Categories

Score Advice

Why Is My Credit Score Different When Lenders Check My Credit?

The credit score you see and the one your lender uses may be different for several reasons.

To start, it's important to understand that credit scores are based on the information found in credit reports maintained by the three major credit bureaus. If those reports differ, a credit score based on one report may not be identical to a score based on another.

Another reason the scores differ might be because there's more than one credit scoring model, and there's no guarantee the one you're using to check your own credit is the same one your lender relies on. Plus, each model regularly releases updated versions of the scores it produces—and there are score versions that are specific to certain industries. For example, when you check your credit score for free, you might receive a score calculated using the VantageScore® 3.0 model, but your mortgage lender might use the FICO® Score 2 to assess your credit.

We'll explain more about the differences between credit scoring models below, as well as other reasons your score may differ. What's important to remember, though, is that the same positive behavior—paying bills on time, limiting credit card debt, maintaining a long credit history—will typically lead to a good or excellent credit score across the different models and versions and credit bureaus.

Here's what you need to know about the various credit scores you have, and which are most important to keep an eye on when you're seeking new credit.

What Credit Score Do Lenders Use?

The two main companies that produce and maintain credit scoring models are FICO® and VantageScore. Lenders most commonly use the FICO® Score to make lending decisions, and in particular, the FICO® Score 8 is the most popular version for general use. If you've taken an interest in the health of your credit and how lenders will view it, checking your FICO® Score 8 is a smart place to start.

There are, however, many types of FICO® Scores. FICO® has released updates to its basic score over the years, and the FICO® Score 10 is the most recent. Mortgage lenders most often use older versions to assess applicants: the FICO® Score 2, 4 or 5.

There is also the FICO® Bankcard Score (used to make credit card lending decisions) and the FICO® Auto Score (used to make auto lending decisions). If you know you're interested in a certain type of credit, it could be worthwhile to check beforehand the specific score type you know a lender will look at.

Why Do I Have So Many Different Credit Scores?

In addition to multiple score models and versions, there are also three credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion and Equifax—that collect the information your credit scores are based on.

FICO® develops scores specific to each bureau, so your FICO® Score 8 may be slightly different depending on the bureau. VantageScore, on the other hand, was developed cooperatively by the three credit bureaus, so scores that use the same VantageScore iteration will be the same no matter which agency you use.

There are some differences in the way VantageScore and FICO® calculate your score. For example, you likely will not have a FICO® Score if you don't have a credit account that's older than six months. You can get a VantageScore, however, if you have at least one account in your name—no matter its age.

Additionally, while both scoring models heavily weight credit utilization, or the amount of credit card debt you carry relative to your credit limit, the VantageScore 4.0 also takes into account your utilization over time. So if you usually pay your credit card bill in full—even if you carried a balance a few times—you'll be given credit for typically bringing your utilization to 0%. The most common versions of the FICO® Score, on the other hand, will assess your credit utilization based only on the time when your score was checked. The FICO® Score 10 T model does consider utilization over time, but it's yet to be widely adopted by lenders.

Depending on the type of score, the scoring range may also differ. General FICO® Scores range from 300 to 850, and so do VantageScore 3.0 and 4.0 scores. But industry-focused FICO® Scores range from 250 to 900, and VantageScores 1.0 and 2.0 range from 501 to 990. Even though the precise number of the ranges might vary, in practice, the differences aren't major: The higher your credit score, the better.

How to Improve Your Score Before Applying for Credit

A tried-and-true way to establish excellent credit is to pay all your bills on time, across each of your credit accounts. This isn't a fast way to improve a credit score, but done consistently, it will strengthen your scores no matter the model or version you look at. Paying off debt balances, if possible, will also lower your credit utilization, similarly improving your score.

If you're applying for credit very soon, avoid other hard inquiries in the weeks leading up to the application, as these could cause a temporary drop in your score. Also avoid closing old credit accounts—as long as they're not expensive or unwieldy to maintain—so your scores benefit from the account's credit limit and long credit history. Lenders will be glad to see that you've been able to responsibly manage an account over an extended period of time.

Understanding Your Many Credit Scores

There are some cases, such as when applying for a mortgage, when it's a good idea to check a specific score model and version. But in general, the differences among your credit scores are minor, and practicing smart credit habits will yield benefits across the many scores that belong to you.

How Good Is Your Credit Score?

300 credit score301 credit score302 credit score303 credit score304 credit score305 credit score306 credit score307 credit score308 credit score309 credit score310 credit score311 credit score312 credit score313 credit score314 credit score315 credit score316 credit score317 credit score318 credit score319 credit score320 credit score321 credit score322 credit score323 credit score324 credit score325 credit score326 credit score327 credit score328 credit score329 credit score330 credit score331 credit score332 credit score333 credit score334 credit score335 credit score336 credit score337 credit score338 credit score339 credit score340 credit score341 credit score342 credit score343 credit score344 credit score345 credit score346 credit score347 credit score348 credit score349 credit score350 credit score351 credit score352 credit score353 credit score354 credit score355 credit score356 credit score357 credit score358 credit score359 credit score360 credit score361 credit score362 credit score363 credit score364 credit score365 credit score366 credit score367 credit score368 credit score369 credit score370 credit score371 credit score372 credit score373 credit score374 credit score375 credit score376 credit score377 credit score378 credit score379 credit score380 credit score381 credit score382 credit score383 credit score384 credit score385 credit score386 credit score387 credit score388 credit score389 credit score390 credit score391 credit score392 credit score393 credit score394 credit score395 credit score396 credit score397 credit score398 credit score399 credit score400 credit score401 credit score402 credit score403 credit score404 credit score405 credit score406 credit score407 credit score408 credit score409 credit score410 credit score411 credit score412 credit score413 credit score414 credit score415 credit score416 credit score417 credit score418 credit score419 credit score420 credit score421 credit score422 credit score423 credit score424 credit score425 credit score426 credit score427 credit score428 credit score429 credit score430 credit score431 credit score432 credit score433 credit score434 credit score435 credit score436 credit score437 credit score438 credit score439 credit score440 credit score441 credit score442 credit score443 credit score444 credit score445 credit score446 credit score447 credit score448 credit score449 credit score450 credit score451 credit score452 credit score453 credit score454 credit score455 credit score456 credit score457 credit score458 credit score459 credit score460 credit score461 credit score462 credit score463 credit score464 credit score465 credit score466 credit score467 credit score468 credit score469 credit score470 credit score471 credit score472 credit score473 credit score474 credit score475 credit score476 credit score477 credit score478 credit score479 credit score480 credit score481 credit score482 credit score483 credit score484 credit score485 credit score486 credit score487 credit score488 credit score489 credit score490 credit score491 credit score492 credit score493 credit score494 credit score495 credit score496 credit score497 credit score498 credit score499 credit score500 credit score501 credit score502 credit score503 credit score504 credit score505 credit score506 credit score507 credit score508 credit score509 credit score510 credit score511 credit score512 credit score513 credit score514 credit score515 credit score516 credit score517 credit score518 credit score519 credit score520 credit score521 credit score522 credit score523 credit score524 credit score525 credit score526 credit score527 credit score528 credit score529 credit score530 credit score531 credit score532 credit score533 credit score534 credit score535 credit score536 credit score537 credit score538 credit score539 credit score540 credit score541 credit score542 credit score543 credit score544 credit score545 credit score546 credit score547 credit score548 credit score549 credit score550 credit score551 credit score552 credit score553 credit score554 credit score555 credit score556 credit score557 credit score558 credit score559 credit score560 credit score561 credit score562 credit score563 credit score564 credit score565 credit score566 credit score567 credit score568 credit score569 credit score570 credit score571 credit score572 credit score573 credit score574 credit score575 credit score576 credit score577 credit score578 credit score579 credit score