Does Each Credit Reporting Agency Give You a Different Credit Score?

Does each credit reporting agency give you a different credit score?  How are they related?

3 Answers

Each credit repository (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) have scoring algorythms provided/created by Fair, Isaac (FICO). Each has its own name. The scores are computed based on what is in the credit report, and, because in most cases your credit reports vary from repository to repository, so do your scores.

Most people score in a fairly narrow range. Most of my clients have scores between 780 and 800. Most of the time the score range is 20-30 points. Of course, some scores can be dramatically different, and that is frustrating, I know. 

Be careful that when you obtain your score that is is a FICO score and not a generic score, such as the Vantage Score that the repositories are selling. The Vantage Score has almost no value, and the scoring range is different. FICO scores are never higher than 850, while Vantage Scores can go to 990. In the business we call Vantage Scores FAKE-OH scores. Hope this helps.

Oh, one more thing - don't get just one score. You need to see all three. Lenders use your middle score, or the lower of two scores if you only have two, to set your rate and determine whether or not you will be approved.   

Each credit bureau does give a slightly different score. The short answer is:

  • All three bureaus use different proprietary formulas to calculate your credit score; and

  • Some creditors don't report to all three bureaus, so sometimes a record will show on just one or to bureaus therefore effecting your score differently there than with the other one(s).

Also, when you request a credit score from any source other than Transunion, Equifax or Experian you are only receiving an estimated credit score based on what they see in your credit report. Sometimes the scores given can be as many as 40 or 50 points different (usually higher to keep you paying for their service) than your real scores. The only way to receive your real score is by going directly to Transunion, Equifax or Experian's websites.

On top of that, who orders your credit report can also influence what score you get. For instance, a credit report ordered by a furniture store for financing will show different scores than one ordered by a car dealer or a mortgage broker. Why? Because different things matter to different credit issuers and therefore the reports are weighted differently to be tailored for them.

Yes, each of the 3 credit bureaus has a different score for you. Here's how it works: Whenever you have a credit account, a loan, a credit card, etc the lender can and normally does report your account information and payment history to the credit bureaus. They are not required by law to report to all three, but normally they will. Once your information is reported to the bureaus, each one will run your information through their own proprietary formula to generate your credit score. These formula's are created by the individual bureau and are not public information.

These 2 factors 1.) The reporting of information and 2.) The formulas used to compute the score, are why you have 3 different credit scores. If all of your accounts are reporting to all 3 bureas you should have similar credit scores, but due to the different formulas for creating the actual score you will have different scores nonetheless. This is why most loans, specifically mortgage loans will typically use the numeric middle of the three scores to qualify you. This is a way to balance out the differences in your scores. Some other accounts, such as credit cards may use only 1 of the 3 scores. In the end, as long as your account information is reported to all three you should have scores that are closely related, which each bureau putting their own twist on the number.