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Close-up of dozens of apples

If you’ve ever applied for a loan or credit card, you probably know that lenders review your credit history and scores to help determine whether to approve you for a loan and which rates and terms you qualify for.

You may even be familiar with the terms FICO® and VantageScore®—two popular credit-scoring models financial institutions often use when making lending decisions.

But did you know that you don’t have just one, or even two, credit scores? The truth is you’ll probably never know exactly how many you have, but it’s at least a few dozen. So where do all these credit scores come from? Let’s take a look.


FICO Scores

The FICO score has arguably been the industry standard in credit scoring since it was developed by the Fair Isaac Corporation. It was first used by lenders in 1989, and today it’s used in 90% of lending decisions in the United States.

Currently, there are two types of FICO scores available: base scores and industry-specific scores. Base scores help lenders determine the likelihood that consumers will pay back a debt based on their total credit history. Industry-specific scores help lenders determine how likely a borrower is to pay back a certain type of loan, such as a mortgage or credit card.

As lending requirements and the way consumers use credit have changed, FICO has updated its scoring algorithms several times to better meet the needs of lenders and help ensure consumers have access to the credit they need. As a result, there are multiple versions of FICO scores available for lenders to use. In fact, among the three credit reporting agencies, a consumer could have 28 different FICO scores.



The VantageScore model is newer than the FICO model. Lenders didn’t begin using it until 2006, but its use has increased in recent years. Equifax®, Experian® and TransUnion® created VantageScore because they wanted to develop a model that would produce more consistent scoring results across the three credit reporting agencies.

The VantageScore and FICO models use the same basic information from your credit reports, such as payment history, current debt, and available credit. However, the way the information is used is different, which may produce variations in your credit scores between the two models.

There are other differences as well. For example, VantageScore doesn’t produce industry-specific scores, and while this scoring model may be used in a variety of lending scenarios, it’s not used in mortgage lending decisions.


Educational Scores

If you’ve ever come across a personal finance website that offers to provide your credit score for free, it’s possible the score being generated is neither from FICO nor VantageScore. While some sites do provide a true FICO or VantageScore, many of them produce what are called “educational scores.” These are often similar to your FICO or VantageScore, but they aren’t necessarily what a lender sees when they pull your credit scores, so they’re not typically used to make lending decisions.

But that doesn’t mean these scores and the websites that provide them don’t have value. They may help you monitor your credit and alert you to changes on your credit reports. Plus, many sites provide educational content and personalized recommendations that could help you make better credit decisions.


Lender Scores

While lenders rely heavily on the FICO and VantageScore models to make credit decisions, many have also developed their own custom models, which generate credit scores that help them assess a borrower’s risk.


Credit-Based Insurance Scores

Loans and credit cards aren’t the only types of applications that may require credit scores. Did you know that insurers in many states (but not all) may use credit-based insurance scores when deciding how much your premium should be?

Credit-based insurance scores are generated from information on your credit reports. But unlike traditional credit scores, instead of predicting how likely you are to repay a debt, they predict how likely you are to file an insurance claim.


With so many different credit scores, you might be wondering how you can possibly stay on top of them all. The bad news is, you probably can’t. The good news is, you likely don’t have to.

Because credit scoring models use the same basic information from your credit reports to generate your scores, scores from different models typically move up and down together, based on how you’re using credit.


About the author:

Jennifer Brozic

Jennifer Brozic began her writing career at seven years old, when she scribed the epic tale of her kite-flying (and skyward-looking) uncle crossing paths with a deep hole in a sandy beach. After earning a degree in journalism, Jen worked in the insurance and financial services industries before earning a master’s degree in communication management. She left the nine-to-five corporate world in 2010 and has been freelance writing ever since. Her areas of expertise include insurance, financial planning & budgeting, and building credit.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified tax advisor, attorney or financial advisor. Readers should consult with their own tax advisor, attorney or financial advisor with regard to their personal situations.