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 with Nav and see your scores, but then your lender says your score is different. You get your FICO credit score…and it’s different too.

It usually goes a little like this: “I see my credit scores with Nav and my highest is a 734. But, I applied for a loan and the lender said my score was a 657, a difference of 77 points! I know something is wrong.”

There actually is a good explanation for this. To understand why credit scores can vary, you need to know how they are made, what scores are out there, and who uses which scores.

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Meet the Three Credit Bureaus

Let’s start with a basic understanding of what factors are considered in creating a credit score so that you can then uncover why there are different scores and why scores can be different across major credit bureaus.

First of all, there are three credit bureaus:

Credit reporting agencies (or bureaus) are here to help you. They accumulate and manage all the data points that make up your credit history so that, when you apply for a credit card or loan, lenders have an accurate portrayal of how risky you might be to take on as a customer. Understandably, if your credit score is low because you’ve paid many credit cards late, a credit card company might be hesitant to issue you another card, but if you have outstanding credit, you’ll be a hot commodity.

Learn more: Experian business credit report

Most Credit Scores are Based on 5 Factors:

Payment History: Payment history typically accounts for around 35% of your score and has a substantial impact on a consumer’s credit score. Late payments are the issue here. The more recent the late payment, the more it affects your score and the more late payments there are, the more they affect your credit rating. A recent late payment can drop your score as much as 100 points.

Debt Utilization: Revolving debt is also a substantial factor and accounts for roughly 30% of your overall credit score. It is simply a measurement of the credit balance to your limit ratio. For example, if you have a credit card account with a $5,000 limit and have a $1,000 balance, your balance-to-limit ratio is 1:5 or a 20% revolving debt balance. This is measured both for individual accounts and as an aggregate ratio of all revolving accounts. The higher your ratio is, the more it impacts your credit negatively. The bottom line is: the lower your credit card balances, the better your credit score will be.

Types of Credit: Credit diversity or credit mix is a measure of how mature your credit is in terms of types of accounts. If your credit report shows that you have a few credit cards, a car loan, a student loan, and a mortgage, you will have a higher credit score than someone who only has one credit card and a personal loan. The more diverse your credit is, the better the indication that you are a good credit risk across different credit products. Credit diversity accounts for roughly 15% of your credit score.

Credit History/Credit Age: Credit age simply indicates how long you’ve had credit and is measured by taking the average age of all your credit accounts. The older your credit, the better. This accounts for roughly 10% of your credit score.

Credit Inquiries/New Credit Checks: New credit takes into account newly opened accounts and requests for credit history or inquiries. Each inquiry will typically drop your score a point or two and stay on your credit for two years. The inquiries only affect your score for one year. New credit checks account for roughly 10% of your credit score and are best managed by being careful to apply for credit only when necessary.

FYI: Checking your credit scores with Nav is a soft inquiry and absolutely does not impact your personal or business credit scores.

How are Scores Made?

To understand why scores can differ from bureau to bureau and lender to lender, you need to how they’re made. The three main bureaus are credit data repositories and major credit reporting agencies. That means that they each gather credit data on consumers and businesses from creditors around the nation. Credit card issuers report their data to the bureaus and the bureaus use that information to create credit reports and credit scores in your credit file.

If the three bureaus are getting the same information, then why are credit scores different?

To create a credit report, an inquiry to one of the bureaus is made. Imagine the request causing someone at the credit bureau to go into a giant room with all the billions of pieces of credit data the bureau has at that time and gathering it all together to create a report. It’s a digitized process, but this gives you an idea of how many records each bureau has to manage and update in real time.

While each bureau gets the same information about your credit usage and payment history, including things like your cell phone bill, utilities, car payment, and mortgage payment, they each have their own proprietary system for how they come up with your credit score.

For example, your Transunion credit score might be higher than your Experian one because it might place more importance on your on-time monthly mortgage payment than it does your credit card payment.

Difference Between Credit Scores

Different financial institutions, credit bureaus and other risk-measuring institutions use different credit scoring systems, as you’ve learned. The most well-known credit scoring system is the FICO score, created by the Fair Isaac Company. It is the gold standard in credit scores and has the highest adoption rate among financial institutions.

In addition to the FICO score, each credit bureau has its own proprietary score. The major credit bureaus have also created the VantageScore as a joint venture among Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion to compete with the FICO score. 

Additionally, large financial institutions will create their own proprietary scores that are not available to the public. Each score is intended to measure the risk of a borrower based on information in their credit report.

In addition to each score weighing the above factors differently, there are a few other reasons your scores can be different.

Information is different between national credit bureaus. Since credit card companies don’t report information to each bureau, each bureau can have different information. Because credit scoring platforms are based entirely on information in your credit profile, if information is different between bureaus, it will result in a different score. Perhaps you have an American Express card that reports to Equifax but not TransUnion. Your Equifax report will indicate a higher credit balance and higher credit limit than what is reported on TransUnion, resulting in a different credit score.

Timing. Credit scores are created in real-time. When an inquiry occurs, the bureaus check their records and overlay the scoring algorithm to spit out a credit score. Because they 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 American Express bill and as a result, your revolving credit balance has dropped significantly, your score will be different on the day before it gets submitted to the bureaus as paid and the day after it has been recorded as paid. In this example, it is possible to see a significant score change depending on how much debt has been paid off.

Credit Score Ranges

Not to further complicate things, but each bureau has its own credit score ranges:

 

  • VantageScore 3.0 and 4.0: 300-850 (781-850 is Excellent)
  • FICO Score 8 and 9: 300-850 (800-850 is Excellent)
  • Industry-specific FICO Score: 250-900 (800-900 is Excellent)

 

Each score has differences in how it weighs the importance of the factors described above and the ranges in which a person can score. For example, the FICO score may put more weight on your revolving debt than VantageScore and therefore, your FICO score will be different from your VantageScore.

It’s frustrating because you can have a bad credit score with one bureau and a perfectly good one with another!

Which Credit Report is Best?

There are several tools that provide you access to your free credit report and more. Credit Sesame makes recommendations about how you can build your credit. Credit Karma has add-ons like an automated savings account, car insurance, or resources for buying a home. If you own a business, Nav provides resources to monitor both your personal and business credit.

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 data is the same across 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.

Make sure you’re taking advantage of checking in on your free credit score and credit report so you know what your report says. Since you can get your credit score for free, there’s no excuse!

Staying on top of it using one of the resources listed in this article can not only help you find discrepancies before they negatively impact your credit rating, but it can also help you improve your credit.

That’s also why we created Nav – we want to help you understand your credit so you can achieve your financial goals.

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This article was originally written on December 4, 2019 and updated on January 30, 2020.

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Caton Hanson

Caton is a founder and CXO of Nav, the first company allowing business owners to access their personal and business credit reports, scores, and alerts through a single account.

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36 responses to “Why are My Credit Scores Different?

  1. 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.)

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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!