Why are My Credit Scores Different?

Why are My Credit Scores Different?

Why are My Credit Scores Different?

We get the “Why are my credit scores different?” question a lot. And for good reason: it can be confusing. You check your credit scores with Nav, for example, but then a lender says your score is different. Or you get your credit score from one website and then another, and the two are different. 

There are 4 main reasons why your scores may be different, and we’ll explore them in more detail here:

  1. Bureau: Scores are obtained from different credit bureaus
  2. Source:  The company that developed the credit score is different
  3.  Model: The credit scoring model used is different
  4. Timing: Scores are pulled at different times

And then we’ll answer the question, “What’s my real credit score?”

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1. Bureau: Scores are obtained from different credit reporting agencies 

The first thing to understand is that there are three major credit reporting agencies and two companies that create credit scores—mainly FICO and VantageScore. And, neither FICO nor VantageScore have any information about how consumers handle their bills. Instead they provide the formula used to evaluate the information in a consumer credit report. And that information comes from one of the three main consumer credit bureaus:

While consumer credit reports are usually similar across all three platforms, these credit reporting agencies don’t share information with one another and it is possible there are differences. For example, a collection account may appear on one of your credit reports and not another. That’s why it is a good idea to review your credit reports with each of  major credit reporting agencies. You can do this at AnnualCreditReport.com, the federally mandated free credit report website. 

Learn more: Experian business credit report

2. Source: The company that developed the score is different

FICO scores are the most commonly used credit scores. FICO (formerly Fair Isaac Company) started creating credit scores in the late 1950s. 

In 2006, the VantageScore was created as a joint venture among credit bureaus Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion to compete with FICO scores. 

In addition, each of the credit bureaus may create their own proprietary credit scores. Sometimes these are used by lenders, and other times they are “educational credit scores” offered to consumers, but not used by lenders to make credit decisions. 

Finally, financial institutions may create their own proprietary scores that are not available to the public. They may use information from one of the credit reporting agencies but also customize the score to their customer base. These are often referred to as “custom scores.”

Each score is intended to measure a certain type of risk of a borrower based on information in their credit report. But each one may approach the analysis in a somewhat different way. That means you can get your credit score from the same bureau the same day and the actual number may be different depending on whether it’s a FICO score or VantageScore. 

3. Model: The credit scoring model used is different

There is no single FICO score. These scores are updated over time, and some credit scoring models are used for specific types of lending such as auto loans or bank cards (general purpose credit cards.) This chart from MyFICO.com illustrates different credit scoring models most commonly used (FICO score only): 

As you can see, different scoring models may be used by mortgage lenders, auto lenders and card issuers. You can also see how different models are available through each bureau. For example, for mortgage lending,  lenders are likely to pull a FICO Score 4 from TransUnion, a FICO Score 2 from Experian, and a FICO Score 5 from Equifax.

VantageScore, by contrast, has four versions and 4.0 is the latest version. If you are using a credit monitoring service to view your VantageScore, you may see a VantageScore 3.0. 

The 5 Main Credit Score Factors:

These factors are included in most credit scoring models, but the weight they carry (in other words, how much they impact your scores) varies by scoring model. 

Payment History: Late payments hurt your credit scores. The more recent the late payment, the more it affects your scores and the greater the number of late payments, the more they affect your scores. (A recent late payment can drop your score as much as 100 points!) 

With FICO scores, this factor generally makes up around 35% of your score. 

With VantageScore 3.0, it’s the top factor but with VantageScore 4.0 it’s “moderately influential.”

Debt: Revolving debt is also a substantial factor. There are different ways this factor may impact your scores. With FICO scores, this factor commonly looks at “debt utilization” “credit utilization” or “debt usage” (all terms for the same concept.) It compares your credit balances to your credit limits on your revolving lines of credit such as credit cards. For example, if you have a credit card account with a $5,000 limit and have a $1,000 balance, your utilization or debt usage ratio is 20%. (Balance divided by credit limit.) This is measured both for individual accounts and as an aggregate ratio of all revolving accounts. Higher utilization ratios may impact your credit negatively. This factor is one that can change quickly: pay down a high credit card balance and your credit scores may improve as soon as the new balance is reflected in your credit reports.

With FICO scores, debt usage typically accounts for about 30% of the score. 

With VantageScore 3.0 debt usage accounts for about 20% of the score, while total balances/debt accounts for about 11%. With VantageScore 4.0, total credit usage, balance and available credit are together the top factor considered “extremely influential.”

It’s worth noting that some business credit cards report to the owner’s personal credit, which means that high balances due to business activities can impact the owner’s personal credit.

Types of Credit: Credit mix or credit diversity in terms of the types of accounts. If your credit report shows that you have a few credit cards, a car loan, a student loan, and a mortgage, for example, you will likely have a higher credit score than someone who only has one credit card and a personal loan.
With FICO scores, credit mix accounts for roughly 15% of your credit score.

With VantageScore 3.0 age and type of credit together account for about 20% of the score, and with VantageScore 4.0 credit mix and experience are the second most influential factor, considered “highly influential.”

Credit History/Credit Age: Credit age simply indicates how long you’ve had credit and is measured by looking at your oldest account, youngest account and the average age of all your credit accounts. The older your credit, the better. 

With FICO scores, this factor accounts for roughly 10% of your credit score.

With VantageScore 3.0 age and type of credit together account for about 20% of the score, and with VantageScore 4.0 age of credit is the next to last factor, considered “less influential.”

Credit Inquiries/New Credit Checks: New credit takes into account newly opened accounts and requests for your credit reports/scores – a.k.a. “inquiries.” Hard inquiries typically drop scores by 3-5 points though that range can vary slightly. While inquiries stay on your credit for two years, they typically only affect your scores for one year. 

Not all inquiries affect your credit scores the same way, so make sure you understand how inquiries work if you are concerned about this factor. 

With FICO scores, this factor accounts for roughly 10% of your credit scores.

With VantageScore 3.0 it’s around 5% and with VantageScore 4.0 it is the least influential factor. 

FYI: Checking your credit scores with Nav is a soft inquiry and absolutely does not impact your personal or business credit scores. In addition, most lenders evaluating applications for small business loans often use a soft credit check on the owner’s personal credit initially. If the owner decides to proceed with the loan there may be a hard credit check.

As you see from this description of the score factors, the same information may have a different impact depending on which credit scoring model is being used. 

4. Timing: scores are pulled at different times

Credit reports are updated all the time. A credit score is created based on current data from the credit reporting agency that was used to create the score. Because credit reports are real-time, it is possible for your credit score to change from one minute to the next depending on what is being reported. For example, if you have paid your credit card bill and as a result, your revolving credit balance has dropped significantly, your score can change as soon as that new balance hits your credit reports. In this example, it is possible to see a significant score change depending on how much debt has been paid off.

Note: credit scoring models are moving in the direction of “trended data” which will take less of a “snapshot” approach and instead also take into account how a consumer’s credit data has changed over time. 

Which score is my real score?

There are more than 138 places where you can check and monitor your credit scores for free! If you own a business, Nav provides resources to monitor both your personal and business credit.

It’s logical to wonder which score is best. The answer, though, is that the only score that really matters is the one the lender uses to evaluate the loan you want. Typically you won’t know which particular consumer reporting agency or scoring model the bank, credit union or other type of lender will use to make a lending decision. (In a few cases, such as a mortgage application, the lender will obtain multiple credit scores from different bureaus.) So your best approach is to understand the main scoring factors and work to make each as strong as possible. 

What’s a good credit score?

Most consumer credit scoring models run from 300— 850 though there are some used less often that have a different score range. Each lender determines which range is acceptable, and which score ranges help a borrower qualify for the best terms. So again, there’s no single score that’s considered “good.” However, myFICO offers a credit score calculator that helps you understand the average interest rate by credit score range. If you are shopping for a consumer loan, it can be helpful. 

Conclusion

As you can see, the answer to the question “why are my scores different?” can be complex. The bottom line is that you should make sure the underlying credit information is correct on each of your credit reports, no matter where you obtain them. Having the right data reported is what is important.  That’s why it is critical to monitor and understand the information being reported on your credit reports.

Make sure you’re taking advantage of monitoring your free credit scores and credit reports so you know what your reports say. (And make sure you’re checking with all the major credit reporting bureaus.) Since you can get your credit scores for free, there’s no excuse! Keep in mind that a credit freeze may inhibit your ability to check your reports or scores from certain sources.

Staying on top of your credit using the resources listed here can not only help you find discrepancies before they negatively impact your credit, but it can also help you build credit and get the financing you need. 

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This article was originally written on December 4, 2019 and updated on August 26, 2020.

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Gerri Detweiler

Education Director for Nav

Credit expert Gerri Detweiler is Education Director for Nav. She has more than three decades of experience in consumer credit education, has been interviewed in more than 3500 news stories, and answered over 10,000 credit questions online. Her articles have been widely syndicated on sites such as MSN, Forbes, and MarketWatch. She is the author or coauthor of five books, including Finance Your Own Business: Get on the Financing Fast Track. She has testified before Congress on consumer credit legislation.

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38 responses to “Why are My Credit Scores Different?

  1. I’m trying to rebuild my personal credit to buy a house and start my business credit journey. I applied for an eidl loan and they denied me for open bankruptcy. This was 2004 it was discharged 2015. Experian has the proper info but my Experian personal credit says it’s open, not discharged. Why? Do I have to pay to fix this Inaccuracy? Do you have any advice on my first business credit card or steps to building my business credit? Thank you in advance

    1. Mourey – I’d recommend a couple of things:

      1. Dispute the open bankruptcy with Experian. If you have a copy of your discharge papers you can supply those but they aren’t required to file a dispute. (It just might expedite the correction.) You don’t have to pay for that.
      2. Once it is corrected, apply for reconsideration for your EIDL loan.
      3. To start building business credit in the meantime, you can get vendor accounts and/or a paid Nav account. You’ll find vendors that report to business credit but don’t check personal credit at Nav.com/vendors

      I hope this helps!

  2. I was told by a realtor credit advisor about building my credit with a card. By simply paying that card at a specific time. A cycle time and it will majorly impact for a good score. is this true and whats the cycle time?…

    1. I wonder if they were referring to debt usage. If your balances reported to the credit bureaus are high on one or more credit cards, it may be beneficial to pay them before the close of the billing cycle so the balance that is reported is lower. What is your normal debt usage on your credit cards? (Your credit monitoring service, like Nav, should tell you that.)

  3. I have a 640 a 632 and 574 I have paid off debt and had many things removed so why are my scores so inconsistent?

    1. I assume you are saying those scores are from the three bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion? Then one explanation is the data and the other is that they are all three showing you scores using different scoring models. I find my own scores fluctuate from bureau to bureau as well.

  4. Also my other question is why is my vantage score 798 with Nav but in credit wise and other apps my vantage score is 807 and my FICO score is 810?…I’m not understanding.

    1. Chris – it can be confusing! Creditwise pulls data from TransUnion while Nav pulls data from Experian in our free account. (If you have a Nav premium account you’ll also see a score based on TransUnion data.) Remember credit scores are only calculated when they are requested, and a fluctuation of up to 20 points is not considered unusual or significant. So even if your VantageScore were pulled from the same bureau but on different days it could vary, depending on the available data on that date. (Creditors are reporting throughout the month.)

      FICO uses a slightly different formula.

      If this still doesn’t make sense, let us know and I’ll continue to try to help clarify it for you.

      BTW, all those scores are excellent so you should be qualifying for the best rates!

      1. Nav pulls from Experian..ok I’m 807 on Experian but still only 798 on Nav that uses Experian’s data…I’ve been over 800 for quite some time now and I still don’t understand what you’re talking about…you’re saying if you pull from different days my score can be different?…in the past year my score has only changed for 804 to 807 so I’m not sure what day Nav checked it at 798???

        1. Chris,

          Yes, pulling a credit score on a different day can make a difference. A credit score is calculated on the date it is requested based on the data available at that time. Lenders provide updates throughout the month, though, on different dates.

          Most sites that provide free credit scores will pull an updated score on a specific day each month. So your score will reflect the data available on the date your credit monitoring account updates.

          So let’s say you set your Experian account up on the first of the month and your Nav account on the 10th of the month. Your credit card issuer provides an update on your balance on the 5th. When you pull your score through Nav on the 10th it will include the balance your card issuer updated on the 5th. But the score Experian shows you will not reflect that new balance until it updates the following month on the first of the month. (Or vice versa).

          Is that clearer?

          And again, while I know it’s frustrating, your scores are all excellent– even at 798– and should be earning you the best rate.

  5. Why is it that only my credit card data shows up on Nav which is powered by Experian data but when I log into Experian app it also shows my lines of credit?…my lines of credit are reported to all 3 credit agencies…and this happens to be the case with all of these third party apps that I use..lines of credit don’t show up..only credit card information…please help me to understand this.

    1. Chris, I am not sure what you’re looking at (personal or business credit, free or premium Nav account)? But our customer support team would be happy to talk with you. They can review your data with you and answer your questions in more detail.

  6. Child support is payed directly from my pay check. Yet every month they mark on my credit that I didn’t pay! I have all the proof that I been paying. What can I do to get my credit score back?

  7. I’m so upset that my credit score went down from fro. Signing up with you guys…can I get my credit back please I’m so disappointed because I was not told that thT would happen

    1. Jarrell – Reviewing your personal credit through Nav creates a soft inquiry on your credit report. Soft inquiries are not transmitted to lenders and do not impact credit scores. If there’s something else you observed, feel free to reach out to our Credit & Lending Team and they’d be happy to review your credit situation with you.

  8. I’m starting my credit over from a bankruptcy in 2013 with a VISA from a local Credit Union. I knew going in that I was only going to use about 7% of my debt utilization which wasn’t much. I opened with a $500 limit and I used $35. Four days before the end of the month my mother went in for surgery and I decided to fly up to be with her. I rented a car and the rental company put a totally refundable hold on my card of $200 putting my balance at $235 and upping my debt utilization to 47%. The Credit Union reported to the bureau my balance on either the 30th or 1st of the month which inturn totally wrecked my plan of keeping my utilization down around 7%. On the 2nd the rental car company put the $200 back and I had already paid the $35 back from a transfer from my checking. Bottom line I went from a 601 score to a 588. It’s not a lot but it goes to show, intentions don’t mean a thing. Timing is everything. My balance is at zero and I still failed. There seems to be no account for circumstances. I used the credit card so as not to have to put up an $800 deposit on my debit card, as a credit card waived that. What’s upsetting to me is that the car rental person told me they wouldn’t charge the card, but in reality they did and now I’m paying a price of a lower score. Live and learn I suppose.

  9. This credit score is over 3 years old. My credit score very high… you pull soft pull from 3 years ago base my lending power on 2013 and not on 2018. Very disappointed.

    1. Ms. Mabins,

      I am not sure I understand your comment. Do you have a Nav account? If so, then yes, it will always be a soft pull as checking your credit through Nav will not affect your credit score. I don’t know what you mean about lending power on 2013. When you log in to your Nav account you can refresh your credit score monthly. It will be based on the current information from the credit reporting agencies. We can’t base a credit score on 2013 data.

      If you still have questions about your Nav account, our customer support team is available to talk with you on the phone. They’re there to help.

    1. It’s impossible to say without knowing more? Are you monitoring your credit through Nav? If so you can look at your alerts for more details. If through another service you’ll need to see what information they suggest. I’m sorry I can’t be more specific,

    1. 2 years on time debt repayments, <10% revolving credit ultilization!!! 65% of score! If you have Collections accounts, they're not as bad as late payments! But, try 50% and deletion offer! If they don't delete on offer, forget trying! Lots of new credit, I have 10 lines opened less than 14 months, with one collections account… These new accounts are eating up Collections account weight! I'm at 745, 740, 765 vantage scores now!
      New credits lines cost 35 points, but rebound 30 points when under 10% ultilized, after 4 months… All 2018 year, I've opened 2-3 credit accounts every 4 months when score rebounded back to 720+! All new accounts must be opened within 2 weeks! They say within a month! But, when opening 3, your latest creditor may instantly report to credit agency? Installment loans, debt, not a big deal, their weight averages 4 points per 1000! Unless it's a home loan mortgage! It does seem a home loan mortgage carry other type of weight!

    1. Roger,

      Are they personal bankruptcies or business bankruptcies? Personal bankruptcies should be gone by now. They usually stop reporting a month or two before the seven or ten year time period expires. (7 years from filing date for Chapter 12 and 10 years for Chapter 7).

      There is no legal requirement to remove business bankruptcies after a certain period of time but as a matter of practice they will probably no longer be reported.

      Have you checked your personal and business credit? If you don’t have a Nav account you can get a free Nav account here.

  10. The great thing about the new year is its a great benchmark for change. I’ve started paying down credit cards with the intent to raise not only my score but also my credit limit. I too opened a secured card last year and a small line of credit. I appreciated the article pointing out the benefits of keeping balances at 20%, and the discipline required to do so. I have added this goal to my credit plan…thanks!

  11. Great information. I have learned much over the last 2 years, and one key point that the article mentioned was that not all of your creditors report to all three bureaus, so where you may see an item on TransUnion and Experian, it may not be reported to Equifax, so your scores should be close but not exact. If they are not close, you may have some outstanding item on the lowest scoring bureaus report that may not belong. Check your reports and see if that is the case, and start the dispute process to get rid of them.

    I battled with my credit scores for years, until i decided in Jan 2014 to get serious, learn the REAL truth about how to fix it, and then execute. The catalyst for that was applying for credit to buy new windows for my home and being denied with a score of 560. Since a denial affords you the opportunity to get a free credit report from the denying bureau, I got that done and saw some things that were not accurate. An appeal to the bureau disputing that item got that one fixed.I also saw some things that WERE accurate and fixing those required some planning and execution on my part. I am quite proud to say that when I bought a new to me car last week my score, 22 months later, was 711.

    I accomplished this by first making myself aware and evaluating my situation. I then made a plan, and step one on that plan was to get a secured credit card. I got that card, with a $200 limit (for a $49 deposit), and began using it to exactly 10% of the limit every month. I put exactly $20 worth of gas in my car, and paid it to $0 after the monthly closing but before the due date. Soon after (4 months) that card limit was increased to $500. I continued on the plan of spending 10% of the limit and paying it to $0. Slowly things turned around to a point where I went from $0 credit line to $18,500 over 8 different accounts. Of that $18,500, I NEVER charge more than 20% of it, and usually keep it down to 10-12%.

    This may require some discipline on your part, whether that is putting off a vacation for this year or not buying the new 70″ TV until one year from now, but if your credit matters, and you want to fix it, you can do it. Read the blogs here at nav.com and apply what you learn, and you too will be a success story!

    1. Thanks for sharing your experiences in so much detail, and congrats on the progress with your credit and financial life!