Why do I have 3 different credit scores?

Ever wonder why you have 3 different credit scores? Lots of people ask us that question.

The short answer is that you have 3 different credit scores because there are three different credit reporting companies: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.

Each of these companies puts their own spin on the FICO scoring system to generate slightly different scores.

You may not realize it, but these credit reporting companies are NOT part of the government. They are for-profit companies that make their money selling YOUR financial data to other companies – like banks, mortgage brokers, employers, rental property managers, rental car companies, and credit card companies.

Each of them tweaks the FICO formula to meet the specific needs of their particular list of clients. They all base their calculations on the information on your credit report, but the end result may be different because of how they “work the numbers”.

For the most accurate comparisons, make sure you get your three scores within a week or so. The more time that elapses between getting your scores, the more differences there will be as your account balances change.

There are a few other reasons for your 3 credit scores to be different:

Timing

Different companies submit their data to the credit reporting companies at different times of the month. If you see a big difference in your score from one credit reporting company to another, there’s a good chance you made a big change that has not been reported to one or more of them yet. Examples are taking on a new loan or mortgage, becoming an authorized user on someone’s account, or paying off a big chuck of a debt.

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Reporter Choice

Not every company or individual that is allowed to report data to the credit reporting companies chooses to do so. If there is a noticeable difference (good or bad) between your scores, compare the data on your reports from the three credit reporting companies. The “oddball” score probably has something on it (or missing from it) that is affecting your score.

Name Discrepancies

If you applied for credit or have any accounts or judgments against you under another name (like a maiden name or using your middle name), the credit reporting companies may not have “merged” those records onto your full credit report. If the missing data will improve your credit score, bring it to their attention. If it won’t… let sleeping dogs lie. It’s not your fault they haven’t put two and two together.

Internal Policies

The three credit reporting companies may record and classify the same data in different ways, changing your credit score. These kinds of differences are usually small, but can add up if there are several of them affecting your score. There’s not much you can do about these, except be aware of them.

FICO Alternatives

The FICO scoring model is the most widely used credit scoring system in the United States.  Plenty of other scoring models exist, so always be sure you are comparing only FICO scores. Other scoring models may use the same data as FICO, but their calculations are very different and so are their maximum and minimum scores.

What it all means…

It’s totally normal for there to be differences between your three FICO scores. But there may be a red flag if there are large differences – like 20 points or more. It’s worth the time and effort to do a little investigation.

You can use these differences to your advantage, too. When you are shopping for financing, be proactive and ask which credit reporting agency they pull data from. Then try to find a lender that uses the company that offers your highest score!

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If you have any questions, please give us a call at 770-952-5168 or contact us online.

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Other articles that may interest you:
What Does My FICO Score Mean?
Why The Credit Reporting System Is Flawed
3 Things You Can Do TODAY To Improve Your Credit Score

This information is intended for informational and educational purposes only and not as legal advice. If you have concerns about your credit report, harassment, identity theft, illegal collections activity, garnishments, or property liens, you should consult an attorney who specializes in consumer rights and defense.

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