VantageScore and FICO scores are both credit scoring models which various consumer credit institutions use to make decisions about a person’s creditworthiness and ability to repay a debt. While the systems share some similarities, they do have inherent differences, and do not treat all credit data equally. This leads to slight differences in scores from each model.

VantageScore and FICO score history

The Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) created the first usable FICO credit scoring model in 1989. The VanatageScore model is comparatively new, as it came out in 2006. It is a joint project created by the three major credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and Transunion.

Fair Isaac Corporation estimates that 90 percent of lenders use FICO scores to make their credit decisions. VantageScores provide over 2,200 financial institutions with their credit scores.

Both models are similar in that they are designed to predict consumer activity and their ability to pay back what they are lent. They do have some inherent differences between them, however.

VantageScore and FICO score criteria

Both VantageScore and FICO use the data contained in a consumer credit report to create a specific credit score. But how they reach these scores changes slightly between each system. Additionally, the amount of importance each factor is given changes between the scoring models as well.

VantageScore credit scoring models separate credit information into six main categories, each with their own level of influence:

  • Payment history – highly influential

  • Age and type of credit – highly influential

  • Overall percentage of credit usage – highly influential

  • Total credit and debt owed – moderately influential

  • Recent credit behavior – less influential

  • Available credit – less influential

FICO scores group credit data into just 5 categories, each with their own importance value as a percentage, meaning one piece of data will mean more depending on which group it falls in. The categories and their importance include:

  • Payment history – 35%

  • Debt owed – 30%

  • Age of credit history – 15%

  • New credit – 10%

  • Credit mix – 10%

As you can see, the type of information these models use, as well as the level of importance it has, is relatively similar.

VantageScore and FICO score ranges

Both FICO and VantageScore have been updated over the years, and FICO has even evolved to reflect changes in industry-specific scores. With that said, here are their general score ranges.

FICO separates general credit score ranges into a few groups:

  • 800+ – Excellent

  • 740 - 799 – Very good

  • 670 - 739 – Good

  • 580 - 669 – Fair

  • 579 and below – Poor

VantageScore models now deal in similar score ranges, though the values are slightly different:

  • 750+ – Excellent

  • 700 - 749 – Good

  • 640 - 699 – Fair

  • 300 - 639 – Needs improvement

The similar ranges make it easier for consumers to compare their FICO and VantageScore credit scores.

How are VantageScore and FICO scores different?

While the two scoring models are similar in many ways, they do have some characteristic differences.

Length of credit history

First and foremost, a major difference between the two scoring models is the amount of credit data you need to have to receive a proper score.

To generate a FICO score, a person needs to have one or more accounts that have been open for at least 6 months and at least one account that has been reported to at least one of the major credit bureaus in the last 6 months. Without meeting these requirements, FICO will not create a score.

The VantageScore model was partly designed to help solve this issue and make it easier for consumers to get scores. VantageScore model may be able to create scores for consumers with just one month of account history and one account reported to at least one of the major credit bureaus within the last 24 months.

These more lax requirements may help people who do not have much credit history or people who have not used credit in a while to have access to credit scores, when they would not normally have access to FICO scores.

Credit inquiries

Credit inquiries can be a difficult burden to deal with. On the one hand, multiple credit inquiries may hurt your credit scores. On the other hand, having multiple credit inquiries indicates you are shopping around for the best loan terms or interest rates, which can help save you money and improve your financial future.

To fix this double bind effect, VantageScore counts multiple inquiries – for any type of credit – within a 14 day period as one single inquiry. This greatly minimizes the impact these credit inquiries have, which encourages you to shop around for the best terms.

Newer FICO score models also do this, but to a slightly lesser degree. They will count all inquiries for the same credit type within 14 days as one inquiry. So 5 inquiries for new credit cards in 14 days counts as one inquiry, but if you also have an inquiry for a personal loan in that time, it will count as a second inquiry.

A credit score is like a photograph of a person’s current credit profile right when the scores are created. In reality, credit scores are constantly shifting as new information comes in and older information expires.

How each model judges this data may change. For instance, FICO scoring models only use data about credit utilization and borrowing that has been reported at the time they generate the scores.

VantageScore, on the other hand, incorporates data that may be a reflection of a pattern over time. A new score may include up to two years of past information about spending and credit utilization.

With that said, you should not get wrapped up in these slight differences, but rather focus on making healthy credit choices into patterns, letting the score take care of itself.

Tax liens and other civil judgements

Due to recent changes in the public record reporting requirements, many tax liens and civil judgments were recently removed from consumer credit reports. To incorporate these changes, any included tax liens aren’t weighed as heavily in the VantageScore 4.0 scoring model. However, they can still carry weight on FICO scoring models and may have a significant impact on credit scores.

How do you get VantageScores or FICO scores?

While a lender will give you a copy of your credit scores when you apply for a loan or line of credit, there are other options to get either VantageScore or FICO scores, including credit bureaus, nonprofit organizations, personal finance websites, and nonprofit credit counselors.

Be aware that some organizations charge money to access your scores, where some services offer them for free.

Final thoughts

While there are some differences between VantageScore and FICO scores, it is more important to focus on their similarities. Both help create credit scores which lenders use to decide on your creditworthiness. Both use very similar data, and both score that data in similar ways.

The most important thing is to focus on making healthy credit behaviors into strong patterns. This will give you the best score possible – no matter which scoring model you use.

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