You may hear the terms FICO and VantageScore interchangeably when mentioning credit scores. While both companies offer a credit score based on data reported by the three main credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion), and both scores are currently based on the same numerical scale of 300 to 850, there are differences between how the two companies calculate their scores.
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What’s the Difference Between FICO and VantageScore Calculations?
The categories that VantageScore and FICO use to evaluate credit data are similar in some ways, but different in others.
How Is FICO Score Calculated?
FICO credit score calculations are broken down into five different categories, each with varying weighted percentages. It goes as follows:
- 35% Payment History: Have you paid your bills on time?
- 30% Accounts Owed: How many outstanding bills are you sitting on?
- 15% Length of Credit History: How long have you had a credit card?
- 10% Active Credit Diversity: How many different credit cards and loans do you currently have open?
- 10% New Credit (including inquiries): How many new credit cards and loans have you recently applied for?
FICO Score Ranges
FICO scoring using the following tiers:
- Exceptional: 800 to 850;
- Very Good: 740 to 799;
- Good: 670 to 739;
- Fair: 580 to 669;
- Very Poor: 300 to 579.
How Is VantageScore Calculated?
VantageScore calculations take five different factors into account when determining your score. The breakdown is as follows:
- 40% Payment History;
- 21% Age and Type of Credit: How long have you had the credit line or debt? Is it student loans, credit cards, home loans?
- 20% Utilization: How much of your allowed credit limit are you actually using?
- 11% Active Debt: How much debt are you currently carrying?
- 5% New Credit and Inquiries;
- 3% Available Credit: How much credit do you still have available to spend?
Recently, VantageScore 4.0 calculations eliminated criteria, and percentages of each category. The breakdown follows as such:
- Extremely influential: Total credit usage, balance, and available credit;
- Highly influential: Credit mix and experience;
- Moderately influential: Payment history;
- Less influential: Age of credit history;
- Less influential: New accounts.
VantageScore 3.0 and 4.0 both use the following credit tiers:
- Super Prime: 781 to 850;
- Prime: 661 to 780;
- Near Prime: 601 to 660;
- Subprime: 500 to 600;
- Deep Subprime: 300 to 499.
These numbers don’t tell the full story — specifically, how each category is evaluated and where the data comes from is different between the two models.
What Is Trended Data?
One major difference between VantageScore and FICO is that the former uses trended data to calculate your credit score. This means that while FICO takes a snapshot of your credit situation at the time of the inquiry, VantageScore looks at more of your data over time to identify patterns.
Many are unaware that recent changes can affect your score. FICO will ding you for a recently missed payment, while VantageScore will not weigh it as harshly if it’s contrasted against a history of on-time payments (if you have a habit of paying your bills late, you will be penalized in both scores). So while on the one hand it’s harder to run from an unfortunate past, VantageScore also views isolated strokes of bad luck in an otherwise healthy financial picture as just that.
What Will Hurt Your Credit Score?
Overall, the two scoring models have more commonalities than differences. They are both looking to predict whether you’ll be a risk for lenders, so there are certain predictive factors that will ding you in both VantageScore and FICO:
- Taking out too many loans in a short period of time;
- Having your identity stolen (not necessarily your fault, but still bad for your score);
- Defaulting on loans;
- Having multiple missed payments;
- Over-relying on debt to pay bills.
While VantageScore may be more statistically forgiving of isolated mistakes, both scores will dock points for negative financial habits. The purpose of a more sophisticated scoring system is to help lenders make better decisions, not help consumers hide mistakes and debts.
The takeaway here is to pay attention to recurring behaviors that may be hurting you and take steps to remedy them. If you keep running up a higher credit card bill than you can pay off at the end of the month, determine what you are spending too much on and eliminate it. If you keep having to raise your credit limit, there could be the potential that your spending outweighs your income and you are avoiding a budget.
What If You Don’t Have Credit?
Historically, someone who has not yet developed credit by using credit cards cannot have a FICO score (or at least, not a good one). But now, both VantageScore and a new type of FICO score called FICO XD look at other histories such as phone and cable bills, as well as trended data, to predict borrowing behaviors, so even if you’re just starting out on your financial journey you can still get a credit score and qualify for a loan.
This approach opens up credit scoring to more people than the old FICO model. Just because someone doesn’t have credit history doesn’t mean they’re not a great candidate for a home loan or other big-ticket items.
There are specific groups traditionally missed, or excessively penalized, by FICO: immigrants, younger people, and in many cases, African Americans and Hispanics, who simply use credit cards less routinely. Some believe that credit reporting may perpetuate discrimination. Including these potential borrowers in scoring allows lenders to consider more borrowers, and introduces more parity to the lending market.
What Are the Benefits for Consumers?
VantageScore is easier to understand from a consumer’s perspective. The scoring system includes reason codes, which provide insight into the factors that influence your credit score. Knowing the reasons your credit score is what it is empowers you to change those specific behaviors to improve your score.
In an attempt to be more transparent, the VantageScore website includes educational resources that help consumers understand how the score works and know how to keep it healthy. FICO also understands that individuals want more tools to take control of their finances, and has useful resources on its site as well. The better you understand how the scores work, the more you can tweak your financial behavior to reflect well in the scores.
Even though they calculate their scores in different ways, FICO and VantageScore do have some things in common. They both aim to predict your level of risk from a lender’s perspective based on your past financial behavior. While a new borrower with little credit history may want to focus on their VantageScore, everyone can benefit from finding and fixing good financial habits.
Pay your bills on time, avoid racking up too much consumer debt, and pay down those continuing balances to help improve your credit score. Remember, credit doesn’t change overnight, it is a continual, on-going process that takes time.
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