Just how many credit scores do I have, why so many, and how are they different?

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What’s your credit score?

It may be a solid 730, a somewhat diminished 690, or even a less-than-ideal 645.

Or, it can be all three of those at the very same time – and more!

How is that possible?

Remember that there’s more than one version of your credit score. In fact, there are dozens of versions of scores, based on different credit bureaus, scoring models, reporting websites, and even the industry that’s looking in on your score.

So, just how many credit scores are floating around out there? The question is hard to answer, because there are so many versions and models, and they’re being updated all the time.

But we do know that there are three main credit bureaus, Experian, Transunion, and Equifax. Each of those bureaus have their own list of credit scores. And FICO is the industry’s preeminent credit scoring model in the industry, used by the vast majority of banks, lenders, and mortgage companies in some capacity.

And specific industries may see a different version of your scores. For instance, you may have a different credit score if a car dealership pulls it, compared to a mortgage lender or an educational institution, etc.

Why are all of those credit scores necessary? Remember that credit scores (and reporting) exist just as a way to gauge the risk that you’ll default on a new loan. The whole credit scoring system isn’t there to serve you, the consumer, but as a means for a bank, lender, etc. to measure the risk of issuing you a new loan.

Therefore, different credit scoring models may reinterpret the same data in different ways, giving more weight to certain factors. Mortgage debt, credit cards, installment loans, student loans, car loans, and even medical debt all pay different importance on a consumer’s credit data. The credit companies are also always tinkering with the algorithms to account for the changes and trends in personal finance among real consumers.

So, since there are different scoring models that are commonly used by different industries for different purposes, your score could vary depending on who’s looking at it.

While that may seem infinitely confusing, here’s the good news: all of the credit bureaus and scoring models base their scoring on the same factors. So, even though there may be some small or even significant differences when they’re pulling your credit, the way to improve your score will always be the same.

They are:

  1. Payment history
  2. Credit utilization
  3. Length of credit history
  4. Credit mix
  5. New credit

 

By following the universal guidelines for credit scoring, your score will go up across all bureaus and models. So, you don’t really need to worry about one individual score, but the entire range.

As a good example of the differences between credit scoring models, let’s look at FICO scores. FICO Scores are the most common and widely used version of credit scores, and range from 300 to 850.

But within FICO, there are myriad versions of your score.

Their newest version is FICO 9, although FICO 8 is still most popular among lenders and those issuing new loans.

If you’re looking for a new auto loan, it’s likely that the auto dealers will use your FICO Auto Scores, although they could very well use FICO Auto Score 9, FICO Auto Score 8, or older versions.

And when it comes to credit cards, most lenders are using FICO Bankcard Scores or FICO Score 8 still, even though that’s not the most up to date version.

How about if you’re looking to purchase a home or refinance your existing mortgage? Mortgage lenders generally look at FICO versions that predate even FICO Score 8!

To further make this point, let’s quickly examine the differences between FICO Score 8 and FICO Score 9 to see what changes or updates were instituted.

Fico Score 8 is known for being more sensitive to high credit card utilization, or when consumers hold account balances too high compared to their total available credit.

FICO 8 is also slightly more forgiving if there’s an isolated late payment and everything else is in good standing. But, if there is more than one late payment on your credit report, FICO Score 8 will penalize you more severely than previous versions of FICO, so your score may drop even more.

FICO Score 8 also minimized the benefit of being an authorized user on someone else’s credit card, or “tradeline renting.”

Now, let’s look at the characteristics and differences with FICO Score 9, which is known as FICO’s “most predictive FICO Score yet.”

With FICO Score 9, third-party collections that have already been paid off will no longer hurt a consumer’s score.

And medical collections are minimized as well, so they’ll drop your score less.

FICO Score 9 also opens the door for rental history factoring into credit reporting, which is helpful for those who need to establish a stronger credit history.

Many lenders are in the process of updating their systems to adopt FICO Score 9 more and more.

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Now you understand why we have so many credit scores and so many versions, but please contact Blue Water Credit if you have questions about a specific score or need a score improvement!

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