Aug. 6, 2013 at 5:47 PM ET
When you get your credit score, you may be surprised to learn that the score you receive is not a FICO score. That doesn't mean that the score you received is “wrong,” or somehow inferior, though. Lenders can chose from a variety of credit scores to make credit decisions, and the ones they use depend on which ones they believe are right for their business.
Think about it this way: a business may choose to use PC or Mac computers. Or its office staff may use PCs while the design team may use Macs, for example. Neither one is a “bad” choice (except to the die-hard fans in both camps!) as long as it helps them get the job done.
The same can be said of the different types of credit scores. Even among FICO scores, for example, there are many different variations. And while the majority of credit scores used by lenders are FICO scores, there are other “non-FICO” credit scores that lenders and insurers use to make decisions, or that have been developed to educate consumers about their creditworthiness. (The latter are called “educational scores.”)
Other credit scores out there
Credit score ranges vary, depending on which type of score is being used. FICO credit scores go from 300 to 850, with 850 representing the highest possible credit score. Other credit scores may go higher than that. If you’re looking at your credit score through one of those services, an 850 credit score may still indicate you have very strong credit, but not as high as it would be if that were a FICO score.
Here are the score ranges for some of the non-FICO scores:
When you get your credit score, it’s helpful to understand what type of score you requested and to understand the range. But don’t obsess too much about the specific number. Instead, look at how your score ranks in comparison to other consumers (most services that provide credit scores to consumers will tell you that).
You also want to look for the areas of your credit history that may need some work. Are there things, such as payment history, credit mix, credit age, debt utilization or new credit that are dragging down your score?
Since all credit scores look at the same type of information, taking steps to build and keep strong credit will benefit you no matter which scoring model is being used.