Credit Score Types and Versions
Credit scores are used by most lenders and credit card providers to assess the creditworthiness of credit applicants, to determine whether credit should be extended to them, and if so, at what interest rate. Higher credit scores usually result in lower interest rates for the borrower and under better terms. All credit scores are based on statistical analysis of data, and most credit scores use the data in credit reports, which are compiled by the 3 major credit reporting agencies. Other sources of information may include payment history for rent, utilities, and other regularly recurring bills.
Lenders choose the credit score they want to use, and 2 factors determine their choice: cost and the predictive value of the credit score, especially in regard to the probability that a borrower will default. The primary credit score used by most lenders is the FICO credit score, because it is deemed best at predicting future creditworthiness. Other providers of credit scores offer lower rates for the lenders or use other information to assess borrowers who do not have much of a credit history. The main competition to the FICO score is the VantageScore, which was developed by the 3 major credit reporting agencies — TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax — who also provide the data for calculating the FICO score.
The primary purpose of credit scores is to predict future creditworthiness by looking at past creditworthiness, under the assumption that the past prognosticates the future, so the major credit scores use the same type of information, specifically: payment history, amount of debt, length of credit history, the total credit available to the borrower, the amount of credit that the borrower has recently obtained, and the number of times that the borrower has recently sought credit, called credit inquiries. Credit scores differ by how much weight they give to each factor. How credit scores are used and how they predict future creditworthiness is detailed in Credit Scores.
Credit Score Names
FICO is the main developer of credit scores, of which there are many versions. Most lenders use some version of the FICO score, which, according to FICO, is used by 90% of lenders to determine the credit worthiness of their borrowers. Virtually all credit scores depend on information contained within the credit files held by the 3 major credit reporting agencies (CRAs): Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion . A few scores depend on information that is not normally present in credit files, but the consumer must opt in to share that information. The CRAs have also developed their own credit score, called the VantageScore. FICO has also developed the FICO Resilience Index to predict delinquencies during economic downturns, which ranks consumers from the most likely to become delinquent to the least likely.
Credit score numbers depend on the procedure for calculating those numbers. When the procedures change, even slightly, the credit score generated from the new procedure will be given a new name. The credit reporting agencies and FICO frequently test different scoring algorithms, assigning them names over different time periods, which may change later on, even for the same credit scoring procedure.
Moreover, the credit reporting agencies will use slight variations of the FICO credit score to develop their own version, which usually comes with a different name. I believe they do this to distinguish themselves from their competitors. In any case, it does not result in a significant difference in scores. Major changes in scoring algorithms are usually tested to see how well they predict future creditworthiness. Therefore, making major changes to the algorithms for a unique scoring method that was not extensively tested would not sell well to the lenders who use the credit scores to assess the risk of borrowers.
The VantageScore, which was developed by the credit reporting agencies, is used without alteration by all 3 CRAs, according to VantageScores.com. The VantageScores naming procedure has been to simply increment the round whole number indicating the version. So, the latest version of the VantageScore is VantageScore 4.0.
This article describes the different types of major credit scores issued by the different companies and some of their versions, and how they differ. Note that many of the details of these credit scores will continually change, but they will continue to rely on the same basic information, since it is based on commonsense, to a large extent. Also, some nominal scores were based on a major credit scoring algorithm, usually FICO, but were marketed under different names as an attempt to distinguish themselves in the marketplace. For instance, Experian used the FICO algorithm to calculate their Beacon score, and TransUnion also used the FICO algorithm to calculate their Emperica score. Both of these scores had slightly different ranges, neither had any real advantages over the FICO score on which they were based, and neither is used by these credit reporting agencies anymore.
FICO Credit Scores
Although there are innumerable ways of calculating credit scores, the most important — important because most credit grantors use these scores — are calculated using the software of FICO, previously named Fair Isaac Corporation, (NYSE:FIC), called the Classic FICO credit score, which has been in use since 1989. Although FICO has developed newer scoring models, the FICO Score 8 is the most commonly used score in the lending industry. Your FICO scores are based only on credit information in your credit report and this information is gathered from various sources, but mainly from lenders who lend money or extend credit to you, such as credit card companies and banks. The 3 main repositories of this information are the credit reporting agencies (CRAs) TransUnion, Experian (LON:EXPN), and Equifax (NYSE:EFX). Each CRA also has their own name for the Classic FICO score, and have collaborated to create a new scoring model called VantageScore.
Note that the credit reporting agencies calculate your credit score based on the information in their files — FICO Corporation only supplies the algorithm to calculate the score.
The use of credit reports and their derivative credit scores, however calculated, is predicated on a simple principle — that past and current creditworthiness is predictive of future creditworthiness.
The FICO score is not perfect at measuring creditworthiness or predicting future credit behavior, since neither can ever be measured precisely, but because most lenders use the FICO score, this increases its importance both in determining whether you will get credit or not, and how much you will pay for it. The FICO score ranges from 300 to 850 — higher scores indicate greater creditworthiness. The median FICO score in the United States is 723. FICO also has industry-specific credit scores, especially for bankcard issuers and lenders of auto loans. These industry specific credit scores range from a low of 250 to a high of 900. So, if your credit score on a credit card app shows an upper limit of 900, then the issuer is probably using a version of the FICO Bankcard Score, either version 8 or 9. The 3 major credit reporting agencies all issue FICO scores based on the information in their credit files.
Because the FICO score from each credit reporting agency is based on the information in their own files, and because these files have slightly different information on each person, the FICO score will also differ from the 3 agencies, which is why many lenders get 2 or 3 scores. If the lender gets 2 scores, generally the lower one will be used in determining whether to give the consumer a loan or at what interest rate it will charge. When 3 scores are obtained, generally the middle score is used. Generally, these scores will usually be within 20 points, higher or lower, of the generic FICO score that consumers typically receive
To add to the confusion of different credit scores, many lenders use older versions of the FICO score. Moreover, there were also older types of FICO scores for specific types of credit, including the FICO auto score, mortgage score, installment loan score, insurance score, and a personal finance score. The specific scores differ primarily in the weight they assign to the different rating factors in the credit file. For instance, the personal finance score weighs the consumer's use of finance companies more heavily..
Determining Creditworthiness without Credit Files
Most people in the world do not have a credit file, so how can their creditworthiness be assessed? For people without an extensive credit history, credit bureaus are starting to use court records, and rent, utility and phone bill payments. New startups that are trying other methods of assessing the creditworthiness of people living in 3rd world countries, most of whom do not have credit files, are analyzing online social networks of loan applicants — with their permission, of course — such as professional contacts on LinkedIn, looking at the number and nature of LinkedIn connections to coworkers, and even rating the contacts of potential borrowers.
Some startups are also using statistics to spot other patterns that may indicate creditworthiness or the lack thereof. For instance, it was recently found by one company that loan applicants who type only in lowercase or uppercase letters are less likely to repay loans. Some data providers are also looking at connections on Facebook. Loan applicants with friends who have well-paid jobs and who live in nice neighborhoods are deemed to be more likely to be creditworthy. On the other hand, having friends who recently defaulted on loans is a negative. - Credit scores: Stat oil | The Economist
More recently, the CRAs and FICO have established an alternate way of assessing creditworthiness:
- Experian Boost allows people without a credit history to use their payment history for utilities, such as gas, water, and electric, Internet/cable, and telecom payments, accomplished by giving Experian read-only permission to see your bank account data. You decide how many such payments you wish to add to the Experian credit file. You can discontinue the service at any time. Experian Boost will not have much of an effect for someone who already has a pretty good score. According to Experian, which uses the FICO Score 8 Model for this program. scores were boosted by an average of 13 points, which is negligible. However, it may provide more of a boost with people who have no credit history.
- Experian Boost is free. You connect your bank account used to pay your bills, then choose to verify the positive payment history you want added to your credit file. If there is a boost, it will be instant.
- With FICO’s program, the UltraFICO Score analyzes your bank account to see how well you manage your money and other factors that affect your score, such as how long accounts have been open, frequency of activity, maintenance of a savings balance and the total savings, and the avoidance of negative balances, as may occur with bounced checks.
- FICO, in conjunction with Equifax, developed a score, called the FICO Score XD, which uses information in cell phone and cable accounts provided by Equifax and on property records and other public data provided by LexisNexis Risk Solutions.
- Developed by TransUnion, the CreditVision Link relies on data from payday loans, checking account histories, frequency of home address changes, as well as the size of monthly payments and whether the payments were increasing or decreasing while the loan is outstanding. The credit score range for both the FICO Score XD and CreditVision Link were the same as for the FICO score, 300 to 850, with higher scores indicating a better credit risk.
New Versions of FICO Credit Scores
Although all credit scores uses similar components, especially payment history and credit utilization, since they are the best indicators of credit risk, the algorithms that determine credit scores depend on the model used, and these models change every few years. Most changes will either change the weight of already used indicators or they may employ new indicators. For instance, FICO develops new credit scores every few years, using additional information that it gains from credit files over the years.
FICO Score 8
FICO introduced FICO Score 8 in 2009, giving greater negative weight to credit card balances near the credit limit, but ignores so-called nuisance collection accounts where the original balance is less than $100, such as for library fines. The treatment of late payments is also changed: isolated late payments will have a lesser negative impact than previously, but the negative impact of more late payments will exceed that under previous scores. To summarize and to list other FICO 8 changes:
- A serious credit event, such as a repossession or charge-off, will not lower the score as much as previously if you are still current on other credit accounts.
- Having both revolving and installment accounts is rated more positively.
- Having fewer open active accounts is rated more negatively.
- Greater weight is given to credit utilization, the percentage of credit used to the amount of credit available.
- Isolated late payments are de-emphasized, meaning that a single late payment will not lower the score as much as in previous versions if most payments were on time. At the same time, consecutively missed payments will lower the credit score more than previous versions of the FICO score.
- Ignores small dollar “nuisance” collection accounts where the original balance was less than $100.
- A serious credit event, such as a repossession or charge-off, will not lower the score as much as previously if you are still current on your other credit accounts.
- Having both revolving and installment accounts is rated more positively.
- Having fewer open active accounts is rated more negatively.
- All versions of the FICO score include authorized user credit card accounts, meaning that authorized user can create a credit profile that can be used to calculate a FICO score. However, FICO Score 8 eliminates the benefit of so-called trade line renting, where credit applicants are added as authorized users to credit cards of strangers, who often receive a fee for adding these people to their card.
FICO Score 9
FICO 9, released in August 2016, changed the influence of consumer accounts sent to collection agencies. When the account is paid in full, then the account is disregarded in computing the score. Furthermore, unpaid medical debt is treated as being less indicative of credit risk than non-medical debt.
- Paid off loans from collection agencies or other 3rd parties will no longer lower this FICO score.
- Unpaid medical debt will not lower this score as much as unpaid non-medical debt. If the medical debt is paid off, then it will not even be a negative factor.
- Rental history reported to the credit bureaus will factor into the FICO Score 9, which will benefit people with a limited credit history.
FICO Score 10 and FICO Score 10 T
Released in 2020, FICO Score 10 was developed to better assess the increasing use of personal loans, especially to consolidate debt. FICO Score 10 will penalize personal loans more heavily, if they are used to consolidate debt so that more debt can be added on to credit cards. FICO Score 10 will decrease more than under other versions of the FICO score if debt is increasing over the previous 2-year period; by contrast, FICO 10 will increase if debt is decreasing over this time.
FICO Score 10 T, also released in 2020, uses trended credit bureau data to calculate the score. While all credit scores consider your entire credit history, the FICO Score 10 T (think T for trended) uses factors averaged over a certain time, such as the previous 2 years. For instance, under previous versions of FICO credit scores and most other credit scores, the credit utilization score was calculated monthly, and that value changed your credit score from month-to-month. Under FICO Score 10 T, the credit utilization score is averaged over the previous 2 years, so month-to-month changes in your credit utilization will not change your score nearly as much as under previous FICO score versions, since the latest monthly score will simply replace the 1st monthly score of the period.
FICO keeps its credit scoring algorithms secret, and I am cannot find anything so far that gives a clear distinction between the FICO Score 10 and the FICO Score 10 T. My guess is that FICO Score 10 uses trended credit data only for debt balances while the FICO Score 10 T extends the use of trended data to other credit factors, but I could find no more detailed distinction between these 2 scores, even on FICO's own website.
Unlike other credit scores, the UltraFICO Score is based on information from checking or savings accounts and money market accounts. The UltraFICO Score, introduced in the 2nd half of 2020, is designed for people with limited or no credit profile. Also unlike other credit scores, you must sign up and opt in, since the score is generated by linking your accounts with your credit report data that will be used to generate your UltraFICO Score.
The score is based on:
- the age of your bank accounts
- the recency and frequency of transactions on these accounts
- evidence that you have enough cash in your accounts to pay expenses, and
- your history of positive account balances.
Industry-Specific FICO Scores
FICO has also developed some credit scores specific to certain industries, such as for mortgages, auto loans, and credit cards. FICO Auto Scores are naturally design for the auto lending industry, while the FICO Bankcard Scores are designed for credit card issuers. Each of the specific industry scores also come with various versions that correlate with the basic versions, including FICO 8 and FICO 9, such as FICO Auto Score 8 and 9, and FICO Bankcard Score 8 and 9.
The FICO Auto Scores place a greater weighting on the payment history for auto loans, while the FICO Bankcard Scores place a greater weighting on the payment history for credit cards. Although the details of credit scoring models are secret, it makes sense to place greater weight on the payment history of auto loans. Most people experiencing financial difficulties are more likely to pay their auto loan than their credit card debt, since most auto loans are secured, so the vehicle can be repossessed.
Note that an auto lender or a credit card issuer may not necessarily use the industry-specific cards. Many of them use FICO Score 8, which, according to FICO, is the most common credit score being used in 2021.
The Credit Reporting Agencies Use Slightly Different Versions of Each of FICO Score
The credit reporting agencies also use slightly different models on the newer versions of the FICO score including the general FICO scores and the industry-specific FICO scores. Moreover, the most common scores used will vary according to the credit bureau reporting the score.
The most widely used version by all 3 credit reporting agencies is FICO Score 8.
- For auto lending: FICO Auto Score 8 (all 3 credit reporting agencies)
- Experian: FICO Auto Score 2
- Equifax: FICO Auto Score 5
- TransUnion: FICO Auto Score 4
- For credit-card decisions: FICO Bankcard Score 8 (all 3 credit reporting agencies)
- Experian: FICO Score 3, FICO Bankcard Scores 2
- Equifax: FICO Bankcard Score 5
- TransUnion: FICO Bankcard Score 4
Note that all 3 credit reporting agencies use the same VantageScores regardless of the type of lending, since they developed the VantageScore. Unlike FICO, VantageScores do not have industry-specific scores.
Home Mortgage Lenders Use Older Versions of FICO Scores
Most home mortgage lenders use older versions of the FICO score, because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac both require the use of such scores for loans that the lenders sell to these government agencies. These scores are the FICO Scores 2, 4, and 5, depending on the credit bureau that calculates the score. The credit bureaus also use slight modifications of the scores — and new names — to distinguish themselves from their other 2 competitors:
- FICO Score 2 based on Experian data (aka Experian/Fair Isaac Risk Model v2)
- FICO Score 5 based on Equifax data (aka Equifax Beacon 5.0)
- FICO Score 4 based on TransUnion data (aka TransUnion FICO Risk Score 4)
Because mortgages are large loans over an extended time period, mortgage lenders will get credit scores from all 3 credit bureaus, which are included in a single document called the tri-merge credit report. Most mortgages are sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who require that lenders get all 3 scores and use the middle score, or if the lender gets only 2 scores, then the lower score must be used.
A credit scoring system, called VantageScore, has been developed by Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, now in its 4th revision. VantageScore is touted to provide a more consistent scoring system for creditors, giving creditors an alternative to the FICO score. There will still be some differences among the scores of the 3 agencies because each credit agency has slightly different data in their files on each person, but the methods used to compute the score will now be the same for all 3 agencies.
VantageScores 1.0 and 2.0 early versions that have a credit score ranging from 501 to 990. VantageScore 1.0 was the 1st scoring model to incorporate rent, telco, and utility payment histories. VantageScore 2.0 was the 1st to use trended data, but using data from 2 different timeframes rather than from a continuous extended time.
VantageScore 3.0 does not count paid collections and it looks further back in history, back to 24 months instead of the 6 months considered by FICO, where at least 1 account had to be updated within the previous 6 months. Besides a payment history from lenders, VantageScore 3.0 also uses payment history for rent, utilities, and phone bills, allowing many more people to be scored. Thus, a score can be generated for someone with a credit history as short as 30 days instead of the 6 months required by the FICO score. Additionally, VantageScore merges current information with consumer credit behavior in both 2009-2011 and from 2010-2012, to better evaluate how the consumer did under different economic conditions.
VantageScore also offers a website — https://reasoncode.org/ — where the consumer can enter the 2 digits found either in a VantageScore report or disclosure notice received after applying for credit that explains why the score was not higher. After applying for credit, consumers will receive 4 or 5 reasons as to why their credit score was not higher, with the reasons listed in order of priority, so the 1st listed item will have the greatest impact on the score, and the 2nd listed item will have the 2nd most significant influence on the score, etc. Because lenders are required to disclose the reasons for denying credit or giving less favorable terms, VantageScore is offering this website as a means of better informing consumers about why their score was not higher. Note that a consumer may receive these codes even if credit was approved at favorable terms, since there will always be a reason why the score is not 850. Only people who actually have a score of 850, which would be highly unusual, would not receive any reasons.
VantageScore 4.0, released in 2016, uses trended credit data, which reveals credit behavior over time. For instance, credit scores often vary from month to month because credit card balances vary, which changes credit utilization, a primary factor in determining credit scores. However, unlike missed payments, where missed payments could depress your credit score for several years, only your credit utilization over the previous month determined your credit score for the current month. VantageScore 4.0 and FICO 10 T consider credit utilization over the previous 24 months instead of just the prior month, which will cause lesser changes in the credit score from month to month.
VantageScore 4.0 will also tend to be higher for people with limited credit histories, especially dormant credit histories, where the credit file has not been updated within the previous 6 months. Certain types of public records, such as civil judgments, tax liens, and certain medical collections will not lower credit scores as much as previous versions.
Many Lenders Do Not Use the Latest Scores
Although VantageScore is being used by more lenders, most lenders still use some version of the FICO score. Many lenders have standardized on the FICO score, and may well continue to use that, especially since the FICO score has been around for a while, and has a track record of predicting the future creditworthiness of the loan or credit applicant. Another reason why the FICO score may be difficult to supplant is that many banks and mortgage companies sell their mortgages in the secondary mortgage market, which generally requires pooling the mortgages, which in turn, requires gauging the risk of these mortgages. Using a new scoring system that has not been extensively tested as to how well it actually measures risk would introduce uncertainty in the secondary mortgage markets. Thus, those companies that want to sell their mortgages in the secondary market, which is most of them, might well be reluctant to use anything other than the FICO score to assess risk. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who purchase most of the mortgages in the secondary market, also require lenders to use the older Classic FICO scores.
Most credit card issuers, as well as many auto lenders, use FICO Score 8, but most mortgage lenders use Scores 2, 4, and 5. Auto lenders use Scores 2, 4, 5, 8, and 9.
The most recent scores, as of 2020, are FICO 10 and FICO 10 T. However, new credit scoring models take some time before lenders start using them. As of 2020, most lenders are still using FICO 9, released in 2016, and FICO 8, released in 2009. The new scores consider consumer behavior that may better indicate credit risk. FICO 10 T, in particular, uses trended credit bureau data, with particular emphasis on changes in account balances over the previous 24 months. For instance, a consumer who consolidates credit card debt with a personal loan, then racks up additional debt on the credit cards is a strong indicator that the consumer is not managing debt well, so this type of behavior will lower their score under the new scoring system. Even having a personal loan is also considered a sign of credit risk, because such loans do not require collateral, so the consumer may be more likely to default on such a loan.
Historical Versions of Credit Scores
As credit scoring procedures have developed over time, numerous names for these scores have sprouted. These historical scores are no longer marketed, and most of them have been renamed as the procedure for calculating the credit scores have evolved. However, many of the new ideas that were incorporated into these historical scores have been incorporated into the newer versions of the score. Some of these variations are discussed in this section.
FICO Expansion Score
According to FICO Corporation, millions of people either lack a credit report or have insufficient information in their credit reports to determine a reliable credit score. These people include immigrants, young adults, the recently divorced or widowed, and ethnic groups that typically do not use credit. To better gauge the creditworthiness of these individuals, FICO has sought additional information from sources other than credit reports to compute a more reliable score. Because this score is based on different sources of information and computed differently, it has a new name — the FICO Expansion score.
The FICO Expansion score measures consumer risk based on credit data outside of credit reports, such as deposit account records, pay day loan cashing, and purchase payment plan performance. The FICO Expansion score attempts to measure the likelihood that the consumer will become severely delinquent (more than 90 days past due) in his payments, for up to 24 months after scoring. Like the Classic FICO score, the Expansion score ranges from 300 – 850, with higher numbers indicating greater creditworthiness.
Fair Isaac Credit Services is a subsidiary of FICO Corporation that organizes this information into consumer files; produces the reports and risk scores for business clients; and resolves consumer disputes. The new scores will be available through myFICO.com.
How Does the NextGen FICO Score Differ from Classic FICO?
The NextGen FICO score was another score developed by FICO before FICO 8, but has now been replaced with FICO 8 and 9. The NextGen FICO 2.0 score ranged from 150 to 950 and generally gave a higher score to many people by:
- not considering collection items of less than $100, such as unpaid parking tickets or library fines, for instance;
- by not counting accounts at finance companies as a negative item;
- by lengthening the time period in which multiple inquiries for auto loans or mortgages are treated as 1 inquiry from 14 days to 45 days;
- by dividing consumers into 18 groups instead of the 10 in Classic FICO, which ranges from those who have declared bankruptcy to those who are never late on payments. Presumably, more groups allows a better classification of credit risks.
- And by giving more weight to newer credit files. For instance, a new credit file less than 6 months old is not considered in the Classic FICO, whereas, the NextGen model considers any credit file over 3 months old. For instance, if you open your 1st credit card account, and you have no other accounts, then that account will not affect your FICO score for at least 6 months, because not enough information is present in your credit file for a reliable FICO score. NextGen FICO will include the information after 3 months. However, once your credit file has been established for the necessary time, then any new accounts that are opened will have an immediate effect on your score. For instance, if you have had a credit card for at least 6 months, and you open another credit line, then the new credit line will have an immediate effect on both your FICO and NextGen FICO scores.
57% of consumers have a higher NextGen score than a Classic FICO, while the rest have a lower score.