Credit Score vs FICO

Allison Martin
Couple Reviewing Credit Score

What is the difference between a credit score and FICO? The term "credit score" refers to different types of scores based on credit history and other factors. On the other hand, the FICO score, which is the most widely used credit score in the United States, comes directly from the Fair Isaac Corporation and is calculated using a unique mathematical equation.

Credit Scores

Your credit score, whether lender-specific or from FICO, is a three digit number assigned to you based on your credit worthiness, and is determined from an in-depth analysis of your credit file. It is a reflection of how you have handled your credit in the past, and it helps lenders decide whether or not to lend you money and under what terms. Below are a few key differences.

FICO

Commonly used by lenders to make 90% of their credit decisions according to myFICO, the FICO score ranges from 300 to 850 and is computed using a combination of:

  • Data included in the consumer's credit file from the three reporting agencies
  • A mathematical equation that compares information in the consumer's credit file to data from other consumers in the system to assess prospective risk

Other Credit Scores

In some instances, lenders may calculate credit scores via:

  • A unique combination of the FICO equation and select entries from the borrower's application for credit
  • The credit file and payment history with accounts specific to their entity
  • Any other unique combination that they feel best assess the consumer's risk to them

Reporting Agencies

There are three credit reporting agencies, commonly referred to as credit bureaus, that calculate the credit score using a variation of the FICO equation. As a result, your credit score generated by the credit reporting agency Equifax may not be the same as your credit score generated by Experian or TransUnion. Unless there are substantial deviations between the information listed in one agency's file compared to the information listed in another agency's file, there is a good chance that the credit scores will be similar.

Listed below is the manner in which each of the credit bureaus refer to their version of the FICO Score:

Name of FICO Score Credit Bureau
BEACON Score Equifax
Experian/Fair Isaac Risk Model Experian
EMPIRICA

TransUnion

Lender-Specific Criteria

Consumers are often advised to review a copy of their credit report and to request their credit scores months prior to applying for new credit. While each reporting agency will make claims that their score is better than every other available score, the score consumers should most be concerned with is the one that their potential lender will examine when making credit decisions.

Evaluating Your Credit Worthiness

When examining your credit file, it is important to focus on the items it contains to ensure that they are accurate. If you have credit issues looming on the horizon, implement actions into your financial plan to rectify discrepancies and boost your credit score.

Credit Score vs FICO