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Which Credit Score is Most Important?

Written by Allison Martin

Allison Martin is a personal finance enthusiast and a passionate entrepreneur. With over a decade of experience, Allison has made a name for herself as a syndicated financial writer. Her articles are published in leading publications, like Banks.com, Bankrate, The Wall Street Journal, MSN Money, and Investopedia. When she’s not busy creating content, Allison travels nationwide, sharing her knowledge and expertise in financial literacy and entrepreneurship through interactive workshops and programs. She also works as a Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI) dedicated to helping people from all walks of life achieve financial freedom and success.

Updated February 18, 2024​

5 min. read​

The most well-known and widely used credit score is the FICO score, developed by the Fair Isaac Corporation. It is used by credit bureaus and lenders to gauge your creditworthiness. However, other credit scores, such as VantageScore, also play a vital role in financial decision-making. As you take a closer look at your credit score, it’s essential to understand the differences between these scoring models and how they might impact your financial decisions.

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Understanding the Basics of a Credit Score

Factors that Affect Credit Scores

When it comes to understanding your credit score, you should know what factors affect it. Five key elements make up your credit score:

  • Payment history: This is the most significant factor and relates to how consistently you pay your bills on time. Payment history accounts for 35 percent of your FICO score.
  • Credit utilization: It refers to the percentage of your available credit currently in use. Keep your utilization below 30 percent (or lower if possible) to maintain a healthy credit score.
  • Length of credit history: The longer your credit history, the better. This component considers the age of your oldest and newest accounts, along with the average age of all your accounts.
  • Credit mix: A diverse mix of both installment (i.e., personal loans, auto loans) and revolving credit (i.e., credit cards) are viewed positively by lenders.
  • New credit: Frequent applications for new credit can indicate financial difficulty and may lower your credit score.

The Significance of Credit Scores

Your credit score plays a role in how much credit you can access and the interest rates you will receive. A high credit score can save you thousands of dollars over time by giving you better interest rates and terms on loans. It can also help you access lower auto insurance premiums (in select states), better housing and more employment opportunities (in some industries). 

Who Determines Your Credit Score?

The Role of Credit Bureaus

Your credit score is determined by the three major credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. These entities collect information about your credit history and compile it into a report. They use data from lenders, credit card issuers and public records to create your credit profile.

Be sure to note that credit bureaus can use different scoring models, leading to variations in your scores. However, over 90 percent of lenders and creditors use the FICO credit-scoring model to make lending decisions. 

Why Your Credit Score May Vary

The variation in your credit score can stem from a few different reasons. For starters, credit bureaus may have different information about your credit history. This is due to the fact that not all lenders report to each credit bureau. As a result, scores can differ across bureaus, even when using the same scoring model.

Another reason is the use of various credit scoring models. For example, the FICO score is available in multiple versions, with at least 16 models in use. Furthermore, other scoring models such as VantageScore or industry-specific scores can also influence your credit score.

Different Types of Credit Scoring Models

FICO Score

As mentioned above, your FICO score is the most recognized and widely-used credit score by lenders. There are various FICO scoring models, with the most common being the FICO Score 8. FICO scores range from 300 to 850, and a higher score indicates lower credit risk. Factors that affect your FICO score include payment history, credit utilization, length of credit history, credit mix and new credit. 

VantageScore

VantageScore is another widely-used credit scoring model. Like FICO scores, VantageScores range from 300 to 850. VantageScore has four scoring models, with the most recent being VantageScore 4.0, released in 2017. The factors that impact your VantageScore are similar to FICO, including payment history, credit age and type, credit utilization and recent credit inquiries.

Other Credit Scoring Models

In addition to FICO and VantageScore, numerous other, less common, credit scoring models are used by specific industries, lenders and businesses. These models may have different scoring ranges or criteria for assessing credit risk. Your credit score might vary based on the model used and the type of business (i.e., department store, car dealership, or bank) requesting it.

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Which Credit Score is Most Important?

For Monitoring Your Credit

When monitoring your credit, look at multiple credit scores, including FICO scores. This is because each credit bureau may have slightly different information, affecting your credit scores in various ways. To get a comprehensive understanding of your credit health, regularly review your scores from all three major credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. 

For Credit Cards

Credit card issuers may consider various factors when evaluating your creditworthiness, including credit scores from different bureaus. While most credit card companies widely use FICO scores, they may use different versions of the score. So, monitoring and maintaining good credit scores across all three major bureaus is worth doing. 

For Mortgages

Mortgage lenders often use a specific version of the FICO score called the FICO Mortgage Score. This score places more emphasis on your payment history for mortgages and other housing debt. Checking your FICO Mortgage Score regularly can help you understand your standing with potential mortgage lenders.

For Auto Loans

Auto lenders generally use a FICO Auto Score, which emphasizes your auto-loan repayment history and overall credit risk for auto loans. To increase your chances of obtaining favorable auto loan terms, pay attention to your FICO Auto Score. 

For Other Credit Applications

Lenders may review various credit scores, including FICO scores and alternative scores like VantageScore, for other types of credit applications, such as personal loans or lines of credit. Be sure to monitor and maintain good credit scores across all relevant scoring models to ensure you are well-positioned to obtain credit when needed. 

Why the FICO Score is Often Considered Most Important

The FICO Score is often considered the most important credit score among various types of credit scores available. FICO’s credit scoring model is widely used by financial institutions, such as credit card issuers and mortgage lenders since it has been around since 1989 and has proven effective in predicting borrowers’ credit risk.

One key aspect that makes FICO Scores stand out is their widespread usage by lenders. As mentioned above, more than 90 percent of top lenders use FICO Scores to evaluate customers’ creditworthiness. This alone highlights the significance of your FICO Score when applying for loans or credit products.

While numerous FICO Score versions are in use, each addressing a particular industry or credit product, the base FICO Score remains the standard for most lenders. This base score ranges from 300 to 850, with a higher score indicating better credit. A Very Good FICO Score falls within the range of 740 to 799.

Maintaining a good FICO Score can have multiple benefits. These include access to better interest rates, higher credit limits, and advantageous lending terms. Since your FICO Score has such a considerable impact on your financial life, monitor it regularly and take the necessary steps to improve or maintain an already good score.

Circumstances Where Other Scores May be More Significant

In certain situations, lenders may rely on credit scores other than the widely used FICO scores. It’s essential for you to understand when these other scores could be more relevant, depending on the specific circumstances you face.

  • Alternative credit scores: Some lenders and creditors might use alternative credit scores like VantageScore, which also takes your payment history, credit usage and other factors into account. If you’re working with a lender utilizing alternative credit scores, familiarize yourself with these systems and how they might impact your loan application process.
  • Industry-specific scores: In certain industries, like auto lending or mortgage lending, there might be industry-specific credit scores. These scores focus on criteria that are particularly pertinent to the specific loan type you’re seeking. For instance, if you’re applying for an auto loan, a lender might give more weight to your history with auto loans and car payment history. Understanding the factors considered in these specialized scores can help you target areas for improvement and increase your chances of securing favorable financing terms.
  • Different credit bureaus: Remember that the three major credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax – may produce slightly different credit scores due to variations in the information they gather. It’s wise to monitor your credit reports from all three bureaus to address any discrepancies. This ensures that you’re aware of how each bureau’s score might affect your ability to secure credit or loans.

Conclusion: Understanding and Leveraging Your Credit Scores is Crucial

When managing your financial affairs, staying informed about your credit score is paramount. Responsibly managing your accounts, negotiating better terms with your credit card companies, and diligently monitoring your credit activity help you navigate the financial landscape with confidence, ultimately leading to a brighter financial future.

By leveraging the expertise of professionals like The Credit Pros, you can take steps to improve your credit score fast and achieve your financial goals. With The Credit Pros’ personalized solutions, dedicated customer service, and commitment to customer satisfaction, you can trust that you are in good hands.

Trust that your unique needs will be addressed with their easy-to-read credit reports and personalized score insights. Plus, their affordable pricing and no long contracts make it easy for you to start your journey toward taking control of your credit score.

Get fast and effective results with a 100% 90-day money-back guarantee. Take the first step towards improving your credit today by contacting The Credit Pros at (888) 558-1602 or sign up through this form.

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