Last Updated: February 2, 2023
In our FICO Score vs Credit Score article, we’ll help you understand the differences between the two and how they are used—which will be extremely useful when tracking your credit score or why your credit card application was denied. What is the difference between credit score and FICO score is a question everyone asks when looking into their credit history.
What Is a FICO Score?
A FICO score is a credit score system created by the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO). They are used by lenders to assess credit risks and decide whether you’re a candidate for loan approval.
FICO uses a multitude of various scoring models and regularly updates their calculating algorithms, which means that you won’t have just one FICO score. In addition, lenders use different FICO scoring models for different purposes.
FICO provides industry-specific scoring models (and scores) for a variety of credit items, including auto loans, credit cards, and mortgages. Lenders usually look at a specific credit score for the type of loan you’re applying for. Your scores can vary, depending on which consumer credit bureau report the rating model uses, e.g., Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion.
FICO scores range from 300 to 850. Numbers between 670 and 739 indicate an individual’s good credit history. Alternatively, those who score 580 or below may have difficulty obtaining optimal financing. (You can also check out the top-rated credit repair companies online to help you understand how to fix your report.)
FICO scores are based on cumulative assessments in five areas:
- Payment history
- Amounts owed
- Types of credit used
- Length of credit history
- New credit
When you apply for credit, lenders will check your FICO score, multiple times, as it is the quickest and most consistent way of determining your creditworthiness. This is perhaps the biggest difference between FICO and credit score.
What Is a Credit Score?
A credit score is a number scale—typically between 300 and 850—that assesses your creditworthiness, determining if you’re a risk for a loan. A good credit score is 670 or above—between 580 and 670 represents a fair score (a good indicator for potential lenders).
What is a bad credit score? A bad credit score is one below 580, which indicates that you’re not paying bills on time or owe money. A credit score is based on your credit history, e.g., number of open accounts, debt levels, repayment history information. Lenders use such scores to evaluate the probability of a loan being repaid in a timely manner.
How Are Credit Scores Created?
Our FICO Score vs Credit Score article also explores the five factors of how a credit score is defined, including:
Number of Accounts
Lenders and creditors want to know how many types of accounts you have, to determine if you’re able to successfully manage said accounts. If you have multiple credit accounts that are maxed out, for example, your credit score will more than likely be affected.
Types of Accounts
A credit score takes into consideration the different types of accounts you have in relation to revolving debt (e.g., from credit cards) and installment loans (e.g., from mortgages, auto loans, student loans, personal loans).
Lenders check to see if you’re staying within your credit limit means, which would demonstrate responsible behavior. Your available credit is the amount of your limit you can still use for purchases.
Length of Credit History
The length of your credit history demonstrates how long different credit accounts have been active. Credit score calculations are indicators of how long your oldest and most recent accounts have been open.
An individual’s payment history reveals a lot about a person’s creditworthiness. Such history, for example, may include credit card utilization, retail department store accounts, auto loans, student loans, or mortgages. How long it took you to repay these loans would affect your current credit score.
Credit-reporting agencies evaluate a person’s credit reports. The three major credit bureaus that issue such reports include Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Some lenders and creditors use all three, so reports and scores may vary. In fact, a credit score is usually created by joint reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, but not all FICO scoring models obtain information from all three credit bureaus.
What Is the Difference Between a FICO Score and a Credit Score?
FICO scores are only a certain type of credit score—not all credit scores are FICO scores. According to FICO, “more than 90% of top lenders use FICO Scores to make faster, fairer, and more accurate lending decisions.” Other credit scores can be very different from FICO scores—in some situations by as much as 100 points. For example, FICO’s scoring models may vary from their competitor VantageScore, since they use a slightly different model. FICO provides industry-specific models (and scores) for a variety of financial items, including auto loans, credit cards, and mortgages.
A lender’s first choice, however, in checking a specific credit score is with FICO. But keep in mind that even though you can access your FICO scores through your bank (which participates in FICO), they aren’t always the same scores that a lender sees when you apply for credit.
Why do many opt for FICO in this FICO Score vs Credit Score debate? FICO is the first of many companies which works on a shared principle but actually built all the scoring models we have today. Although some other companies design their calculations by FICO’s standards, their results may vary. FICO scores are a trusted and reliable measure of whether a potential borrower will pay back a loan on time. Their scores ensure less risk and quicker access to a person’s credit profile, which equals quicker credit.
What Are FICO and Credit Scores Used For?
Three main loans are common with both FICO and credit scores in evaluating creditworthiness:
- Personal Loans—loans that you receive from a lending institution for personal usages, such as medical bills, education, etc.
- Mortgages—loans taken out to buy property or land.
- Auto Loans—loans from lending institutions for the purpose of buying a vehicle.
(A credit score of 660 or more should help you obtain a car loan at a good interest rate.)
Credit Scores That Lenders Consider
One difference between credit score and FICO is that lenders will most always first look at your FICO score and decide if you’re eligible for a personal loan, auto loan, or mortgage.
Why do lenders first check FICO scores and not the usual credit score?
Consider your FICO score as a summary of your credit report. It measures how long you’ve had credit, how much you have, how much available credit is being used, and whether you’ve made payments on time.
What does your credit score mean to a potential lender?
When it comes to credit score ratings, there’s not much difference between credit score and FICO score in the eyes of a lender. Credit scores—no matter if they’re from FICO or another company—can be good or bad; each has value towards a potential lender’s decision. Since most lenders choose FICO as the most trustworthy option, it’s good to note FICO’s credit score range:
- 300-580—represents a poor credit score, well below the average score of US consumers, and a sign to lenders that the borrower may present a risk.
- 580-669—demonstrates a fair credit score, still below the average score of US consumers, but many lenders may approve your loan.
- 670-739—means you have a good credit score, between average and slightly above average.
- 740-799—reveals an excellent credit score, far above average, demonstrating to lenders that the borrower is quite creditworthy.
- 800+—depicts an exceptional credit score, eminently high above the average score. Lenders would, without a doubt, give you a loan.
After considering all the information in this article, you may want to improve your credit score by considering such credit repair companies as Credit Saint, a company that helps improve your credit by assigning you to a personal advisory team. They evaluate your credit and see where changes can be made to get a better credit score.
Why Should You Know the Differences?
One difference between FICO score and credit score can affect your overall credit report. Scores may vary from one system to another. You might end up not knowing which score is better or worse for your potential loan. Scores (and underlying data) can be significantly different with various credit bureaus, as well.
It’s advisable, when you compare scores, to keep in mind that there are thousands of credit scores, and they all use different scoring models. Understanding which areas of your scores bring your overall score down will help you learn how to fix your credit score.
So what is the difference between your FICO score and your credit score? A FICO score is not the same as a regular credit score. It’s only one version of all possible credit scores. Even if you access your FICO scores through your bank, they aren’t always the same a lender sees when you apply for credit. FICO scores (like credit scores) are an accumulative assessment of five areas: payment history, amounts owed, types of credit used, length of credit history, and new credit. And also like a FICO score, a credit score is created by joint reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—but not all FICO scoring models take data from all three credit bureaus.
In some situations, FICO scores and credit scores differ. FICO scores are based on the details of your credit reports and use proven technologies to measure your credit risk. Your individual credit score is based on information from the three major credit-reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Your FICO score is based on those three agencies. The difference between FICO and credit score calculations come down to the different scoring models used.
Discover Credit Scorecard is one of the easiest ways to receive your FICO credit score, free of charge. Whether you’re a Discover client or not, their software is free. When signing up for the card, you’ll be asked for some personal details, as well as your Social Security number.
FICO scores and credit reports are different—just like there’s a difference between a FICO Score vs credit score. But they are linked in that your score is derived from your credit report. Lenders use both to determine whether to give you credit. Your credit score is significant, but you’ll still need your credit reports if you want to dig deeper into your credit history.