Chris Bridges, Founder and CEO, VITAL Card Inc.
Many people think that their FICO score and credit score are one and the same. But is a FICO score truly the same as a credit score? While both can influence your chances of approval for a credit card or auto loan, there are some key things to keep in mind regarding each score.
From understanding your credit scores to how learning lenders use them when determining your creditworthiness, we’re here to answer the most common questions about FICO and credit scores.
What Is a Credit Score and How Does It Work?
A credit score is a three-digit number that describes your creditworthiness. The information on a credit report typically comes from the three main credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.
Lenders use different credit scoring models to make lending decisions and evaluate your potential risk as a borrower. Creditors also use your credit score when determining what your interest rates will be on a loan or credit card.
Typically, a credit score ranges from 300 to 850. A score of 800 and above often indicates excellent credit, while anything under 579 is typically considered poor. In addition to the length of your credit history, multiple factors can influence your credit score.
- The amount of debt you have
- Your credit utilization rate (how much debt you’ve used compared to your credit limit)
- If you make on-time or late payments
- The number of new or recent credit inquiries on your report
- Your credit mix (or how many different types of credit you have)
The most popular credit scoring model in the United States is the FICO score, which the Fair Isaac Corporation developed in 1989. Another popular type of credit score is the VantageScore, created in 2006 by the three primary credit bureaus.
Who Creates Credit Scores: What Are the Three Credit Reporting Bureaus?
In the United States, the three major credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. These companies collect data on your borrowing and repayment history and then use those data to create your credit score.
While all three credit reporting bureaus use similar methods to calculate credit scores, slight differences may exist between the scores produced by each agency. This is because each bureau may use an algorithm that weights certain factors differently when calculating a score.
For example, if you have a high credit utilization ratio — meaning you’re using a large portion of your available credit — this could factor into your Experian and TransUnion scores more heavily than your Equifax score. Because of these variations, it’s important to check all three of your credit reports regularly.
Once a year on AnnualCreditReport.com, you can obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of the three previously mentioned credit bureaus. Reviewing your reports can help you identify errors or discrepancies that could be impacting your credit score.
What Is a FICO Score?
A FICO score is a type of credit score that lenders may use to assess your reliability as a borrower.
Calculated using your credit report, the FICO scoring model can be broken down as follows:
- Payment history accounts for 35 percent of your score
- Outstanding debts owed is 30 percent of your score
- Credit history length is 15 percent of your score
- Credit mix is 10 percent of your score
- New credit is 10 percent of your score
There are generally two categories of FICO scores. One is for certain industries like auto loan companies, mortgage lenders, and credit card issuers, and the other is a general-purpose or “base” score for creditors in non-specific industries.
The industry-specific scores, such as FICO Auto Scores, span on the low end from 250 to 900 at the high end, while the base score starts at 300 and can reach up to 850. Using the FICO scoring model, a good credit score ranges between 670 and 739.
What Are the Different Types of FICO Scores?
There are multiple types of FICO scores within these two categories, meaning you can have many different FICO credit scores. As of 2022, FICO Score 9 and FICO Score 8 are the most widely used among the three primary credit reporting agencies.
On the other hand, FICO Score 10 and 10 T are the newest FICO score versions, which debuted in 2020. The 10 T version takes into account trends in your credit history, which can be helpful for predicting future behavior.
To learn more about FICO scores, visit the myFICO website, which serves as the official consumer division of FICO. The myFICO site has educational resources, including tools, products, and services, that can help you better understand your credit scores and take action.
How Can You Improve Your FICO Score?
Your FICO score is one of the main factors that lenders look at when considering you for a loan. A high FICO score means you’re a low-risk borrower, which could lead to lower interest rates on your credit accounts.
You can work to improve your FICO score by following these simple guidelines:
- Make payments on time: As the biggest factor in your FICO score, payment history is crucial. It’s a general best practice to pay outstanding debts in a timely manner to avoid late payments, which can negatively impact your credit score.
- Keep credit utilization low: Your credit utilization ratio should ideally stay under 30 percent.
- Use a variety of credit products: A mix of different types of credit (e.g., credit cards, student loans, etc.) can help improve your FICO score.
- Check for errors on your credit report: If there are any inaccuracies on your credit report, you can dispute them with the credit bureau to potentially have them removed.
- Keep old credit accounts open: Closing old credit cards can hurt your credit score by reducing the length of your credit history.
While there are other types of credit scores, FICO scores remain the standard in the lending industry. Many lenders and credit card companies offer free access to your FICO score — all you have to do is request a copy.
Another way to check your FICO score is to use a credit monitoring service, which provides your credit score and can give you tools to help improve your credit. Keep in mind, however, that since there are different types of FICO scores, you might not see the same score from each service or lending institution.
Which Credit Card Could Help Increase Your Credit Score?
Essentially, your credit score is partially determined by your credit history, which is a record of how you’ve handled debt in the past. If your goal is to raise your credit score, you may want to consider getting a credit card that could help you build up your credit history.
A secured credit card is often a good option for people who are trying to improve their credit scores. With a secured card, the cardholder puts down a deposit that effectively becomes their line of credit.
This means that if they don’t make their payments, the issuer can simply keep their deposit. But if they do make their payments on time and keep their statement balance low, they can begin to build their credit history.
Another option is a rewards credit card, which can accrue cash back or travel points for every dollar spent. One leading credit card in this category is the VITAL Card.
Offering enhanced financial tracking tools and a generous 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases, VITAL gives you the opportunity to earn even greater rewards with referrals, potentially unlocking up to 3 percent in cash back.
Join the VITAL community today to jumpstart your financial growth.
Bottom Line: Is a FICO Score the Same as a Credit Score?
Simply put, a credit score is an algorithm-based number designed to give lenders an idea of how trustworthy you are as a borrower. Your credit score is based on a variety of factors, including your payment history, credit utilization, and the length of your credit history.
On the other hand, your FICO score is a specific credit score used by lenders across many industries. From the FICO Score 8 to the FICO Score 10 T, there are many FICO scores that each convey different information about you as a borrower.
When it comes to your credit score, don’t stay in the dark. VITAL Card offers a platform where you can build healthy financial habits and connect with others who are in the same position.
VITAL Card blog posts are intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered financial or any other type of advice.