A common observation …okay … more like a complaint: You check your score online through a credit monitoring app or website and then you go to a lender and the score is different.
What gives? Let’s break it down.
Competition Drives Improvement
The first reason scores are reported differently is that there are different credit-score models that compete against one another. And that’s a good thing! Credit-score model developers compete for greater accuracy, to be more consumer friendly, and to be more inclusive, among other things. Models developed by different companies will vary significantly even if they leverage the same information sources.
There was a time when there was only one way to calculate a credit score. But when VantageScore® credit scores burst onto the scene, the industry changed. VantageScore upped the game with new scoring models that focused on innovation and inclusivity.
Approximately 2,200 lenders and leading fin-techs use VantageScore, including nine of the top 10 largest banks—helping them make more sound and inclusive lending decisions.
Credit File Updates
Most credit scores including your VantageScore credit score are determined by the data in your credit file. That data is updated all the time. Depending on when your score was “refreshed” the scores can be different.
For example, you may get your score from a credit monitoring app but that score was only refreshed last month, whereas a lender might pull a score for an application that is reflective of more current information that resides in your credit file.
If data has been added to your file since the previous month, you’re likely to see a difference in score.
There are three national credit reporting companies, or credit bureaus as they are sometimes called. They are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Some lenders or data furnishers do not report to all three, which means the actual information that resides in your files might vary. The credit score algorithms interpret the data in each bureau independently.
This can cause scores to be different based on what bureau information they are generated from.
What Should I Do?
No one wants to go back to the old days when a single credit score was used to pass judgement on all of us. Competition has made credit scores more inclusive, predictive, and easier to understand.
Here are tips for how to make the most out of obtaining your VantageScore from all the many places you can get it for free:
EXPECT VARIATIONS: Keep in mind that no matter what score you might get for free or pay for, the one that the lender is using might be different. Why? Perhaps it was derived using a different model, from a different credit bureau, or is a score that has been more recently updated.
EMBRACE THE FACT THAT FREE IS GOOD: Choose no-cost credit-score sources, like your VantageScore, as a directional indication of your creditworthiness.
PRACTICE GOOD HABITS: All models generally view credit information similarly. In other words, missed payments and maxing out on credit-card limits are reasons scores decline. By contrast, scores are generally higher for those who demonstrate good credit habits like paying on time and keeping balances low.
STICK TO ONE: Stick to one score source and monitor how that score trends and changes. Trying to keep track of numerous scores out there can be confusing and time consuming.
For more information about how you can obtain your VantageScore credit score for free, visit this page on the VantageScore website.