As a consumer of financial products it is important to monitor your credit score on a regular basis. This will ensure that you know where you stand in the credit landscape when it comes time to apply for a new credit card, loan, mortgage, or other product. Monitoring your credit score regularly can also help notify you of any unexpected changes to your credit history such as fraud.
There are numerous free credit scores available for you to access; however, not all scores are considered equal. Credit lenders will often pull specific scores, depending on the product you are applying for. Therefore, we have created a simple chart for you to see where you can get specific credit scores from the top two companies — FICO® and VantageScore. The best part is, it’s all for free!
Read on for details on important aspects that make up your credit score and which score suits your individual needs.
The below chart lists some of the various versions of credit scores and where you can access them for free from a variety of banks, credit card companies, and personal finance websites.
You may be wondering which score is better — FICO® score or VantageScore? We’re going to break down what the different versions of the two scores are best for in the next section, but for now here are several differences between the two major types of credit scores.
The credit score that you are looking for varies, depending on what type of credit you are looking to apply for. Each credit score version has different benefits, and lenders pull certain scores in accordance with your application.
The best options: All VantageScores and FICO® scores
If you’re simply looking to monitor your credit score and stay on top of your credit, either VantageScore or FICO® score will suffice.
The best options: FICO® Bankcard Scores or FICO® Score 8 primarily; FICO® Score 3
When applying for a new credit card, these scores are most likely to be pulled by credit card issuers. Lenders may pull your score from one or all three bureaus.
The best options: FICO® Scores 2, 4, 5
Where to get them: myFICO for $59.85
These scores are used in the majority of mortgage-related credit evaluations, with lenders pulling your score from all three bureaus. However, these scores are not free and can only be purchased at myFICO.
The best options: FICO® Auto Scores 2, 4, 5, 8, 9
Where to get them: myFICO for $59.85
Auto scores are industry-specific and used in the majority of auto-financing credit evaluations. Lenders may pull your score from one or all three bureaus. Unfortunately, these scores are not free and need to be purchased at myFICO.
The best option: FICO® Score 8
For other financial products such as personal loans, student loans, and retail credit, FICO® Score 8 is best. This is the credit score most widely used by lenders, and they may pull your score from one or all three bureaus when making a decision.
FICO® Score 9 is the newest model and not widely used yet. It is also not available for free at this time. The benefits of this score are that it doesn’t penalize you for paid collections and reduces the ding you get from unpaid medical collections. See our review for more information.
The FICO® NextGen score is used to assess credit risk, but only a small number of lenders use it due to its 150-950 scoring range and older model.
There are three credit bureaus that report your credit score to financial institutions and personal finance websites. The bureaus are TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. They collect credit information from a plethora of lenders and data providers and then consolidate it into a credit file, with your credit score being the key piece of information. You can’t get your credit score directly from the bureaus, but earlier in this article we discussed numerous resources where you can access your credit score — for free.
A FICO® score is a number that predicts how likely you are to pay back a loan or other credit products in a timely manner. FICO® scores range from 300 to 850. The higher your score, the more likely you are to be approved for credit cards, loans, mortgages, and other financial products. FICO® scores are the most widely used credit scores — influencing over 90% of U.S. lending decisions.
FICO® scores are calculated from data in your credit reports and made up of the following five key factors:
- Payment history (35%):
Your payment history is simply a record of your on-time or missed payments. It’s the largest component of your FICO score — and therefore the most important aspect to focus on if you want to improve it.
- Amounts owed — aka utilization (30%):
Utilization is the amount of your credit limit you use. It is ideal to have a utilization below 20%. If you have two credit cards, one with a $10,000 limit and the other $5,000, then your total credit limit is $15,000. If you have a combined $3,000 debt across both cards, then your utilization would be 20%.
- Length of credit history (15%):
The total length of time that you’ve had credit across all products you have. For example, expect your credit score to be slightly lower if you have had credit for six months versus six years.
- New credit (10%):
Frequency of credit inquiries and new account openings. When you open a new account, your credit score will take a slight dip for about six months, then it will rise — as long as you’re responsible in the other four factors mentioned.
- Credit mix (10%):
This is the different types of credit you have. This includes credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, and other financial products. The more variety of credit you’re responsible with, the better your score will be.
A VantageScore is also a number that measures your credit risk. These scores typically range from 300 to 850 (501-990 for earlier models) and are used by 20 of the 25 largest financial institutions. VantageScores are in line with FICO® — the higher your score, the better. VantageScores are more widely available for free from online resources than FICO® scores; however, a majority of lenders pull your FICO® score when making decisions.
VantageScores are calculated from data in your credit reports and influenced by the following six key factors:
Credit scores are typically updated every 30 days. Depending on your activity, your score may remain the same or fluctuate.
No, checking your score will not do any damage to your score.
Your credit scores differ based on the information that each bureau pulls. Most information is the same, but one bureau may use unique information that another bureau doesn’t have, creating a difference in scores. Also, if you compare your FICO® scores and VantageScores, they will differ because they use different criteria when pulling your score.
A FAKO score is a non-FICO score that is known as an “equivalency score” or “educational score.” FAKO scores give you a general picture of where you stand, but aren’t used by lenders when making a credit decision and therefore aren’t accurate in predicting if you’ll be approved.