How Accurate is a FICO Score?

A FICO® Score is a credit scoring model that lenders, credit card issuers, and other companies use when evaluating whether you’re creditworthy. Credit scoring models are software that analyzes information from your credit report to predict the likelihood that you won’t pay your bills on time. How accurate your FICO Score is can vary depending on the version of the FICO Score Credit scoring model used, the credit bureau whose credit report is used, and the date when the credit score is generated, among other factors. Keep reading to learn more about accurate credit scores.  

FICO vs. VantageScore: The Differences

FICO Score and VantageScore are the two major credit scoring models and have both similarities and differences. 

VantageScores are generic scores, designed to be used by a variety of different creditors. The base FICO Score is generic, but FICO also creates specialized credit scoring models for specific industries such as credit card issuers, mortgage lenders, and auto lenders. 

Both FICO and VantageScore release new versions of their credit scoring models from time to time, with updates intended to improve accuracy. The latest versions of VantageScore are 3.0 and 4.0. The latest versions of FICO Score are 9 and the 10 Suite; however, FICO Score 8 is still the version most creditors use. 

FICO creates different versions of each of its credit scoring models for each of the three major consumer credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax). VantageScore’s credit models can be used by any of the three bureaus.

Both base FICO Scores and the latest versions of VantageScore range from 300 to 850. FICO Scores and VantageScores consider the same basic factors when calculating your credit score:

  • Payment history: Whether you pay bills on time 
  • Credit utilization ratio: The percentage of your available credit you actually use 
  • Length of credit history: How long you’ve had credit 
  • Credit mix: The variety of credit types you have (including both revolving and installment credit) 
  • Credit applications: How often and how recently you’ve applied for credit 

The two credit scoring models weigh this data a bit differently, though. FICO Scores weigh payment history and credit utilization most heavily; VantageScores weigh credit utilization, credit mix, and length of credit history most heavily. 

VantageScore or FICO: Does It Matter? 

More than 90% of U.S. lenders use the base FICO score, so it makes the most sense to check this score.

However, no matter which credit score you check, you won’t see the exact score that lenders see. Creditors often modify credit scoring models to include other factors based on their own needs. 

Which One Should You Check Regularly? 

There are many different credit scoring models, and while you might be able to guess which one a specific lender will use, it’s impossible to know for sure. You could go crazy trying to check all your credit scores. In general, monitoring your FICO Score 8 on a regular basis is the best approach. 

Is Your Credit Score Accurate? 

Credit scores can vary depending on which credit scoring model is used, which credit bureau provides the credit report used to generate the score, the date the credit score is calculated, and a variety of other factors. However, if there’s an inaccuracy in your credit report, the credit score generated from that report won’t be as accurate as it could be. 

To prevent this, you should regularly review your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. If you find missing or incorrect data, file a dispute with the specific credit bureau to have it corrected.

What Is a FICO Score?

A FICO Score is a type of credit scoring model that uses information in your credit history to calculate credit risk, like how likely you are to fail to repay debts. There are several different types of FICO Scores, but the base FICO Score is a three-digit number ranging from 300 to 850. 

What Is VantageScore? 

A VantageScore is a different credit scoring model from the FICO Score. Based on information in your credit report, the VantageScore is a three-digit number between 300 and 850 that indicates your likelihood of defaulting on credit or debts. 

The Importance of Knowing Your Credit Score 

There are several reasons to monitor your credit score.

  • Applying for credit generates a hard inquiry into your credit report, which temporarily lowers your credit score. Knowing your credit score helps you identify the loans, credit cards, and other credit products you’re likely to qualify for so you don’t waste time and unnecessarily hurt your credit score.
  • When you know where your credit scores range, you can take steps to improve it if necessary. 
  • Monitoring your credit score can help you spot financial fraud and identity theft to help protect your personal information and avoid misuse. A sudden decline in your credit score could indicate someone is making fraudulent charges or has applied for credit in your name. 

Where Can You Check Your Credit Scores?

Some banks or credit card companies offer free access to your credit score. You can also get credit scores directly from each of the three credit reporting agencies.

  • Equifax and TransUnion both provide a VantageScore 3.0 credit score for a fee.
  • Experian CreditWorks provides free monthly access to both your Experian credit report and your FICO Score. There’s also a premium version that includes daily access to these and monthly access to credit reports from all three credit bureaus for credit monitoring purposes. 

MyFICO.com charges a fee to see up to 28 different FICO Scores, including those used by mortgage lenders, auto lenders, and credit card issuers. 

It’s equally important to check your credit report with each of the three major credit bureaus on a regular basis. You can get a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus once per 12 months from AnnualCreditReport.com.

FAQs About the Accuracy of Credit Scores

What is the most accurate credit score site?

There is no one credit score site that is more accurate than others. Your credit scores may vary depending on the credit score version you are checking, the day you check the score, and which credit bureau’s data is used to generate the score.

Is Experian more accurate than Credit Karma?

Neither provider is more accurate than the other. They provide different things.
Credit Karma provides free VantageScore 3.0 scores from TransUnion and Equifax, but not from Experian. 
Experian provides FICO Score 8; Credit Karma does not. 
Credit Karma provides free credit reports from Equifax and TransUnion, updated weekly. 
Experian CreditWorks provides an Experian credit report, and FICO Score monthly; the Premium version provides access to FICO Scores and credit reports from all three credit bureaus monthly and Experian FICO Scores and credit reports daily.

How can I check my credit score accurately?

Your credit score is a snapshot of your use of credit at the moment in time. To ensure that the snapshot is based on accurate information, you should check your credit report with all three credit reporting agencies—Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Visiting AnnualCreditReport.com is an easy way to do this. If your credit reports have any inaccuracies, contact the specific credit bureau to ask for a correction. 

Once your credit reports are accurate, you can check your credit scores using the sources listed above and feel confident the scores will be accurate. Just keep in mind that specific credit scores may vary depending on the day they are generated, the credit scoring model used, and the credit bureau whose credit report is used. You might have a VantageScore of 700 and a FICO Score of 710 on the same day; that doesn’t mean one is wrong and the other is right.

Which credit score matters most?

Different companies use different credit scores when deciding whether you are creditworthy. For example, mortgage lenders may look at specialized credit scores designed for their industry. However, the most used credit score is the base FICO Score. As a result, this is generally the best score to check. 
If you are applying for an auto loan, home loan, or another specialized loan, it may be worth paying to get specialized scores from MyFico.com. Just keep in mind that even these scores won’t be exactly what the lender sees and that lenders consider more than credit scores when evaluating your application.

What is considered a good FICO score?

The FICO score credit scoring model uses a range of 300 to 850. A good FICO Score is between 670 to 739; a score between 740 to 799 is considered very good.

You may also like

Learn more about credit bureaus and how they work, how they calculate credit scores, why scores differ, and how to check your credit rating.
Read more