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FICO® Score vs VantageScore®

A Credit Card Insider study1 found that about 76% of Americans believe we have between one and three credit scores. Unfortunately, the reality is a lot more complicated.

Thanks to the scoring model variations and the modifications lenders make to them, we actually have hundreds of credit scores. Not to mention, lenders can choose to base them on the info in any of your three credit reports, which also vary.

While you don’t need to know everything about all the scores out there, you should understand the two most common: FICO Score and VantageScore.

FICO Score and VantageScore

There are two primary consumer credit scores that are used by lenders and available as educational scores to consumers in the United States. The FICO Score and VantageScore. Let’s explore the basic differences between FICO vs VantageScore.

VantageScore was created in 2006 when the three major consumer credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion—developed the score as an alternative to FICO. 

VantageScore is commonly provided for free by personal finance websites and used for marketing consumer financial services. At the end of this article, we provide a list of websites where you can get your VantageScore for free. VantageScores can sometimes be calculated with just 1 month of payment history.

FICO Scores were created in 1956. FICO scores are used in over 90% of all U.S. Lending Decisions

In fact, if you are getting a conventional home loan, sometimes called a Fannie Mae (FNMA) or Freddie Mac (FHLMC) mortgage, the lender is required by the federal government to use FICO scores to evaluate your loan application and make a credit decision. 

FICO Scores require at least one account with 6 months of payment history to generate a credit score.

If a VantageScore is Generated After Just 1 Month of Payment History, Why Can it Take Up To 3 Months to Get a VantageScore Credit Score?

Lenders typically report payment history to the three major consumer credit bureaus once per month (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). After a lender reports payment history to the credit bureaus, the lender has no control over how quickly that information is processed by the credit bureaus.

When the credit bureaus receive the credit account history from a lender it may take them 1 or 2 months to process the data and post it to your credit profile at the bureau. Your credit profile information is what the bureaus use to generate credit scores. 

So if you are new to credit building with no existing profile at the credit bureaus and building credit for the first time, patience is important because it may take up to 3 months before you see any results reflected in your scores.

Example:

  • Your lender reports credit accounts to the credit bureaus on the last day of each month.
  • You open an account on the first day of a month.
  • Your new account and credit history for the credit account won’t be reported by your lender until the end of the month.
  • After the account is reported to the credit bureaus it may take a bureau 1 to 2 months to process and post the information to your record at the bureau, for a total of at least 3 months before your credit score reflects the account and payment history.

Note that each bureau can take a different amount of time to process your account information.

Other Important Differences

They Use Different Credit Score Ranges

One common reason your FICO Score will be different from your VantageScore is that the models use different credit score ranges.

Below is the most common range for FICO Scores. Note that there are many different variations of FICO Scores, so the range shown below is the most common ‘base’ range.

FICO Score Base Ranges

FICO ScoreCredit Rating
300 to 580Poor
580 to 669Fair
670 to 739Good
740 to 799Very Good
800 to 850Exceptional

FICO Scores come in two types: base scores and industry-specific scores. The lower boundary on the poor credit rating range differs slightly between the two.

Base scores are the ones that measure creditworthiness for all types of credit accounts, and their lowest possible score is 300. FICO Score 8 is the most popular base score, even though they released amore up-to-date FICO Score 9 in 2014.

Industry-specific FICO Scores measure creditworthiness for a specific type of loan, like a credit card or auto loan. Those scores can be as low as 250. Some of the most popular ones are FICO Bankcard Score 8 (credit cards) and FICO Auto Score 8 (car loans).

Below are the ranges for the most commonly used VantageScore, VantageScore 3.0.

VantageScore 3.0

VantageScoreCredit Rating
300 to 499Very Poor
500 to 600Poor
601 to 660Fair
661 to 781Good
781 to 850Excellent

VantageScore doesn’t have industry-specific scoring models. They opt to stick to their four base models (1.0 through 4.0). Both VantageScore 3.0 and VantageScore 4.0 follow the ranges above. They’re the most popular and most up-to-date models, respectively.

These ranges are noticeably different from the FICO Score ranges, but they’re still between 300 and 850. Meanwhile, VantageScore’s first two models range from 500 to 990, though they’re not in common usage anymore.

Other Ways that the Scoring Models Differ

FICO Score and VantageScore correlate together, meaning that what raises one will increase the other and vice versa. However, the two scoring models won’t react to changes in your credit report by increasing or decreasing the same amount.

That’s because they place a different emphasis on the factors that make up their scores. These are the components of FICO Score vs VantageScore from most to least impactful.

FICO Score vs. VantageScore

FICO FactorFICO WeightVantageScore FactorVantageScore Weight
Payment history35%Total credit usage, balance, and available creditExtremely influential
Amounts owed30%Credit mix and experienceHighly influential
Length of credit history15%Payment historyModerately influential
New credit10%New accounts openedLess influential
Credit mix10%Age of credit historyLess influential

While their emphasis differs slightly and there are no direct percentage comparisons to make, it’s clear that the models disagree on the significance of some overlapping components.

For example, payment history is the number one factor for FICO, worth 35% of your score. Meanwhile, it’s the third most significant factor for VantageScore and only moderately influential. 

Likewise, length of credit history is worth 15% of your FICO Score and its third most impactful variable, but it’s tied for least influential in VantageScore’s formula.

Note that matters of public record like bankruptcies, civil judgments, and tax liens can also affect your creditworthiness under both models, but credit reporting agencies temporarily removed all of them except for bankruptcies from credit reports starting 2017.

How Useful is a VantageScore?

VantageScore isn’t the most popular scoring model, but it’s still a valuable window of insight into your creditworthiness. If you want a complete picture of your credit, you should include it in your analysis.

Roughly 2,200 financial institutions use VantageScore, including nine of the ten largest banks and 20 of the 100 largest credit unions.

If you’re going to pull your VantageScore, use 3.0. It’s still the most popular VantageScore in 2021, even though it came out in 2013.

Can You Convert One Score Into Another?

There’s no way to convert one of your credit scores into another because your score doesn’t give you much insight into your performance in the underlying factors.

For example, there are many ways to end up with a 650 FICO Score 8. Your negative factors could be a missed payment, a high utilization ratio, or a short credit history. There’s no way to extrapolate those details and use them to recreate your score under another model.

Fortunately, you don’t need to because there are plenty of easy ways to access your scores under both models.

You can get your FICO Score 8 for free from Discover (even if you don’t have a card through them) or pay FICO for your industry-specific scores.

If you want your VantageScore 3.0, we’ve created a list of sites at the end of this article where you can obtain your score for free.

How to Build Your Credit

Now that you are familiar with some credit score basics, let’s answer the question: How long does it take to build credit from nothing?

To get started, you need to get credit accounts that report to the credit bureaus, and then pay those accounts on time. 

The first step is to open an account (obtain a credit card or loan) and begin making payments. This will cause the credit bureaus to take notice and create a credit profile associated with you. 

As we mentioned above, in about 1 month you should have a VantageScore and in about 6 months you should have a FICO Score. If you have any credit history on your profile already, the process can go much faster.

Your first score may be low since your credit history is limited. Getting your first score is just the beginning. You will then start a lifelong process of improving and maintaining your credit score. 

The more you can increase your score, the more financial freedom you can gain from lower interest rates, lower-cost insurance, and better financing options.

One great strategy to build your credit from nothing is to sign up for a Credit Strong credit builder account. See pricing and plans here, starting at only $15 per month.

Here are 8 websites where you can get your VantageScore for free:

Credit.com

Experian / VantageScore 3.0

Credit Karma

Equifax and TransUnion / VantageScore 3.0

Credit Sesame

TransUnion / VantageScore 3.0

LendingTree

Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion / VantageScore 3.0

Mint

Experian / VantageScore 3.0

Nav

Experian and Transunion / VantageScore 3.0

NerdWallet

TransUnion / VantageScore 3.0

WalletHub

TransUnion / VantageScore 3.0 

  1. https://www.creditcardinsider.com/blog/2019-survey-reveals-widespread-credit-score-misconceptions/

FICO® is a registered Trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation. Vantage Score® is a registered trademark of VantageScore Solutions, LLC. 

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