Which credit score is most accurate?

If you’re trying to figure out which credit score is most accurate, then you already know there are multiple scores out there. But it’s not as simple as window shopping and picking out the best credit score.

Learn more about what factors make for good credit scores, how credit bureaus—like Equifax®, Experian® and TransUnion®—and credit-scoring companies—like FICO® and VantageScore®—fit in and how you can monitor your credit.

Key takeaways

  • FICO and VantageScore are two popular credit-scoring companies.
  • Credit scores vary depending on the credit bureau, credit-scoring company, model used and timing of the score. Rather than comparing scores for accuracy, it might help to compare scores at different points in time.
  • Which credit score is used can depend on the lender and what you’re applying for.
  • It’s possible to check your own credit without hurting your score.

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What is the most accurate credit score?

When it comes to the accuracy of credit reports and credit scores, it might help to start with a couple of definitions.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), credit bureaus collect information about an individual’s credit history from lenders and creditors. This data is turned into a credit report—which can be used by lenders and businesses to make decisions about loans, insurance, rental property, utility services and more. The three major credit bureaus that deliver credit reports are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

On the other hand, a person’s credit scores are three-digit numbers that are calculated based, in part, on what’s in credit reports. These factors typically include payment history, unpaid debt, credit mix, length of credit, credit utilization, new credit applications and any bankruptcies or foreclosures.

So, which credit score is the most accurate? Thinking of these scores in terms of accuracy could be misleading. Your credit score depends on the information in your credit report provided by lenders and creditors. It might help to understand who calculates credit scores and how they do it.

Who determines credit scores?

Two popular credit-scoring companies are FICO and VantageScore.

Originally named Fair Isaac Corporation, FICO developed the modern credit-scoring model in 1989. To this day, its scores are some of the most widely used credit scores. FICO claims its scores are used by 90% of top lenders.

VantageScore was founded in 2006 by Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. The company uses several different formulas to calculate credit scores—including VantageScore 3.0 and VantageScore 4.0. Its scores are used by more than 2,600 financial institutions and 9 of the 10 largest banks.

Why are my credit scores different?

The CFPB explains that it’s normal to have slightly different credit scores. Scores can vary based on factors like the credit report data, credit-scoring model and timing of the calculation.

Here’s a little more to know about what leads to multiple credit scores.

  • Which credit bureau supplied the data: The three major credit bureaus each keep their own records of credit history. And not every lender reports your information to each bureau—they may only report to one or two.
  • Which scoring model was used: Different credit reporting companies use different scoring models. And the factors affecting your credit scores can carry different weights.
  • When the score was calculated: As factors in your credit report fluctuate—like if your credit utilization goes up or you apply for a new line of credit—your scores do too. And lenders may report to credit bureaus at different times of the month, which means one score on a certain day may differ from another.

Types of credit-scoring models

FICO and VantageScore both offer a credit score range extending from poor to excellent credit scores. But their credit-scoring models may weigh credit data differently, depending on the company and the model version.

What is a FICO score?

The FICO credit-scoring model has been updated over the years, resulting in multiple versions of the score. FICO Score 8 is the most commonly used. But the version may vary by lender and credit product, like applying for a credit card versus financing a car.

In general, FICO scores are calculated using five categories of credit data: 35% payment history, 30% credit utilization ratio, 15% length of credit history, 10% credit mix and 10% new credit.

A chart shows how much certain credit factors impact FICO scores.

While FICO scores range from 300 to 850, a good score typically falls between 670 and 739.

A chart shows a range of FICO credit scores.

What is a VantageScore?

Since its inception, VantageScore has developed four credit-scoring models. The latest model, VantageScore 4.0, names itself as the only tri-bureau model that uses just one set of scoring calculations across all three credit bureaus.

VantageScore 4.0 is calculated using the following credit behavior factors: 41% payment history, 20% age and mix of credit, 20% credit utilization ratio, 11% new credit, 6% credit balance and 2% available credit.

VantageScore 3.0 and 4.0 scores range from 300 to 850. And a score of 661 to 780 might be considered a good score.

A chart shows a range of VantageScore credit scores.

What credit score do lenders use?

FICO scores are generally known to be the most widely used by lenders. But the credit-scoring model used may vary by lender. While FICO Score 8 is the most common, mortgage lenders might use FICO Score 2, 4 or 5. Auto lenders often use one of the FICO Auto Scores. And credit card lenders can use the FICO Bankcard Scores.

VantageScore is also growing in popularity. Between 2021 and 2022, the number of VantageScore credit scores used increased by 18% compared to 2019. Credit card issuers, personal and installment loan companies and banks were some of the top users of VantageScore.

How to check your credit score and credit report

It’s a good idea to monitor your credit so there are no surprises next time you apply for a loan or credit card. And although the data in your credit report should be correct, errors do happen. It’s worth checking for and disputing any mistakes you may find.

According to the CFPB, checking your own credit won’t hurt your scores. You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every year by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.

You could also use a free tool like CreditWise from Capital One. It lets you monitor credit and keep up with changes. The CreditWise Simulator can even calculate how actions like paying down your balance or increasing your credit limit could affect your score.

The most accurate credit score in a nutshell

When it comes to which credit score is most accurate, it might help to consider the factors that impact your scores—like payment history and credit utilization. By focusing on your financial health and using credit responsibly, you can work to put yourself in a good position, no matter which score is used.

Ready to level up your credit? Check out these seven tips for how to improve your credit score.

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