What's your 'real' FICO score? All of the above

By Gina Miller

Have you ever wondered why your FICO score varies from one time to the next? Today it's 700, tomorrow it's 720 then a month passes and you are at 785! Wow, time to buy that new sports car!

The dealer runs your credit report and informs you that your score is a mere 699! What happened?

Truth is, there is no "one" score.  As a matter of fact there are 49 different FICO scores used by lenders, none of which are obtainable by you from

But don't be too discouraged. With some research you can quickly educate yourself on the truth about your FICO scores. 

The FICO score you can normally view online is calculated based on the info reported by your personal creditors to credit Bureaus such as Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. It's the consumer version of your credit score, but there are other types of FICO scores used by specific lenders. They are all legitimate FICO scores but they differ. 

To make things more confusing, some credit card issuers have also started offering free access to FICO scores for their customers. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would like to make such access mandatory.

But these scores also vary from the ones lenders use.  Most lenders agree that consumers in the past have been kept in the dark about the criteria used when approving your loan application.  

"Now the score itself is just a way of measuring behaviors and risks and ever end user is going to  customize that score to fit their business need," says Todd Mark, vide president of education at Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Dallas. "So if you go to a financial institution the way they utilize the score may be different from how an insurance agent would use a score as well.

"Yes, insurers will also pull your credit history and decide whether or not to insure you or what your risks and costs will be to them," continues Mark. "But remembering though unless it says an official FICO score, it may be their own internal score and weighted toward their product and your behavior with that product.

"But you are not always getting a FICO score. It could be a Vantage score, which may have a slightly different way of producing their number.  It may be an alternate score, which they say is our version of a credit score, which does have a different weight. So even though you can get it from a lot of different sources, any time I want to get my official FICO, I'm going to go directly to" 

Bottom line, we as consumers are the only ones truly in control of our credit habits, our credit report and ultimately our FICO score.  

See related: Not all free credit scores are created equal, How your FICO credit score is calculated, Why your traditional credit score is becoming obsolete

Published: June 17, 2014

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