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What’s the difference between various FICO Score versions?

You have more than one FICO Score. What does it mean as you look at your credit?

Summary

FICO periodically updates the FICO Score models to meet lenders’ and consumers’ needs. Here’s what you need to know about different versions of FICO® Scores.

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If you’ve been working to stay on top of your credit score, you’ve probably done your research and found that FICO® Scores are commonly used in lending decisions. In fact, over 90% of top U.S. lenders use FICO Scores. Yet there is not just one single FICO Score version. In fact, there are multiple FICO Score versions, which means you also have multiple FICO Scores.

Read on to learn about different FICO versions and how they’re used by lenders.

See related: Why knowing your FICO Score is important: What’s the difference between credit scores out there?

Why is there more than one FICO scoring version?

The first broad-based credit bureau scores were introduced by FICO more than 30 years ago, helping to expand access to credit in a trusted, responsible and objective manner. Needless to say, a lot has evolved since the FICO Scores were first introduced, from the role of consumer credit in this U.S. economy to evolving consumer credit practices and behaviors to enhanced modeling tools and new data.

Not to mention, different types of lenders base their decisions on varying degrees of the five factors that make up the common FICO® Score blueprint. What matters to a mortgage lender might not be as crucial to a credit card issuer, while a bank issuing you a car loan might be interested in some other aspects of your financial behavior.

This has resulted in multiple FICO scoring versions being supported in the market that address various lender and consumer needs. Each lender determines which FICO Score version it will use when evaluating a request for credit.

“Very similar to an iPhone analogy where Apple releases a new version of iPhone, you may say, ‘I need this, and those new features are really important to me,’ whereas I would say, ‘I don’t really need that, I’m okay with my current version,’” explains Tom Quinn, vice president of Scores at FICO. “So, Apple has multiple versions being used by consumers and being supported. It’s a similar phenomenon with FICO Scores – we have lenders using different versions of the score depending on their needs.”

Let’s dig into these versions and see what type of lenders use them.

Widely used FICO Score 8

FICO® Score 8 is the most widely used FICO Score version across the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Whether you’re applying for a personal or student loan or a retail credit card, knowing your FICO Score 8 can help you evaluate your approval chances.

For all FICO Score versions, they are based on the following categories of information:

  • Your payment history (35% of the score)
  • Amounts owed (30% of the score)
  • Length of credit history (15% of the score)
  • New credit (10% of the score)
  • Credit mix (10% of the score)

See related: The factors of a FICO credit score

While FICO® Score 8 is the most widely used, newer versions of the score are available. For example, many lenders have upgraded to FICO® Score 9. A key enhancement within FICO Score 9 compared to older versions is that it ignores paid third-party collections, places less weight on unpaid medical collections and factors in rental history when reported.

The newest variation of the FICO Score, FICO® Score 10T, is the first FICO Score version to also consider trended credit bureau data  This offers lenders a more predictive score as it considers a deeper evaluation at how you’ve managed your accounts over the last 24 months, such as your balances, how much you’ve paid on your recent credit card statements over time and whether you’re increasing, maintaining or reducing your debt over time.

See related: How FICO’s new credit score changes will affect you

Knowing these differences can help you be better prepared when you apply for credit. For instance, if the lender is using FICO® Score 9, you might not need to worry about that paid collection account on your credit report.

Industry-specific scores

In addition to the base FICO® Score versions, there are industry-specific FICO Scores versions designed to help lenders better assess lending risks for specific types of credit products. According to Quinn, they work as sort of an “overlay” on your base FICO® Score, refining risk prediction for a given credit product, such as an auto loan.

Let’s take a look at the kinds of FICO® Scores different lenders use.

Credit cards issuers: FICO Bankcard Scores

When it comes to credit card approval decisions, issuers often use a version of the FICO Bankcard score – especially FICO® Bankcard Score 8. This variation of the FICO Score focuses on predicting your credit risk for a credit card.

Another notable difference is in the score range: The base FICO Scores range from 300 to 850 points, while the industry-specific FICO Scores have a broader range of 250 to 900 points.

Auto lenders: FICO Auto Scores

With car loans, lenders are likely to consider the industry-specific FICO Auto Scores, with FICO® Auto Score 8 being the most used version. This variation of your FICO® Score is calculated by placing more weight on car loan-specific risk behaviors.

“That industry-specific overlay score card may pull up characteristics related to how you’ve managed previous auto loans,” Quinn explains.

However, even if you haven’t had a car loan before, the score will assess your other credit data for certain patterns of risk associated with taking on auto debt.

Mortgage lenders: Earlier FICO Score versions

A mortgage is one of the most significant loan obligations a consumer can take on. For that reason, lenders will typically pull all three credit reports and FICO® Scores on each applicant.

In mortgage lending, FICO® Score 2, FICO® Score 4 and FICO® Score 5, based on data from Experian, TransUnion and Equifax data, respectively, are typically used. Generally, lenders make a decision based on the score in the middle of these three.

To prepare your credit for a mortgage, make sure to keep an eye on your reports and scores, wait to apply for new credit to avoid credit score drops and work on reducing your credit card debt. Paying all your bills on time is also always crucial to keeping your credit in good shape.

Keeping track of your FICO® Scores

You don’t necessarily need to be aware of each credit score you have at all times. Generally, it’s enough to stay on top of your FICO® Score 8 to have a good idea of your credit health.

However, when you’re shopping for a loan, such as a car loan and especially a mortgage, you may want to have a better idea which score versions – such as FICO® Score versions commonly used for mortgage, auto or credit cards – your potential lender will see when checking your credit.

Further, many lenders and credit card issuers participate in the FICO® Score Open Access program that provides consumers free access to their FICO Scores.

Another thing Quinn suggests is to check FICO forums hosted by myFICO, where you can search for specific topics, such as “Which lenders use FICO Score 9?” and find a topic where users discuss their understanding of which scores and score version their banks and lenders use. This way, you might be able to find a lender that uses the score you know is your highest before applying. Note, however, that this information isn’t verified even though it may help you get useful insight.

Bottom line

There are multiple versions of a FICO® Score and each lender determines which version it will use when evaluating a request for credit. While it might not be feasible to stay on top of each variation of your credit score, maintaining good credit habits is important. “Regardless of your situation, it’s always important to pay your bills on time, use your available credit responsibly and only apply for credit when absolutely needed,” Quinn says.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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