Will the ‘Real’ FICO Credit Score Please Stand Up

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Earlier this week we took a look at how to get your free credit score from myFICO. Operated by the Fair Isaac Corporation, the creator of the FICO credit score, it offers consumers a free credit report and FICO credit score when they sign-up for a 30-day trial of Score Watch. The FICO credit score myFICO.com provides is from Equifax, one of the three major credit bureaus. And that’s where some confusion can creep in.

There are three major credit bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. And each of these credit bureaus calculates a consumer’s FICO credit score, which can be and usually is different for each credit bureau. In other words, you likely have three different FICO credit scores from each of the three major credit bureaus. And to add to the confusion, each of the credit bureaus calls its version of the FICO credit score by a different name.

So let’s quickly sort all this out:

  • FICO Credit Score: FICO stands for the Fair Isaac Corporation, the company that created the formula for the FICO credit score. The Fair Isaac Corporation was found in 1956 by engineer Bill Fair and mathematician Earl Isaac.
  • Fair Isaac Does NOT Calculate Credit Scores: While Fair Isaac created the FICO formula, it does not actually use it to calculate a consumer’s FICO credit score. To use the formula, one needs credit information about the consumer, and that’s where the credit bureaus come in.
  • Three Credit Bureaus: The three major credit bureaus in the United States use the FICO credit score formula to calculate a consumer’s FICO credit score.
  • Three Different Scores: Because each of the three major credit bureaus have slightly different information on each consumer, the FICO credit score they calculate is usually different from one another. As a result, most consumers have three different FICO credit scores, each reported from the three major credit bureaus.
  • Three Scores and Three Names: Each of the three credit bureaus have branded their FICO credit score with different names. Equifax calls its score the BEACON score; Experian calls its score the Experian/Fair Isaac Risk Model or Score Power; and TransUnion calls its version of the FICO credit score EMPIRICA.
  • VantageScore: You may have heard of VantageScore, which is a credit score formulation created in 2006 by the three credit bureaus in an effort to compete with the official FICO credit score. VantageScore has not been widely adopted by lenders and creditors.

Clear as mud, right? Now to actually get your credit scores. As you may know, consumers can get a free copy of their credit report from annualcreditreport.com. But if you want your credit score, myFICO is the place to go. Here are the details:

myFICO let’s you get your official FICO score when you sign up for a 10-day free trial of its Score Watch program. You can cancel at any time, or continue Score Watch, which helps you monitor and improve your credit score.

Published or Updated: March 22, 2013
About Rob Berger

Rob founded the Dough Roller in 2007. A litigation attorney in the securities industry, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, their two teenagers, and the family mascot, a shih tzu named Sophie.

Comments

  1. DR says:

    I should add that I’ve used both freecreditreport.com and myfico.com. Currently, I’m using myfico.com and prefer it over freecreditreport.com. It gives you a 30-day trial (not just 7-day), you can cancel via the internent (you must call freecreditreport.com to cancel) and myfico.com less expensive if you do decide to keep its credit monitoring service.

  2. John says:

    Unless you’re an AmEx card holder, in which case you can just go here: www .americanexpress.com/creditreport and avoid the hassle of signing up for anything.

    • DR says:

      John, my review of the Amex offer is that they do sign you up for credit monitoring service.

  3. claudia says:

    The company was never known as “Fair Isaacs.” It used to be called “Fair isaac” but is now known simply as FICO. A quick google search would have told you that. Too many blogs give out inaccurate information. While this particular example is a small thing, it makes you questio the validity of the entire post.

  4. DR says:

    claudia, good catch on Fair Isaacs versus Fair Isaac. However, the company is still known as the Fair Isaac Corporation. A quick review of the company’s SEC filings will confirm this.

  5. chris says:

    hello, I just spoke with a rep who denined me a line of credit for a business venture, I am self employed and have had lines before, I have excellent credit, accroding to free credit report dot com I have scores of 779, 781 and 777 respectively. The rep told me that my scores were not that high and the line I was requested required a score of a min of 750, I told her I monitor FCR.com weekly and my score is above 750 and has been for years, she state that is not what she is seeing, I went back to FRC and checked all 3, 779, 781, 771/ so why do lenders see a different score? Is there a scam going, this is the second time in my life this happened, 5 years ago when applying for a new home loan, I checked my credit score, my score then was 730 on one of those sites, not sure which one, but my mort. broker said it was 690 and said those sites are not accurate,….how do I get and know my real scores, seems like consumers are told one things, banks and lenders another, sounds like these sites want people to think their scores are better then they really are?

    • T B says:

      these sites are definitely BS I have a federal tax lien and I still manage to get a score of 796. meanwhile nobody will give me a loan, they just sell you something to make you happy, so you keep buying their baloney. probably the only way to know your true score is to apply for a loan and talk the loan rep into sharing the score with you

      • DR says:

        Chris & TB, your FICO credit score as reported by each credit bureau is what it is. That don’t give one score to consumers and another score to creditors. But keep in mind that lending decisions factor in a lot more than a FICO score. If your scores are in the high 700s and a creditor tells you that’s not high enough, I’d question the information the creditor is giving you.

        • J. says:

          I am with Chris, I pulled my credit and my husbands credit scores before we went to the bank to get a home equity loan a few years back. Both of us had scores over 730 but the bank showed me the scores that they had pulled, all at 700 or under? Why am I getting one set of scores and the bank another?
          I just want to know really where we stand! Is that really to much to ask for that the bank and I have the same report and same score?

          • DR says:

            J, there are different FICO scores for different industries. The mortgage industry uses slightly different criteria than a standard FICO score, so that’s why your score was different.

  6. Busta Bank says:

    If these instutions meant anything, how did we get in such a credit mess, its all just a system to get you to voluntary give up and verify, a business trying to amass your financial information

  7. luis says:

    Well, its all a joke, we as consumers need to stand up and be heard. There should only be ONE standard across the board. Advantage, beacon, FICO are all just a few of many models used and we as consumers are kept in the dark. How about introducing a bill into Congress that forces them to use one model only for all. I have the same problem, my three credit reports are identical (no small feat mind you as it took me years to get them right) and yet my scores range from 852 – 949 vantage (722 – 780 FICO). Somehow I think it is “US” the consumer that is getting played.

  8. Chrstina says:

    Let me clarify, Identity guard does NOT give your FICO SCORE , it gives you a FAKO score or a fake FICO credit score from credit expert, there score is called FAKO which was the term ACTUALLY used by identity guard, its a creditxpert score which is not your fico score, while it is useful since it measures your progress and tries to calculate your score using some of the elements fico uses , it isn’t what major lenders use.

    • DR says:

      Christina, you are right that Identity Guard does not provide a credit score generated from the FICO formula, but it’s not a “fake FICO” score. Identity Guard provides credit scores generated by each of the three major credit bureaus, and is in my opinion a very accurate reflection of what creditors see when they request your score. Also, keep in mind that there is no “one” FICO credit score. So even if you get access to your FICO score, it’s just one of many. And it may or may not be what a creditor sees when they pull your credit. With that said, if you want to get your FICO score for free, check out Equifax.

  9. Juan Antonio says:

    Hello,

    We are ALL being robbed blind by this ‘system’. Thre ARE different scores given to people than what are given to lenders. The only real way that I know of at this time to get your FICO score is to view it at myfico.com. When you go to a site like freecreditreport.com, you get a CONSUMER score from the credit bureaus — a bunch of nonsensical businesses run just to make money by, as one poster said, amassing irrelevant information about us all.

    It *is* stupid, and the only one that I know of who cares enough to be fighting it is Philip Tirone. He has a program at 720creditscore, which teaches people how to proactively improve their credit, rather than backtracking and ‘repairing’ existing bad credit. I have not heard his whole spiel yet, and I am just a victim like everyone else, so I cannot yet vouch for his system, but his enthusiasm is infectious, his methods make sense, and he offers most of it for free.

    Best regards,

    ~Antonio

    • DR says:

      Juan, thanks for the info, but I do have to disagree on one point you made. I’ve never viewed myself as a victim. In fact, viewing yourself as a victim will set you back. We all encounter obstacles in life, but it’s how we deal with them that defines our character. Victim mentality is just a convenient excuse that enables us to accept what would otherwise be unacceptable.

  10. newpc says:

    Check out my new blog about how I feel about todays credit score and report situation. Feel free to comment and subscribe.

  11. Janet says:

    I don’t even check my credit score. The bank tells me what a wonderful credit score I have. But they are all different. The reason I don’t check? Because it is all B.S.

  12. Tracey says:

    Keep in mind also that most lenders will use your middle score, not your best. I just recently tried to get pre-qualified for a home loan with Wells Fargo. My best score is well over what it needs to be to qualify and my middle score is 11 pts under where it needs to be. They said most lenders do this because not all creditors report to all credit bureaus. So while you may be looking at your top score the lender probably isn’t.

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