- FICO and Vantage are the two major companies that establish consumer credit scores.
- Banks and credit card issuers often give you free access to your credit score.
- The score you get free is an educational score, not the one lenders use.
- Each scoring company has different versions of their score and each model uses a slightly different algorithm creating multiple scores for each person.
Over the last decade, credit monitoring companies have expounded on the importance of consumer credit scores. The primary message associates power with knowing your score. However, there is a lot more to credit than obtaining a single credit score.
Here are the basics you need to know:
There are Two Major Credit Scoring Companies
FICO and VantageScore are the two most popular credit scoring companies. In 1989, FICO issued the first consumer credit scores, created to help lenders measure the risk of a borrower. The corporation currently services 90% of companies seeking credit scores for application decisions.
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In 2006, the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) tried to break up the monopoly by establishing the Vantage Score, billed as a more consumer-friendly credit score. Over the last decade, the company has made headway into the market. However, FICO remains the primary credit scoring algorithm used by decision-makers.
Both FICO and VantageScore have different versions of their scoring algorithm. These scoring algorithms rank and weigh the various factors that make up your credit score, like, on-time payments, the length of your credit history, and the utilization of your available credit. Every few years the companies introduce a new scoring model based on updated research, legal regulations, or changes in the market.
Currently, FICO offers the 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 10T, and UltraFICO, plus scoring models for specific industries such as mortgages, car loans, and credit cards. FICO has a total of 16 different credit scores lenders can use.
Vantage Score offers four different scoring models named 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and 4.0. Each one uses a slightly different algorithm, which results in a different score. The different VantageScore models place different weights on the five key factors of the score as well as other changes.
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Not all decision-makers use the new scoring model but can choose from any of the algorithms available. You also have a different credit score from each of the three credit bureaus, because the reported information is not always the same.
Between three different credit bureaus and multiple scoring models, an individual can have dozens of credit scores.
Educational Versus Lender Credit Scores
If different scoring models across multiple credit bureaus is not confusing enough, the free score you receive is also different from what a lender will use. Free consumer credit scores are often called educational scores because they use a similar algorithm, but not the exact same one as FICO and Vantage.
Even if you purchase a credit score directly from FICO, the lender could use a different version.
How to Access a Free Credit Score
Banks: Most banks offer free credit scores to customers through the online banking portal.
Most Credit Card Companies also give customers a free credit score on the statement or online account.
Credit Karma provides consumers with both a free credit report and credit score at no cost.
Credit.com allows you access to your credit score and report without a charge.
Will Checking Your Credit Score Lower Your Rating?
Accessing educational scores through any of the above resources will not impact your credit score or your credit file.
How to Use Your Free Credit Score
While the free credit score you receive may not be exact, it is a good way to track the general movement of your score.
The best practice is to check your credit score monthly through the same source. Being aware of your score range and watching for changes can alert you to a missed payment or identity theft, allowing you to take proactive measures to rectify any issues that arise. If you are in a situation with big credit card debt, unsecured debt, focusing on your credit score is not as important as finding help to lower your balances or reduce your debt altogether. Worrying about your credit score instead of getting rid of credit card debt isn’t going to help you find the great freedom of living without debt for a better future! But, finding and following a plan to get rid of debt, will. Bottom line, focus less on this score and more on a healthy debt-free future.
How can I check my credit score for free?
Most banks and credit card issuers include a free credit score as a service for customers. You can also receive your free score at Credit Karma or Credit.com.
Will checking my credit affect my credit score?
No. You can check your credit report and credit score without impacting your credit.
Why do I have more than one credit score?
If you review your credit score from more than one source you will likely notice that the scores are different. Every consumer has multiple credit scores because the two major companies use different algorithms and offer multiple scoring models to lenders. The credit score also uses information provided by one of the three credit bureaus and the data on these reports will differ because not all creditors report to all three bureaus. Lastly, the free score provided to consumers is an educational score, not a lender’s score.