Credit

Beyond FICO: 6 credit scores you should know about

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

  • Plus Score – One of the three major national consumer reporting agencies, Experian sells consumers a score called the PLUS Score™. This score is an educational score, which means it is designed to help consumers understand their creditworthiness.
  • TransRisk New Account Score – Another one of the big three credit reporting agencies, TransUnion has created a score called the TransRisk New Account Score. It’s specifically designed to predict risk on new accounts, rather than new and existing accounts, according to a report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This score is available through at least one website that provides consumers with a free credit score.
  • Equifax Credit Score –This credit score, sold by Equifax, is a proprietary educational score that can be calculated using credit information from Equifax, Experian or TransUnion.
  • VantageScores – They were developed by the three major credit reporting agencies to help lenders make credit decisions, but they are also available to consumers to help them understand their credit. (Credit.com offers consumers a free VantageScore, for example, through its Credit Report Card.) The newest version is called VantageScore 3.0.
  • CreditXpert Credit Score – This educational score is provided to consumers through partnerships with other companies that provide credit monitoring services to consumers. In addition, lenders often use CreditXpert products to help identify ways client’s credit scores can be improved.
  • CE Credit Score – This is used by lenders and is provided to consumers through several websites.

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:

  • PLUS Score: 330-830
  • TransRisk Score: 100-900
  • Equifax Credit Score: 280-850
  • VantageScore (1.0 and 2.0): 501-990
  • VantageScore (3.0): 300-850
  • CreditXpert: 350-850
  • CE Credit Score: 350-850

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.

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