VantageScore and FICO both use credit data to produce three-digit credit scores, generally ranging from 350 to 800. Both predict how likely a consumer is to repay debts on time. But they calculate risk slightly differently, giving different weights to different data points. In addition, VantageScore can provide a score for someone with as little as one month of credit history. FICO requires six months of credit history to provide a score.
You know your credit score is important. A healthy score can open doors, helping you borrow, buy, and do many things — all while spending less on premiums. A poor credit score can have the opposite effect, making it difficult to access the funds you may need to power your dreams.
But not all credit scores are created equal.
There are two major scoring systems used to determine creditworthiness — VantageScore and FICO. In this article, we’ll show you how they calculate your score and why it matters.
How are FICO and VantageScore scores calculated?
Both firms use credit data to produce three-digit scores, generally ranging from 350 to 800, that predict how likely a consumer is to repay debts on time.
The higher the number, the lower the risk for the lender. That’s why student loan providers and credit-card issuers look carefully at credit ratings.
The scores are also a major factor in mortgage and car loans, with higher-scoring consumers more likely to lock in lower interest rates.
Have you ever noticed that your VantageScore and FICO scores don’t match? That’s because the scoring models give more weight to different data points, calculating risk in slightly different ways.
Let’s take a closer look at the variations and why they might matter to you.
FICO score calculations
FICO scores are generated by the Fair Isaac Corporation, the company that pioneered the first industry-wide credit-scoring system more than thirty years ago. According to the firm, its system is still the most widely used today, with 90 percent of top lenders using the scores to make more informed lending decisions.
In general, FICO scores incorporate data from five categories, with each item weighted differently:
Payment history (35%)
Amounts owed (30%)
Length of credit history (15%)
New credit (10%)
Credit mix (10%)
The most recent update to the FICO score model is the FICO Score 10, which also incorporates trended data — meaning the model looks at a longer period of your credit history to make a more refined prediction. But FICO Score 8 and FICO Score 9 are still the most widely-used versions.
In 2006, the three credit reporting bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — joined forces to launch VantageScore Solutions, a new system to determine creditworthiness.
The most recent VantageScore model is VantageScore 4.0, which weighs different data points in the following ways:
Payment history (41%)
Depth of credit (20%)
Credit utilization (20%)
Recent credit (11%)
Available credit (2%)
VantageScore 4.0 was also the first scoring system to use trended credit data, which examines credit history over a longer period of time.
Though the systems use similar criteria, FICO and VantageScore use different proprietary methods to analyze the data, resulting in different scores.
It’s important to note that neither FICO nor VantageScore considers certain personal details when calculating scores. This complies with the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which prohibits creditors from discriminating against applicants based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, or age.
What are some of the key differences between VantageScore and FICO scores?
While the specific algorithms FICO and VantageScore use are proprietary, there are several known differences between the two scoring models. Here are a few that might impact you:
Credit history length requirements
VantageScore scores allow you to have a shorter credit history. To qualify for a FICO score, a consumer needs a credit history of at least six months, while VantageScore can provide a score for someone with as little as one month of credit history.
As a result, VantageScore provides scores to more than 30 million consumers that would otherwise not have a credit score — and therefore invisible to most lenders.
Thin and non-existent credit profiles are common among those who have yet to use traditional credit. The same is true for people who have used traditional credit in the past but have gone more than two years without using it.
This means that if you’re new to using credit, you may have a VantageScore, but not a FICO score.
FICO and VantageScore look at credit inquiries differently. Hard inquiries can ding your credit, but smart consumers often shop around to find the best rates. Both FICO and VantageScore take steps to de-duplicate multiple inquiries for the same purpose, but the two firms do this in different ways.
The most recent FICO scoring models count multiple inquiries of the same type within a 45-day range as a single inquiry.
By comparison, VantageScore sees multiple inquiries of all types within a 14-day window as one inquiry. This means that multiple inquiries spanning more than a 14-day period — even if they’re all related to the same thing, such as shopping for a mortgage — may have a more negative impact on your VantageScore score.
Only FICO generates industry-specific scores. Along with the base scores that predict a consumer’s ability to repay debts, FICO also produces industry-specific scores for auto lending, credit card decisioning, and mortgage lending.
These versions range from 250 to 900, rather than 350 to 800. VantageScore, on the other hand, only provides base scores.
If you’re looking to buy a car, you may want to check your FICO Auto Score.
How can I keep my credit scores as healthy as possible?
The VantageScore and FICO scoring models may be slightly different, but the following smart practices can help keep your credit scores healthy across both systems:
Pay your bills on time. This is the single most important thing you can do to keep your credit scores healthy.
Keep balances low. Aim to use less than 30 percent of your available credit at any given time, and less than 10 percent is even better.
Limit new accounts. Only apply for new lines of credit when you really need them, and keep unused cards open if they don’t have annual fees.
Limit shopping for rates to a focused period of time. Aim to consolidate inquiries within VantageScore’s 14-day range or FICO’s 45-day window.
Check your credit scores regularly. We recommend using a credit monitoring service, like the one we offer. That way, if an identity thief opens a fraudulent account in your name, you’ll be more likely to spot the problem — so you can take steps right away to limit the impact on your score.
If you have an Allstate Identity Protection plan that includes credit monitoring, there is more you can do to manage your credit scores from within the portal. Log in to your account to learn more.