One of the most prevalent myths in the world of consumer credit is that we all have a single, three digit credit score. Nothing could be further from the truth. We do not have a credit score but, rather, have hundreds of credit scores, most of which we’ll never see or encounter. The two most common credit scores are those with the FICO and VantageScore brands and if you’ve ever checked them, you undoubtedly learned that they are different. The question we’ll address in this article is, why is VantageScore different from FICO credit scores?
When you walk down the cereal aisle at the grocery store you are going to see dozens of different options. Captain Crunch, Cheerios, Frosted Flakes, Raisin Bran, the options are countless. But while there are several dozen options from which to choose, they all have one thing in common, they’re all cereal.
That’s how I would like you to think about FICO and VantageScore credit scores. FICO 2, FICO 5, FICO 8, FICO 9, FICO 10, FICO 10T, VantageScore 3, VantageScore 4, and that’s just to name a few of the FICO and VantageScore options that are commercially available and in use today. There are many more. What they all have in common is they are all credit scoring models.
Every single one of these scoring models, and the others not listed, will calculate your credit score. But because they are different models, they are going to yield different three-digit scores from your credit reports. So, for example, your FICO 8 score from Experian may be 700 while your VantageScore 3 score from Experian may be 713. They’re both your credit scores, but they’re not the same and, they’re not intended to be the same because they are calculated by different score brands, albeit on the same Experian credit report.
There are countless examples I can give you that are going to be similar. But the one thing you should take away from this is you don’t have one credit score and you certainly don’t have one credit report. All of FICO’s credit scoring models are different, which means they’re going to yield different scores. VantageScore’s credit scoring models are the same, meaning VantageScore algorithms are the same across the three credit bureaus. Even then, you’re unlikely to have the same VantageScore across bureaus because the data on your credit reports is going to be different.
While you should not expect any of your credit scores to be the same exact number as any of your other credit scores, they should be directionally similar. That’s a fancy way to say, they should be close and they should tell the same story.
For example, if you have a fantastic credit report at Experian then all of your FICO and VantageScore credit scores based on Experian data should also be fantastic. They should all indicate to future lenders that you are a fantastic credit risk and they should make you very favorable offers. Conversely, if you have derogatory information all over your Experian credit report then you should expect low credit scores, regardless of the brand. They should all indicate to future lenders that you are a poor credit risk and they should lend to you with great caution, if at all.
Every 30 days your credit reports go through and entire cycle of updates from your lenders. Your credit card balances change, your loan balances go down, everything is now one month older, the credit bureaus may have added new inquiries because you applied for credit, items may have been removed, or new accounts reported.
Every single thing listed above has the potential to cause your scores to be different next month than they are today. Some of them can cause drastic score differences and some can cause minor differences. The takeaway here is even if you do happen to compare the same exact scores from the same exact scoring model over two points in time, you shouldn’t expect them to be the same but you should expect them to be similar unless something meaningful was added or removed from your credit reports.
Trying to manage dozens of credit scores is a little like herding cats, it’s almost impossible. But, you only have three credit reports and every single one of your credit scores is based on those three reports. It’s a whole lot easier to focus on managing three credit reports than it is to manage countless credit scores. So, focus on paying bills on time and staying out of credit card debt as much as possible and your scores are going to be fine, regardless of which score you happen to check.