Credit

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 founded 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 has 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.


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