FICO Score Vs Credit Score: Know the Differences

fico score vs credit score

If you’re wondering about your FICO score and your credit score, you might be thinking to yourself that they’re the same thing. While this isn’t wrong, it’s not exactly right either. 

Think of your credit score as a general kind of credit report that computers analyze to determine your score. On the other hand, FICO is a specific brand for credit scores that a lender may use when they need to see your creditworthiness. 

Either way, this will always be a three-digit credit score that’s used to measure how well you are managing your finances. While there are various kinds of credit scores that a lender can use to determine the risk of giving you money, FICO is the most well-known kind. 

Even so, some lenders will choose to create their scoring model — understanding the difference between credit scores and FICO scores will help you maintain the right kind of finance.

What is a FICO Score?

A FICO score is one type of credit score, where the name is taken from the Fair Isaac Corp. and is also generated by the same organization. It was first introduced in 1989 to be used by consumers. 

It was created in response to the requirement for evaluating risk and to determine an industry-wide standard for credit scores. Today, the terms FICO score and credit score are usually used interchangeably, but there are also other kinds of scores. 

Most scores on FICO will range between 300 to 850, where the highest score given is 850 which indicates excellent credit. But, you’ll also see industry-specific scores for car loans and credit cars which range between 250 to 900. 

 

How are FICO Scores Calculated?

FICO scores will be calculated based on details provided in consumer credit reports. The company will also apply a specific formula to the data in the credit report to generate a score, where the following factors are used in the calculation: 

  • Your payment history: This category will account for 35% of your FICO credit score. To get a high score here, you must make payments on time because late payments will result in a lower credit score. 
  • Credit utilization: This refers to the available credit being used at any one time and is measured in percentage. It accounts for 30% of your FICO credit score 
  • Credit age: This will measure the average length of time that you have been using your credit, where having an older credit age can produce better results. Credit age accounts for 15% of FICO calculations. 
  • Credit mix: This refers to the kind of credit you use, such as revolving credit or installment loans. The credit mix is responsible for 10% of your FICO credit score. 
  • Credit inquiries: After a hard credit check, a new inquiry will be registered on your credit report. This accounts for 10% of your FICO score calculation. 

However, it’s best to keep in mind that FICO will generate many versions of your credit scores which are meant to serve different kinds of lending situations. It wouldn’t be hard to get 30 kinds of FICO credit scores because they will each serve a different purpose. 

For instance, FICO 8 and FICO 9 are commonly used for credit decisions, while FICO 10, which is newer, will be used less because it incorporates trends in data. There’s also no need to worry about checking your credit reports since this won’t affect your credit score or trigger a hard credit pull.

 

What is a Credit Score?

A credit score, like a FICO score, is a three-digit representation of your financial health which tells lenders how well you manage your debt and credit. In general, the higher your credit score means that you can borrow money and responsibly pay the money back on time. 

But if your credit reflects a low score, this suggests that you may be struggling with managing your financial obligations and debts. But where do your credit scores come from? 

Our credit scores are generated by the three credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — that are in charge of all credit reports. These, however, will have data that are slightly different from each other depending on the information collected about your financial life, such as: 

  • Your details, such as your name, date of birth, age, Social Security number, etc. 
  • Existing credit accounts, such as loans, credit cards, and lines of credit 
  • Public records such as liens, bankruptcy filings, or judgments 
  • Inquiries about you from organizations or individuals who requested to get a copy of your credit file 

Furthermore, the three biggest credit bureaus will compile credit reports according to information reported to them by creditors, along with information available to the public. You can also get a free copy of your yearly credit report from these bureaus once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com.

 

What is the Difference Between FICO Score vs Credit Score

A FICO score is a kind of credit score, and the difference between the two as well as other credit scoring models is the fact that FICO scores were specifically created and used by FICO. It uses a scoring system that features a proprietary model that generates consumer scores based on the factors discussed above. 

As such, you can’t say that a FICO score is the same as a credit score, but you can’t say that they are completely different either. At the same time, you can’t say that one is better than the other. 

But you can think of it this way: FICO scores are usually used by lenders to assess your credit risk, while credit scores, in general, can provide you with an idea of how your credit is doing. 

Another company that creates its credit scores is VantageScore, which is also similar to FICO and offers credit-scoring models to analyze the information in your credit report. They also have a scoring model that uses the same factors as FICO when checking your credit report but can slightly differ. 

For example, VantageScores can be broken down into the following: 

  • Less influential: The age of your credit history
  • Moderately influential: Your payment history
  • Highly influential: Your credit experience and mix 
  • Extremely influential: Your credit balance, usage, and available credit

Just like FICO, VantageScores will range between 300 to 850 but will assign different weights to the activities you do. But depending on what a lender wants to determine, they may prefer FICO if they want to know how likely you are to pay your debt. 

On the other hand, if they want to know how much debt you have, they may prefer to use VantageScores. In the end, 90% of the top lenders will use FICO credit scores to make their credit decisions, so it may not be better but it’s certainly the most common choice. 

 

How to Read a Credit Score

As mentioned above, a higher credit score is better and will reflect that you are a responsible individual capable of paying bills on time and using your credit properly. However, if your scores aren’t good, it will show that you might have late payments that are more than 30 days past their due date, or accounts that are going to collections. 

If this is the case, likely, you won’t get approved because you carry a higher risk for lenders and even if you get approved, you’ll end up with higher rates.

Thankfully, negative information won’t affect your credit score forever and will become less and less of a worry as it gets older, and after seven years, they may not have an effect. 

As we have discussed above, most credit scores range anywhere between 300 to 850, where 850 represents an outstanding line of credit. The higher you can maintain your credit score, the better credit you have — credit scores will fall in these ranges: 

  • Below 580: Poor
  • 580 to 669: Fair 
  • 670 to 739: Good 
  • 740 to 799: Very Good
  • Above 800: Exceptional 

 

When Should One Check FICO Score and Credit Score and How

Unfortunately, we live in an age where your personal data can be breached at any given moment, so it only makes sense to check your credit information regularly to ensure its accuracy.

 

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, it’s best to check your credit report at least once a year, while other experts suggest doing so once a month. 

 

Luckily, you have the chance to check on your credit reports every week until the end of April 2022 through AnnualCreditReport.com. Doing this is for free and you can check on your reports from all three major credit bureaus. 

Take note that these credit reports won’t include your credit scores, but you can look at a TransUnion report and credit score via NerdWallet. Again, checking your credit score won’t affect your scores, so there’s nothing wrong with both suggestions above. 

 

Why You Should Check Your Credit Regularly 

This is a great idea because credit reports will be updated regularly to show any new data that the credit bureaus receive. If you notice incorrect data in your credit file, it could mean that it may be mixed with another person’s data or that you may be a victim of identity theft. 

You may even find other errors such as a payment that’s been reported late by accident or even old information that can lower your credit scores. These are calculated as part of your credit report which can affect the interest rates and product that you may qualify for. 

If you’ve also accepted a payment modification due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you might want to check if those accounts are reported correctly. Looking for errors and fixing them could potentially help to increase your credit score. 

 

How You Can Check Your FICO Scores 

Apart from the ways already provided above, one of the easiest ways to access a free credit score is by getting in contact with the company that issued your credit card. Many issuers and banks will offer cardholders free access to their FICO score — here are some of them: 

  • Bank of America credit cards
  • American Express credit cards
  • Wells Fargo credit cards
  • Discover credit cards, through Discover Credit Scorecard
  • Citi credit cards

If you aren’t a credit card holder with any of the companies above, there’s no need to worry. There are many free resources available to everyone that you can look into to check your FICO score: 

  • Discover Credit Scorecard 
  • Experian Boost

 

Conclusion 

In the battle of FICO score vs credit score, one isn’t better than the other and both are a kind of credit scoring model. While FICO uses a specific scoring model and weighs factors differently to some degree, credit scores essentially measure the same thing. 

No matter which you choose, lenders of auto and home loans as well as credit card issuers, utility companies, and cell phone companies will consider your credit score before they offer their products and services. So be sure that your credit score is sufficient if you don’t want to miss out on things. 

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