FICO score vs. credit score: What’s the difference?
January 24, 2023 4 min read
You’ve probably heard of a credit score. And you’ve probably heard of a FICO® score. But what’s the difference between a credit score and a FICO score?
Think of a FICO score as a specific type of credit score from a specific credit-scoring company.
Read on to learn more about credit scores and FICO scores, including why they’re important, their range, how they’re calculated and where you can find yours.
- Credit scores are used in lending decisions and are based on the information in credit reports.
- A FICO score is a credit score calculated by the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO).
- FICO has a number of credit-scoring models for calculating credit scores, including a variety of industry-specific models.
- FICO scores generally range from 300 to 850. And the higher the score, the better.
What is a credit score?
So, what is a credit score anyway?
Scores are calculated differently by each credit-scoring company using complex formulas called scoring models. Some scoring companies even have multiple scoring models. Because of this, a person might have several different credit scores—even from the same scoring company. But regardless of the scoring model—the higher the score, the better.
- Landlords may check a rental applicant’s credit scores.
- Insurers may consider credit when determining premiums.
- Cellphone and utility providers may waive security deposits for applicants who have good credit scores.
What is a FICO score?
A FICO score is a credit score from a specific credit-scoring company.
FICO—shortened from Fair Isaac Corporation—is credited with creating the first standardized scoring model back in 1989. The company has created multiple versions of its credit-scoring models over the years, but it says today’s models are still very similar to the original.
FICO is one of two credit-scoring companies whose scores are most commonly used by lenders. The other is VantageScore®, which was founded by Equifax, Experian and TransUnion—the three major credit bureaus—in 2006.
Other FICO scores
Remember: There are a variety of credit-scoring models, and some companies themselves have multiple models. That’s the case with FICO.
FICO offers a number of industry-specific scoring models—the FICO Auto Score and the FICO Bankcard Score are just a couple of examples. These scores might have different ranges—some specialty scores range from 250 to 900—and are meant to help lenders better predict an applicant’s creditworthiness when it comes to specific types of credit.
How do FICO scores range, and what is a good FICO score?
Despite the fact that there are multiple scoring models, FICO’s credit scores generally stack up like this:
For comparison’s sake, VantageScore credit scores generally look like this:
How is a FICO score calculated?
There are a number of factors that affect credit scores, and FICO is clear about how exactly those factors affect theirs:
- 35% payment history
- 30% total debt
- 15% length of credit history
- 10% types of accounts, known as credit mix
- 10% new credit
Among the factors that credit scores—including FICO’s—don’t take into account are:
- Race, nationality or color
- Marital status
- Religious or political affiliations
- Where you live or where you were born
- Your income, your job or whether you’re employed
- Where you work
- Where you were born
- Soft credit inquiries
Where can I find my credit scores?
Depending on your lender, you may be able to find your scores by checking your statement or by logging in to your account online. You can also get your scores directly from the credit bureaus and credit-scoring companies—but you might have to pay for them.
You don’t have to pay to monitor your credit. Take CreditWise from Capital One, for instance. With CreditWise, you can access your TransUnion credit report and weekly VantageScore 3.0 credit score for free—without negatively impacting your score. You can even see the potential impacts of financial decisions on your credit score before you make them with the CreditWise Simulator.
CreditWise is free and available to everyone—even if you don’t have a Capital One account.
FICO score vs. credit score in a nutshell
Credit scores can be thought of as a snapshot of credit reports and are used in lending decisions. And they’re calculated by credit-scoring companies using different scoring models.
A FICO score is a specific type of credit score—one calculated by credit-scoring company FICO. And while FICO has multiple scoring models of its own, FICO scores generally range from 300 to 850—and the higher the score, the better.
You may be able to check your credit scores by checking your statement or by logging in to your account online. You can also get your scores directly from the credit bureaus and credit-scoring companies—or by using a free service like CreditWise.