Lenders use credit scores to help determine your creditworthiness. Credit scores are typically a 3-digit number between 300 and 850. You’ve likely heard about FICO scores.  But did you know that there are other credit scoring models available? In fact, depending on the model used, your credit score may fluctuate from one lender inquiry to the next.  Understanding the differences between the top models below may help you improve your credit.


Fair Isaac Corporation’s FICO score is by far the most common credit scoring model. It delivers a 3-digit number between 300 and 850 to help lenders determine whether you’re a good or bad credit risk. These numbers are usually based on the five factors below.

  1. Payment history – Worth 35 percent of your credit score, payment history looks at how timely you pay your bills, how late your payments are, and whether or not you have any foreclosures, lawsuits, or bankruptcies on record.
  2. Amount owed – Worth 30 percent of your score, amount owed refers to how well you manage and pay off debt. Credit utilization is major part of this category. For best score results, a credit utilization ratio at or under 30 percent of your available credit limit is recommended.
  3. Length of credit history – Worth 15 percent of your credit score, this factor looks at how long you’ve been using credit. For example, have you had the same credit card for 20 years or did you just open your first card last month?
  4. Credit mix– Worth 10 percent of your credit score, this category looks at the types of credit you have and how well you manage them. Do you have a healthy mix of mortgage, car loans, and credit cards spread out over time?
  5. New credit – Worth 10 percent of your credit score, this factor looks at new credit. In general, it’s best to spread out new credit cards and loans over time rather than get several all at once.

Versions of FICO

There are dozens of FICO versions which vary depending on who is requesting the credit score, such as a bank or car dealer.  The type of loan you are getting may also play a role. In addition, FICO releases updated credit scoring models periodically. However, lenders can choose to stick to their current versions. Thus, different lenders might be using an older version of FICO like FICO 5 or the most current version (FICO 9).


Developed by the three credit reporting bureaus, the VantageScore model considers similar factors as FICO but weighs them slightly different. The VantageScore 3.0 percentage breakdown is as follows.

  1. Payment history – 40 percent
  2. Types of credit and age – 21 percent
  3. Credit utilization – 20 percent
  4. Balances – 11 percent
  5. Recent behavior/new credit – 5 percent
  6. Available credit – 3 percent

VantageScore also looks at trends over time. For example, are you making minimum payments or are you actively paying down debt? ScoreShuttle and various financial institutions offer free credit scoring data, often using VantageScore 3.0, to give consumers a general idea of where they stand. This information can also help determine whether or not improvements need to be made. To access your free VantageScore 3.0 credit report and score, click below. 

Credit Bureau-Specific Scoring Models

While FICO remains the top credit scoring model, lenders often compare credit scores from all three credit bureaus. Transunion, Experian, and Equifax also have their own credit scoring models, which are similar to FICO.

  • Equifax Beacon 5.0 – This is essentially FICO version 5 and is commonly requested by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
  • Experian Plus – This credit scoring model uses similar factors to FICO but includes the borrower’s data in the report. This allows lenders to look more subjectively into what is listed.
  • TransUnion VantageScore 3.0 – TransUnion uses VantageScore version 3.0.

Equivalency Credit Scoring 

In addition to VantageScore, below are some other common equivalency credit scoring models.

  • TransRisk – Based on TransUnion data, this specialized credit scoring model is used to determine a borrower’s risk on new, rather than existing accounts.
  • CE Credit Score – Created by CE Analytics, the CE credit score is a free credit scoring equivalency service used by a variety of financial and lending platforms.
  • Credit Xpert Credit Score – Credit Xpert simulates Equifax credit scores, using data found in Equifax credit reports.
  • Experian National Equivalency Score – Similar to a traditional FICO model, scores can range between 360 to 840, with 840 being the best. Alternatively, it has a seperate scoring method of 0-1000 used to demonstrate the risk of delinquency. Under this method, a score of 100 would reflect a 10 percent chance of delinquency over the next two years. Meanwhile, a score of 500, would indicate a 50% chance of delinquency.

As a borrower, you unfortunately don’t get a choice as to which credit scoring model will be used by your lender. However, you can take steps to better your credit with all models by demonstrating responsible financial activity.  For example, checking your credit report for errors, paying your bills on time, and getting your credit utilization down to 30 percent or less are great ways to improve your credit health. 


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