At a Glance

While the terms “FICO score” and “credit score” are often used interchangeably, they are not the same thing. A FICO score is just one type of credit score. You actually have many credit scores across different credit bureaus and credit products. This article will cover:

  • Different scores from different bureaus
  • FICO overview
  • VantageScore overview
  • FICO and VantageScore ranges
  • Other credit scoring models

Why do I have different scores from different credit bureaus?

FICO and other credit bureaus all use different mathematical algorithms and criteria to determine their scores. In addition, not all lenders send reports to the same credit bureaus. If you pay a credit card bill late, and that credit card company only sends its report to one bureau, your score would be lowered on just that bureau’s credit report.

Why are FICO and other credit scores important?

When you apply for a loan, such as a mortgage or auto loan, the lender examines your credit score to assess risk and determine how likely you’ll be able to repay your loan. Credit scores allow lenders to quickly make decisions based on data that is both impartial and consistent, and reduces their chance of losing money to unreliable borrowers.

Borrowers with good credit scores are rewarded with access to loans and favorable interest rates. Borrowers with bad credit scores are often unable to get a loan or receive loans with high interest rates.

Is FICO score the same as credit score?

FICO scores can be the same as credit scores in some instances. But it’s worth noting a FICO score is only one type of credit score. FICO is the most popular credit score reporter, often used instead of or alongside VantageScore, another credit scoring option.

Why is my FICO score lower than my credit score?

Because each of the three credit reporting bureaus doesn’t always have the same information, you could see a difference at each bureau depending on when you access your score. That means your FICO score could show lower than a VantageScore or other credit scoring option that is pulling slightly different information.

FICO overview

FICO stands for Fair Isaac Corporation, which was the first company to ever create a credit score. The FICO score launched in 1989 and is the most widely used credit scoring metric.

There are dozens of FICO score models that fall under two main categories: base scores and industry-specific scores. Industry-specific scores are tailored to certain credit products, like mortgages or auto loans.

FICO scores also vary according to their updates, with the newest version being FICO Score 9 (released in 2016).

How a FICO score is calculated

To calculate your creditworthiness, FICO uses five different factors:

FICO Scores are calculated using these five metrics from your credit report


VantageScore overview

In 2006, the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) created VantageScore, the next most popular credit calculation to FICO. Both determine your score using similar factors.

However, the main difference between VantageScore and FICO is that VantageScore is calculated using just one month of credit, while a FICO score requires six months or more of credit. So, if you have a shorter credit history, your VantageScore may be higher than your FICO score.

How a VantageScore is calculated

VantageScore evalulates your credit score based on the following:

According to the VantageScore 4.0 your credit score is calculate based on these six factors


FICO and VantageScore ranges

FICO and VantageScore use the same scoring ranges. Credit users are assigned a three-digit score that ranges from 300 to 850. A good FICO score is 720 to 740, with an exceptional score being 800 or over. A good VantageScore is 660, with an exceptional score being 780 or over.

What isn’t included

Factors that aren’t included in either scoring model are:

  • Income
  • Age
  • Credit counseling participation
  • Employment history
  • Marital status

Other credit scoring models

Each of the three main credit bureaus have their own scoring models. They are considered educational scores since lenders don’t normally use them to make lending decisions.

Some lenders also have their own custom scoring models, and as sales incentives, often bundle credit scores with other offerings like credit report monitoring services.

Difference between fico score and credit score

There are several key differences between your FICO score and credit score. When comparing FICO vs credit score, reference this chart:

Category FICO Score Credit Score
Scoring Model Scale between 300-850 Scale may vary depending on the company issuing the credit score
Industry Adoption Used by 90% of lenders Often referred to as “educational” scores, not formally adopted by the majority of lenders
Excellent (720-850) Consistent and easy to understand scoring Can differ from FICO score by up to 100 points
How long to create a score At least six months of data required Depending on the company, could receive a score after only one month
How score is calculated Payment history (35%)
Amount owed (30%)
Age of credit (15%)
Credit mix (10%)
Recent credit applications (10%)

Varies by company issuing score, could weigh certain areas more or less heavily

How to improve your credit score

Here are some different steps you can take to improve your credit score:

  • Avoid late payments: Your payment history is the biggest factor taken into account with almost every credit score.
  • Don’t close out old accounts: Don’t close out old accounts once you’ve paid your balance off. While this might seem counter-intuitive, closing accounts will raise your credit utilization rate and lower your overall score.
  • Check your credit report frequently: Your credit scores are all based on your credit report. Make sure to check your report for errors frequently.
  • Ask for a higher credit limit: A higher credit limit will improve your score by lowering your credit utilization rate.


FICO and VantageScore both operate on a credit range between 300-850. How high borrowers fall on this range reflects their ability to take on and repay credit effectively. Generally, lenders are more likely to issue a loan or line of credit to borrowers with a higher credit score.

Credit history is the most important contributing factor in calculating your FICO score (35%) and VantageScore (40%). The way you’ve managed credit in the past is important to lenders as they assess your ability to take on credit in the future.

New changes implemented in 2020 mean that those with high debt utilization (compared to available credit), personal loans, and late payments could see their score dip. But scores could improve for those who keep a timely payment history and use only the credit they need.

Your credit score can drop after paying off debt for several reasons. For example, if a line of credit is closed after being repaid, it can lower your length of credit history, thereby dropping your score. Another possibility is that you eliminated a type of debt, like closing your last revolving or installment loan. That could cause your credit mix to take a hit.

A hard credit inquiry happens when you submit an application for a new loan or line of credit. Hard credit inquiries are reported to credit reporting bureaus. Multiple hard credit inquiries in a short period could hurt your score. That’s because more credit applications signal a greater risk to lenders.

A late payment will stay on your credit report for up to 7 years. These late payments generally fall off your credit report after seven years from the original date of the late payment. To remove a late payment, you can try and write a goodwill letter to the lender to see if they would agree to strike the late payment from your record.

Borrowers with excellent credit scores may qualify for low-interest personal loans or 0% APR balance transfer credit cards for debt consolidation. Those with lower credit scores may turn toward debt consolidation options like a debt management plan (DMP) assisted by a non-profit credit counseling agency. Those with very low scores and unmanageable debt may consider debt settlement or bankruptcy as debt consolidation options.