by The Ascent Staff | Updated July 21, 2021 - First published on Nov. 20, 2018
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Your credit score can be one of the most important numbers in handling your personal finances. It can determine important interest rates like your mortgage or an auto loan, your insurance rates, and it can even be the deciding factor in a job application.
When most people think of their credit score, they think of just one three-digit number. In fact, every consumer has dozens of credit scores based on different scoring models. The two most popular scoring models are currently FICO Score 8 and VantageScore 3.0.
But depending on where you check your credit score, you'll get either a FICO score or a VantageScore. And the two scores can be wildly different even if they both use data from the same credit reporting agency. That's why it's important to know the differences between a FICO score and a VantageScore.
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Even their similarities aren't that similar. While both scoring models are used to determine credit risk, 90% of lenders rely on FICO scores instead of VantageScores to make those decisions. And while they both use the same data, the way they use that data differs drastically between the two scoring models.
FICO offers fairly explicit details on how its scoring model calculates your credit score. It uses five main factors with the following weights:
VantageScore isn't nearly as specific as FICO when it comes to how it determines your credit score using its scoring model. It provides a rough outline of factors it considers important and those it considers less important.
Beyond the big scoring differences, there are a few more subtle differences between FICO and VantageScore:
If you're looking to get a good idea of what potential lenders will see when they check your credit, you'll want to get a FICO score. Preferably, you'll get a score based on data from each credit bureau. 90% of lending decisions are based on some form of the FICO scoring model.
Using VantageScore as part of your decision making for loan or credit card applications can provide a false sense of confidence depending on your credit history. It also might suggest you apply for an inferior loan or product because it has a lower score than your FICO Score.
VantageScore is still useful for keeping an eye on trends. It's very likely changes in your VantageScore will correlate with changes in your FICO Score. If you can't access one of your FICO scores, a VantageScore is certainly better than nothing.
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