April 14th, 2011
Credit 101: Credit Score Differences
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*Welcome to our weekly credit lessons to brush up on your credit know-how!*
One of the biggest misconceptions amongst consumers is that there is one correct credit score. In fact, there are dozens of credit score models, and there are natural differences between your credit scores.
Not only does each credit bureau report a different credit score model, but even within the same bureau several credit score models exist, such as Equifax’s BEACON score and ScorePower.
With so many credit score models out there, the score that your mortgage lender uses could differ from that which your credit card issuer and your auto loan provider uses. They are all using different credit score models to assess different factors of your creditworthiness.
So how do you wade through all of these differences in credit scores? Here’s a quick guide to credit bureaus and credit score differences.
A Little History
Before the development of standardized credit scores, lenders and creditors would create their own “score card” to assess the risk of lending to a particular consumer. The score card was based an individual’s credit report and could vary from lender to lender. This put more responsibility on the lender to assess risk, rather than to base risk on a standardized set of calculations.
In the 70’s, the Fair Isaacs Company set up the first standardized credit scoring system to address these inconsistencies, called the FICO score. Credit bureaus have since adopted their own credit scoring algorithm.
Credit Bureaus: Equifax, Experian, & TransUnion
Credit bureaus aggregate your credit information, such as your different credit accounts, debts, and bill paying habits, from creditors and financial institutions, and track it all on your credit report. The three major credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, and each bureau developed its own proprietary credit score model. Although credit scoring algorithms generally measure the same factors, each credit score model weighs those factors differently and there are variations in your credit report from bureau to bureau, thus your credit score will vary in a few points from bureau to bureau.
Even More Credit Scores
There are also several different brands of credit scores. FICO is the most well-known, and there are others such as VantageScore, NextGen, BEACON, and EMPIRICA. The VantageScore is unique because it is a consistent credit score model developed through the collaboration of all three bureaus. Some of these scores are developed directly by credit bureaus while others, such as FICO, are developed by outside companies.
Credit Score Ranges
Credit score ranges can vary slightly due to the different scoring algorithms. Here’s a reference for some common credit score ranges:
- Equifax BEACON Score: 300 – 850
- Experian CE Credit Score: 330 – 830
- FICO Score: 300 – 850
- TransUnion TransRisk Score: 300 – 850
- VantageScore (collaborative between Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion): 501 – 990 (also assigned a letter grade, A – F)
So Which Score Is Best?
In reality, all scores follow certain standardized guide lines and credit factors. They’re all developed from the data of your credit history, so no one score is necessarily better or more accurate than the next.
In light of that fact, we recommend that you track one credit score model over time to better understand areas of your credit health and to monitor changes over time. Concern yourself with watching what’s going on in your own credit health based on one score, rather than the discrepancies between many scores.
Credit Karma provides daily free access to your TransUnion TransRisk score, VantageScore, as well as your Auto Insurance Score. We believe free access to one’s credit score is a fundamental consumer right, so we give you that access so you can better understand your credit activities.
Tip: If you want to know more about credit score differences, check out our article, “Understanding Credit Score Differences.”