FICO Score vs Credit Score[yoast-breadcrumb]
When applying for a loan or credit card, your credit score is one of the most important factors lenders consider. But what exactly is a credit score, and how is a FICO score different? This article from Delancey Street will explain the key differences between FICO scores and other types of credit scores.
What is a Credit Score?
A credit score is a three-digit number that gives lenders an idea of how likely you are to repay debt. It’s calculated based on information in your credit report, which details your history of paying bills and managing debt.Credit scores range from 300 to 850, with a higher score indicating you are lower risk. Most scores fall between 600 and 750.There are a few different companies that calculate credit scores, with the most popular being FICO and VantageScore. Even though they consider similar factors, they use different formulas so your scores between the two models may vary.
What is a FICO Score?
FICO scores are a specific type of credit score calculated by the Fair Isaac Corporation. FICO introduced its credit scoring system in 1989 and it remains the most commonly used model today.Like other credit scores, FICO scores range from 300 to 850. Generally, a FICO score above 670 is considered good credit, and a score of 800 or higher is considered exceptional.FICO uses a proprietary formula to calculate your score based on five main factors:
- Payment history (35%): Whether you pay your bills on time, including credit cards, retail accounts, utilities, etc. This is the most important factor.
- Amounts owed (30%): How much you owe compared to your total available credit limits, also known as credit utilization. Keeping balances low helps your score.
- Length of credit history (15%): How long you’ve had credit accounts opened. A longer history helps your score.
- New credit (10%): How many new accounts you’ve opened recently and how often you apply for credit. Too many new accounts can lower your score.
- Credit mix (10%): Whether you have experience managing different types of credit like credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, mortgages, etc.
FICO has several different credit score models including industry-specific scores for auto, mortgage, and credit card lending. The FICO 8 model introduced in 2009 is the most commonly used base FICO score.
FICO Score vs. VantageScore
The VantageScore credit scoring model was introduced in 2006 and is gaining popularity among lenders. But FICO remains the dominant model, used by 90% of top lenders.Here’s an overview of how FICO and VantageScore compare:
- Scoring factors: FICO and VantageScore both consider similar factors like payment history and credit utilization, but they weight them differently in their formulas. For example, VantageScore places more emphasis on credit utilization.
- Score scale: Both score types use a range of 300-850. VantageScore also offers an expanded 500-990 range.
- Versions: FICO has many industry-specific scores. VantageScore has just one base model but releases updated versions (currently VantageScore 3.0 and 4.0).
- Availability: FICO scores have historically been more widely available to consumers from credit card companies and lenders. But VantageScore is now offered by many personal finance websites for free.
- Popularity: FICO remains much more widely used, especially by major banks and lenders. But VantageScore is gaining ground and is used by some mortgage lenders.
So in summary, while the VantageScore model is a major player, FICO credit scores remain the standard scoring model used by most lenders.
What Makes Up a FICO Credit Score?
As mentioned above, FICO scores are calculated from five main categories. Here’s a deeper look at what makes up each category:
- Payment history (35%): Your history of on-time payments and any negative marks like bankruptcies, foreclosures, judgments, and loan defaults. Recent late payments hurt more.
- Amounts owed (30%): How much you owe compared to your total credit limits, also called your credit utilization ratio. Owing more than 30% of your limit can lower your score.
- Length of credit history (15%): The average age of your credit accounts. Older accounts show you have a longer track record of managing credit.
- New credit (10%): How many new accounts you’ve opened recently and how often you apply for credit, which can indicate higher risk.
- Credit mix (10%): Experience managing different types of credit like credit cards, retail credit, installment loans, and mortgages.
Payment history has the greatest impact since it shows how reliably you pay debts. Amounts owed is also a major factor. The other categories have less influence but still help paint a complete credit picture.
How to Improve Your FICO Scores
The good news is there are straightforward steps you can take to build your FICO scores over time:
- Make all credit payments on time every month
- Keep credit card balances low, below 30% of the limit
- Pay down debt to lower amounts owed
- Avoid opening too many new credit accounts rapidly
- Have credit cards open for a long time to increase credit history
- Apply for new credit only when needed
It also helps to check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion to make sure all information is accurate. You can get free reports annually at www.annualcreditreport.com.Improving your FICO scores takes patience but pays off through better loan terms and more financial opportunities. Delancey Street has credit-builder loans that can help establish credit history for those new to credit as well.
FICO Scores vs. Industry-Specific Scores
FICO produces not only general purpose credit scores but also industry-specific scores tailored to types of lending like auto, mortgage, and credit cards.Here are some key examples:
- FICO Auto Score: Ranges from 250-900 and used for auto loan underwriting. Factors include auto-specific payment history.
- FICO Bankcard Score: Ranges from 250-900 and used for credit card approvals. Key factors are balances on bankcards versus other types of credit.
- FICO Mortgage Score: Used for mortgage lending, with factors like mortgage payment history and types of mortgages held.
Each industry-specific FICO score is formulated to predict risk in that lending niche. While tailored for special uses, industry scores are still based on information in your overall credit reports.
Do Lenders Use FICO or VantageScore?
The majority of lenders still rely on FICO credit scores when evaluating loan applications. FICO estimates their scores are used in over 90% of lending decisions. This includes credit card, auto, mortgage, and personal loan providers.However, VantageScore has gained wider adoption in recent years. Some lenders may use VantageScore alone or in combination with FICO models.Key examples where VantageScore is more widely used:
- Online or alternative lenders like Upstart and LendingClub
- Credit unions
- Some mortgage lenders
So while FICO dominates, VantageScore has made inroads, especially among newer lending models. It’s a good idea to check both your FICO and VantageScore when monitoring credit.
How Can I Check My Scores for Free?
There are a few easy options to check your credit scores for free:
- Many credit card issuers like Capital One and Discover provide free FICO scores on monthly statements or online accounts.
- Personal finance sites like Credit Karma offer free VantageScores updated weekly.
- Sign up for Delancey Street’s CreditView dashboard to see your updated VantageScore monthly.
- Try sites like Experian BoostTM or UltraFICO® for free scores by sharing banking data.
- Get your free annual credit reports via www.annualcreditreport.com.
The key is to check scores from both FICO and VantageScore to understand where you stand with different models. Monitoring regularly helps you see the impact as you work to improve your credit.
The Bottom Line
Your credit scores, especially your FICO score, have a major impact on your ability to get approved for credit and at what interest rates. Scores above 700 generally mean better loan terms.FICO and VantageScore consider similar factors in calculating your creditworthiness but weigh them differently. FICO remains the most widely used model by lenders.Focus on making payments on time, keeping balances low, and limiting new credit inquiries to help build your scores. Be sure to check both FICO and VantageScore from free resources to monitor your credit health.At Delancey Street, we offer personalized credit coaching and credit-builder loans to help you establish and improve your credit. Contact us today to reach your financial goals!