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Dear Credit Assistance Network,

I have a perplexing question to ask you. Why do credit scores vary so much when pulling my credit from different sources? To elaborate, I have recently received my credit reports and credit scores  from 5 various websites (MyFico.com, American Express Credit Secure, IdenityIQ, IdentityGuard and my mortgage broker). Each and every score was completely different and I am awfully confused. My mortgage broker said my mid FICO score was a 677 while the other sources had scores ranging from a 492 all the way to an 812. How is this possible? Any help with this would be greatly appreciated!

Sincerely,

Audrey W. Ft Lauderdale FL.

 

Hi Audrey,

That is a fantastic question. In short, the credit bureaus are looking to make as much money as possible and want to sell you as many different scores and products as they can. The bottom line is that all scores are different because they are developed by different companies for different uses with different scales. In fact, there are over 1,100 types of credit scores and offshoots from various companies, primarily FICO, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Plus by Experian Ranges from 330 to 830 - The Plus score was developed by Experian Decision Analytics, the credit score developing business owned by Experian. The Plus score scale is 330 to 830.
  • FICO Ranges from 300 to 850 - FICO scores are developed by Fair, Isaac Corporation, hence the term FICO. There is not just one FICO score. FICO specializes in creating credit scoring systems for lenders and other businesses. The original or “classic” FICO scores had scales that went from about 350 to about 850. The company’s newest scores, called the FICO Next Generation, or NextGen scores, have scales with a high score of 950, so that may have been the model that resulted in your score being different.
  • Equifax Beacon Credit Score Ranges from 280 to 850 – As confusing as it sounds, The Equifax Beacon score is just another offshoot or product developed by FICO and sold to Equifax. About 35% of your score depends on payment history and 30% of your score depends on amounts owed. The length of your credit history determines 15% of your Equifax Beacon credit score, and the remaining 20% splits between new credit and the types of credit used.
  • TransUnion Empirica Ranges from 150 to 934. A score of 150 represents the worst credit possible, whereas a credit score of 934 represents the best credit possible. To qualify for a good interest rate, lenders typically require a score of 680 or higher. A credit score of less than 500 is considered extremely poor and that person most likely would not qualify for a loan.
  • VantageScore Ranges from 501 to 990 – Unlike many of the other credit scoring models, FICO is not involved in the development of the VantageScore. The VantageScore is an attempt to compete with the FICO score produced by Fair Isaac. While the exact details of how the score is calculated are unknown, VantageScore has released the categories and proportions used. What contributes to a positive score in each category, and to what degree particular data affect the score, is unknown. The score is meant to indicate the likelihood that a customer will pay the loan back on time and in a consistent manner; values which show behavior contrary to these are more likely to worsen the score, and vice versa. Payment History 32%, Credit Utilization 23%, Credit Balances 15%, Depth of Credit 13%, Recent Credit 10% and Available Credit 7%. An example of where to obtain your VantageScore for free is CreditKarma.com.

In addition to all of these different mainstream credit scores, there are troves of new credit monitoring companies that add even more confusion to the mix.


Examples:


IdenityGuard is a “credit monitoring” platform which allows consumers a free trial offer to use their online interface to view their credit reports and score. After the trial period, if you do not cancel, you will be billed a monthly subscription fee. The score provided does not give you a reason on how it is calculated, but only a general sense based on factors such as payment history, balances, new credit etc. similar to FICO. This has been dubbed the FAKO score.


FreeCreditScore.com and FreeCreditReport.com are websites owned by Experian Consumer Direct, a subsidiary of the credit bureau Experian. The sites offer users their personal credit reports from Experian on the condition that they sign up for Experian's Triple Advantage Credit Monitoring program for a fee. The credit report also comes with the user's PLUS Credit Score.


LifeLock Credit Score Manager is also a credit report monitoring service, featuring 3-bureau credit monitoring and annual 3-bureau credit reports and scores. Subscribers receive monthly updates to their TransUnion credit score and have access to a tool that tracks those changes over time. The major downside to this service is the lack of monthly updates to your Equifax and Experian scores. LifeLock uses the same scale as FICO from 300-850 however they use very different algorithms to calculate the scores, therefore it will never be your actual credit score. 

So, you ask: Why is there just not one single credit score? In this case a clear analogy would be a vehicle.
Imagine two four-door sedans. They are about the same size, same number of doors, same engines, same number of wheels and a steering wheel. So, why do people choose one over the other? It is because of small differences in the designs that make one car better suited overall to their particular needs.
Credit scores are the same. All credit scores use the same information from your credit report, but they treat the information slightly differently to meet the needs of the particular lender. You can have many different numbers that both indicate you are a very good credit risk because different models have different score ranges. That is why we caution people to not get too worried about the number itself. The number alone only has meaning to your lender and only to that particular transaction. The credit scores you receive online provide great educational value and give you a very good idea of how lenders will view your creditworthiness.


But, you can’t buy a score online, take it to a lender and expect the lender to use the score to approve your application. They can’t use the score you bring them to make a lending decision because they very likely use a different one, even if the score you purchased is from the same credit score developer.


Concentrate on where your score falls in the range of risk for that model and on the risk factor statements that accompany the scores instead of the actual score. If your lender provided the scores, it also might be able to give you the risk factor statements that accompanied the scores. If you purchased the scores, you received a list of what from your credit history most influenced those scores.


Those risk factor statements describe what you must address in your credit history to become a better credit risk. It’s not terribly confusing when you look at the basics. You do not want any negative information such as late payments, delinquencies, public records excessive inquiries or incorrect information appearing on your reports and you want to have a good mix of positive credit with low balances and a long credit history proving you are capable of paying back lenders the credit they extend to you, simple as that. By the way, if you need assistance improving your credit; contact one of our credit specialists for a free credit analysis and consultation by visiting www.CreditAgenda.com or by calling (800) 811-3078. (If you would like to speak with me direcly, dial extension 124)

Simply having credit carries with it some risk, and that risk, however small, will be reflected in the scores you receive. That is why it is almost impossible to get a perfect credit score.


If your goal is to find your true credit score, you will never actually get it because lenders use different models and have different criteria. My best advice would be to request a copy of your credit report next time you apply with your bank or a lender as that will show what scoring model they use. In addition, if you are going to monitor your credit scores, make sure you do it from a single source such as www.TheBestCreditReport.com so you are comparing apples to apples on a day to day or month to month basis. This will eliminate much of the confusion.


Sincerely,

Alan Milner
Sr. Credit Specialist
Credit Assistance Network
Toll Free: (800) 811-3078 X 124

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