Jul
04
2012

There are different credit scores, but not different “levels” of credit reports

Dear Experian,

My Experian report says my score is 781. A credit card company said my score from Experian was 720 five days earlier. They said I may be receiving a different level of reports. Does Experian report different scores with a wide range of numbers?

- JLD

 

Dear JLD,

There aren’t “different levels of reports” and I don’t know what the representative may have been referencing with that comment.

There are at least two things that likely contributed to the difference in the scores you received. The first is that they may have come from two different credit scoring models. The second is that the information in your report may have changed, such as your balances being updated.

There are hundreds of different credit scores with a wide range of scales, unless you are using the exact same model on the exact same information, you can’t expect the numbers to be the same.

The formulas, called risk score models, are proprietary to the developer. Most are not owned by Experian, although that is a common misperception. Experian provides the credit report information and each lender selects the model or models to be applied to the information as it is delivered.

The score the credit card company used was likely designed specifically for determining risk with regard to credit card lending. The score you received with your Experian report was what is called a “generic” score, meaning it could be used for many different types of lending.

It’s important to understand where the number you receive falls in the range of risk for the scale. Two different numbers can mean the same thing in terms of lending risk. That’s quite possible based on the information you provided in your question.

If you purchased it when you requested your free annual credit report, you received a VantageScore, which is a score used by lenders, but was designed to be consumer friendly in that the ranges correlate to school grades. You can learn more about credit scores and the VantageScore at www.livecreditsmart.com.

VantageScore has a scale from 501 to 990. So, a 781 on the VantageScore might represent approximately the same level of risk as a 720 on a score with a scale from 350 to 850. While the numbers are different, they may mean essentially the same thing in terms of lending risk.

You also should have received a list of the risk factors from your credit report that most influenced the credit scores. The numbers can be very different, but the risk factors tend to be consistent from one score to another. By addressing the risk factors from one score, you can improve all of your credit scores.

You receive the same credit report information that the lender does, and in fact a little more in the form of inquiries that are shared only with you. They would not receive a “different level” of information. However, in a week’s time, your credit report may have changed. If the same credit scoring systems were used, there could be a difference simply because information in your credit history has been updated, added or deleted.

Thanks for asking.

- The “Ask Experian” team

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