Keeping an eye on your credit reports and credit scores is a good financial habit. But if you’ve ever checked your variety of credit scores online and then had applied for credit shortly thereafter, you probably noticed that the numbers weren’t the same. In fact, they were probably universally inconsistent. That begs the question, exactly how many credit scores do I have? The answer is, you have hundreds of credit scores.
The primary reasons your credit scores fluctuate is because A) you (and everyone else) do not have a single credit report and B) there is no single credit scoring brand or model. Because of these two reasons, the simple truth is we all have hundreds of different credit scores.
Your Three Credit Reports
Your credit scores are based on the information found in your credit reports, nothing more and nothing less. But instead of just one credit report, you have three credit reports. One each from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. These credit reports are often similar, but it’s highly unlikely that they are identical.
For example, your three credit reports might differ due to:
When your credit reports are different, any scores generated based on the details of those reports will likely differ as well.
FICO and VantageScore Credit Scores
When a lender purchases your credit score, or when you request your credit score online, a credit scoring model goes to work behind the scenes. The job of a credit scoring model is to evaluate the information on your credit report and then predict your level of credit risk, as expressed by a three-digit number that normally ranges from 300 to 850.
Just like multiple companies compile and sell credit reports, there are multiple companies that develop credit scoring systems. There are two major brands of credit scores in the United States—FICO and VantageScore. And like the credit bureaus, FICO and VantageScore are also competitors.
So, when you apply for new financing, one lender might check your FICO® Score or scores while another may review your VantageScore credit score or scores. Some lenders may check both as part of their underwriting process. As a result, if you were rate shopping for a new auto loan and one lender pulled your Experian report and FICO Score while the next lender pulled your Experian report and VantageScore credit score, the numbers probably wouldn’t match up. Different models equal different score output.
Different Credit Score Generations and Variations
Fair Isaac (more commonly referred to as “FICO”) first introduced the FICO Score in 1989 at Equifax. VantageScore Solutions launched the first VantageScore credit score in 2006. Since that time, both companies have developed and released multiple newer credit scoring systems.
With VantageScore, for example, the company has developed:
FICO has released many versions of credit scoring models over the past 30+ years as well. In fact, FICO not only has released multiple FICO Score versions, but it has developed different industry-specific credit score options as well, such as:
The existence of so many credit score types and generations creates more room for variance in scores. It’s another reason why you typically see a variety of numbers when multiple lenders check your credit scores, or when you check your own scores online.
How Do You Manage Hundreds of Credit Scores?
With so many different credit score possibilities, it’s basically impossible to keep tabs on all of your numbers. Thankfully, it’s also entirely unnecessary. The reason it’s unnecessary is because all of those scores are based on your credit reports, and it’s not difficult to manage them instead.
If you maintain a positive credit history, low credit card balances, and develop other good credit management habits, any credit score that a credit bureau sells is likely to be in good shape.