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FICO® Score vs Credit Score: What are the Key Differences?

By Anna Yen
fico vs credit score

If you’ve ever looked into applying for a loan or credit card, you’ve probably heard of the FICO® credit score. For those just starting on their credit-building journey, it’s easy to confuse your FICO® score vs your credit score.

But did you know that your FICO® score is just one type of credit score? Find out the key differences between the FICO® score vs credit score and how to manage both.

Is a FICO® score and a credit score the same thing?

In short, your FICO® score is not the same as any other credit scores. While your credit scores may be similar, if not the same, from lender to lender, it’s important to be aware of the key differences between your FICO® score vs other credit scores.

What is a FICO® score?

FICO® is more than just a credit score–in fact, it’s a whole company. FICO® stands for Fair Isaac Corporation, which is a data analytics firm that focuses on providing credit scoring services to lenders who need to vet potential borrowers. To date, the FICO® score is the most-used credit score model in the United States.

The goal of your FICO® score is to rank consumers based on how likely they are to pay their debts. They do this by calculating your risk according to factors like your credit mix, credit limit use, and the length of your credit history. Then, they compile the results into a three-digit credit score, known as the FICO® score. 

What is a credit score?

Other credit servicing institutions offer credit scores as well. For instance, another prominent–though less-used–credit scoring model is VantageScore® which is offered by VantageScore Solutions. This model is similar to the FICO® score, but VantageScore® uses different parameters and a slightly different scale. More on that below.

Additionally, each of the three national consumer credit bureaus–Experian, Equifax, and Transunion–offers a proprietary score as well. Like FICO® and VantageScore®, these credit bureaus use their own models to determine a consumer’s creditworthiness.

But unlike FICO® and VantageScore®, accessing these private proprietary scores may cost you money. Not only that, but these scores typically don’t factor into a lender’s decision of whether or not to give you a loan. As such, you may hear them referred to as educational credit scores.

Comparing FICO® score vs credit score

When it comes to comparing your FICO® score vs credit score, it’s important to remember that every model will have its own distinctions. Thus, it’s important to compare one scoring model against another if you want specific details.

Generating your scores

One of the first major differences between FICO® scores vs other credit scores is how quickly they’re generated. If you’ve never built your credit or paid certain types of bills before, you may be credit invisible.

As a result, when you get your first credit card or personal loan, it takes some time to generate your first score. But the amount of time it takes is not the same across the board.

For instance, FICO® requires a borrower to have at least one account open and it must have been reported to the major credit bureaus within the last six months in order to generate a score. In contrast, VantageScore® only requires one month of credit history in total, and you only need to have one report sent to the credit bureaus within the past two years.

Factors that determine your credit score

Every credit scoring service has its own way of determining which factors determine your credit score, as well as how impactful these factors are.

For instance, FICO® calculates your score down to exact percentages:

  • Payment history: 35%
  • Total amount owed: 30%
  • Length of credit history: 15%
  • New credit: 10%
  • Credit mix: 10%

VantageScore® breaks down your score similarly, but less precisely:

  • Payment history: extremely influential
  • Age and credit mix: highly influential
  • Credit limit use: highly influential
  • Total amount owed: moderately influential
  • Recent inquiries: less influential
  • Available credit: less influential

Credit score model ranges

Another key difference is the range that each model sets to determine good versus bad credit. Both basic FICO® and VantageScore® models have a minimum credit score requirement of 300 and a maximum value of 850. But the ways they divide up their scores differs.

FICO® Score 8 ModelVantageScore® 3.0 Model
Exceptional: 800+
Very good: 740-799
Good: 670-739Fair: 580-669
Poor: 300-579
Excellent: 750-850
Good: 700-749
Fair: 640-699
Needs work: 300-639

Industry-specific credit scores

FICO® stands out from the credit score crowd in another way by offering industry-specific credit scores. This is a service that other credit servicing companies don’t offer yet.

Each of these industry-specific scores is tailored to a particular type of credit. For example, the FICO® Auto Score 8 is used by lenders when you want to take out a loan to buy a car. FICO® also offers alternative scores for mortgages and credit cards as well.

Because your industry-specific scores can vary from your base credit score, the credit score you see online may not be the same one that your lender sees when they pull your score. However, they’re calculated in a similar manner.

To start, FICO® takes your base score–as seen above–and adjusts it based on industry-specific risks. For instance, your auto or mortgage score may readjust the weighting of your credit history, such as your length of credit and on-time payments. This gives your potential lender a more accurate idea of how likely you are to default on your loan.

Building credit isn’t as difficult as it seems!

Your FICO® score is just one of a half-dozen potential credit scores a lender may use to determine your creditworthiness. That being said, with roughly 90% of United States lenders relying on FICO® scores to vet consumers for loans, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on yours!

But if you’re one of the thousands of Americans who are credit-invisible, or if you’re having trouble boosting your FICO® score, you’re not alone–and there is hope.

With a monthly fee of $19.99, a MoneyLion Credit Builder Plus Membership gives  access to affordable funding, 24/7 credit monitoring, and 0% APR cash advances. Plus, with monthly credit reporting to all three major bureaus, you can boost your credit score in as few as 60 days!

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