If you’ve recently checked your FICO credit scores (Equifax, Experian and Transunion), you may have noticed that your credit score varies between the three. After thoroughly reviewing your credit report, you may be asking yourself, “Why are my 3 FICO credit scores different?”
Your credit scores are determined by a variety of factors, including the number of accounts you have, the types of accounts, your available credit, your payment history, and the length of your credit history. It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly why your credit scores are different because those differences can be related to these and other variables.
In the U.S., there are three national credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) that compete to capture, update and store credit histories on most U.S. consumers. While most of the information collected on consumers by the three credit bureaus is similar, there are differences. For example, one credit bureau may have unique information captured on a consumer that is not being captured by the other two, or the same data element may be stored or displayed differently by the credit bureaus.
Keep in mind the following points when comparing FICO scores across bureaus:
- Not all credit scores are "FICO" scores. So, first of all make sure the scores you are comparing are actual FICO Scores.
- There are different FICO score ranges between the bureaus. Experian’s score range is 330-830. TransUnion’s score range is 300-850. And Equifax has a score range of 280-850.
- The scores should be accessed at the same time. The passage of time can result in score differences due to model characteristics that have a time based component. Comparing a score pulled on bureau “A” from last week to a score pulled on bureau “B” today can be problematic as the “week old score” may already be “dated”.
- All of your credit information may not be reported to all three credit bureaus. The information on your credit report is supplied by lenders, collection agencies and court records. Don't assume that each credit bureau has the same information pertaining to your credit history.
- You may have applied for credit under different names (for example, Robert Jones versus Bob Jones) or a maiden name, which may cause fragmented or incomplete files at the credit reporting agencies. While, in most cases, the credit bureaus combine all files accurately under the same person, there are many instances where incomplete files or inaccurate data (social security numbers, addresses, etc.) cause one person's information to appear on someone else's credit report.
- Lenders report credit information to the credit bureaus at different times, often resulting in one agency having more up-to-date information than another.
- The credit bureaus may record, display or store the same information in different ways.
And finally there are still many different types of FICO scores, called Industry Option Scores. Even if you were comparing FICO to FICO, you actually could be comparing a FICO auto credit score to a FICO mortgage credit score, and these scores could be different because they are calculated using slightly different components to help better predict credit responsibility for the industry in which those scores are used.