score 8 is its most popular score. Here are the other variations that are widely used:
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As mentioned above, some of these scores have different names because they’re industry-specific. For example, it’s generally understood that the FICO® Auto Score was made for auto loan lenders. The FICO® Bankcard Score, on the other hand, is typically used by credit card issuers. Finally, mortgage lenders are likely to turn to the FICO® Score (especially those before FICO® Score 8) to assess the risk of homebuyers.
The VantageScore® Credit Score was created in a joint effort by the three credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) in the early 2000s. Its goal has been to create an easy to understand, consistent, more predictive credit score.
Although FICO® still has a stronghold on the market, with 90 percent of “top” lenders using its scores, VantageScore® is growing quickly. According to VantageScore’s latest report, there were more than 8.5 billion VantageScore® Credit Scores used from June 2016 to July 2017.
VantageScore® is pretty new compared to FICO® and thus has fewer versions. They started with VantageScore® 1 and VantageScore® 2, but on their site today are only two versions: VantageScore® 3.0 and VantageScore® 4.0.
The Credit Reporting Bureaus and Your Scores
As if it weren’t confusing enough that we all have several types of credit scores, there are also multiple companies compiling our credit reports — and offering to sell our credit scores to us and to lenders. These companies are often called credit reporting bureaus (or credit reporting agencies or credit reporting companies) and, as mentioned above, the primary ones are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
So, which scores do they use? Here’s a graph from myFICO.com to illustrate the answer as it relates to FICO® credit scores:
As you can see, there are several different types of credit scoring models –– and that’s just for one of the two credit scoring companies.
On top of that, these bureaus also have their own proprietary scores, such as the TransRisk Score and the Experian National Equivalency Score. These scores are educational, which means they’re for consumers to see but not typically used by lenders.
It can all seem a little too much for one person to track on a regular basis, which is why it’s important to know the one thing you should care about more than your credit score …
Why Credit Score Ranges Matter More Than Your Score
It’s nice to have a general idea of your credit score, helpful, even. But the simple truth is that your credit score can vary dramatically depending on which type and version of the score are being used. The credit score range you fall into, however, is a bit more of a steady and reliable thing to track.
Both FICO® and VantageScore® use a range from 300-850, though FICO®’s industry-specific scores go from 250-900. Here are the ranges broken down:
FICO® Credit Score Ranges
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VantageScore® Credit Score Ranges
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Unless your credit scores are on the cusp of two different ranges, there’s a good chance that all or most of your scores will fall into the same range. And that makes it a lot easier to get a holistic view of how you’re doing in terms of credit.
The current credit scoring situation in America isn’t exactly simple, but you can rest easier by focusing on these two takeaways: 1) knowing your score can vary should ease the desire to attain a “perfect” score, which isn’t the best use of your credit-building efforts, and 2) you can more easily keep an eye on how you’re doing by paying attention to the credit score range your scores fall into.
When it comes to tracking your different credit scores, simpler really is better. That way you can get on with the “score” you really care about: the life reaching your money goals can help you build.
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