Your credit score is an important financial metric. Not only is it an indicator of your financial health, but it can determine your qualification and terms when you apply for a credit card, mortgage, and other financial services that can help you achieve your goals.
It may seem like your score should be the same everywhere you check. However, if you receive your credit score from a variety of sources, including a bank or an online service, you will see you have more than one.
Keep reading to learn more about how your credit score is calculated and why you have so many.
What is a Credit Score?
Let’s start by reviewing the basics of your credit score. It is a 3-digit number ranging from 300-850 and is calculated using the information from your credit reports provided by the three credit bureaus that collect this data from your lenders every month.
Your credit report includes your payment history, how much you owe, your credit limits, how long you’ve been using credit, and how many times you’ve applied for credit.
The higher your score, the more likely you will qualify for financial services and receive lower interest rates, more favorable terms, and higher credit limits. In short, a higher credit score can save you money.
Why You Have So Many Credit Scores
It is normal to have more than one credit score because there are many variables that go into the calculation. Your credit score will change depending on who is requesting it, the information used to calculate it, when it was calculated, and which scoring model was used. You may be surprised to learn that you may even have thousands of credit scores.
Differences in Data Provided to the Credit Reporting Bureaus
The three credit bureaus that collect your credit information are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. While they all receive similar information about your credit history, they don’t necessarily receive the same information — or use it the same way.
Your creditors are not required to report to all three credit bureaus, so your bank or credit card company may submit your credit history to one, two, or all three. You can find your credit card company’s reporting practices on their website or by calling them. Just because your creditor submits your information does not mean they are reporting all of it. For example, if your address changes or you make a late payment, it doesn’t always get communicated to all three bureaus.
Already you can see that the credit bureaus deal with different information from different sources, which can lead to different credit scores. Other factors that can attribute to multiple credit scores are the various scoring models the credit bureaus use.
Which Scoring Model Was Used
Credit scoring models are the formulas each credit bureau uses to calculate your credit scores. They help lenders assess credit risk and determine whether to extend credit. The most common scoring models are FICO and VantageScore, which are calculated differently because they place emphasis on varying portions of the credit report.
Additionally, lenders and creditors have the ability to customize scoring models so they can set different criteria for approving credit depending on their specific criteria. For example, a landlord will likely value different things than a bank considering a mortgage, so they will each request reports that contain what they need.
One of the most commonly used scoring models is FICO, which provides consumers with a number from 300-850. But even FICO has many versions, the latest of which is FICO 9. When FICO releases new updates, lenders are not required to upgrade to the latest version, so some creditors may still be receiving information based on FICO 5.
There are also industry-specific versions like a FICO Auto Score for an auto loan or a FICO Bankcard Score for a credit card. So the FICO score each lender receives will be different depending on what they asked for when making the request.
Another common scoring model is VantageScore, which was created by the three credit reporting bureaus. Like FICO, VantageScore also has many versions and is calculated using information from your credit report. However, certain elements are unique to VantageScore, which can result in a credit score that is much different from your FICO score. Your score from VantageScore will be numerical from 300-850 and will also include a letter grade from A to F.
Other Scoring Models
FICO and VantageScore aren’t the only scoring models, as some of the larger lenders may rely on proprietary in-house scoring systems or a third party to calculate their custom scores.
The Type of Report You Received
When you request your credit score through a third-party provider like Credit Karma, or even the credit bureaus, it is for informational purposes and not specific to any one type of loan or credit situation. The intention of these reports is to give you a general outlook of your credit score for educational purposes. These reports will not contain the same information a lender or creditor will see when they pull your report because they will request specific information for the purposes of loan approval.
When Your Credit Report Was Generated
When studying your credit scores, it is essential to compare credit scores that were generated on the same date. Each lender reports their information at different times, so the three credit bureaus don’t necessarily always have the most up-to-date information.
Errors on Your Credit Report
While most differences from one credit score to the next are for very valid reasons, as stated above, errors can result in discrepancies on your credit report. We suggest that you review your credit report at least once per year for accuracy so you can:
- Stay informed of your financial health.
- Look for fraudulent activity and take appropriate preventive action.
- Dispute errors that may affect your ability to qualify for financial services.
Some of the specific items to look for include accounts older than seven years that are still affecting your credit score, open accounts in your name you are not aware of, and credit inquiries that you did not make.
Even though your credit scores are different from report to report, they all serve the same purpose: helping lenders assess your credit risk. Most lenders want to know if you’ve made payments on time, have low balances, and are limiting the number of accounts you are opening. If you are a responsible user of credit and all your accounts are up-to-date and in good standing, there should be no cause for concern when you see varying credit scores.Tags: financial advice