Comparing Credit Scores: FICO Score and Vantage Score

A person standing in front of a gauge showing the range of credit scores from poor to excellent.

Understanding your credit score can be hard, and having a good credit score is harder. To make things even more confusing, you may have heard that there are different types of credit scores

No matter what credit score model you use, it’s important to understand what your credit score, FICO Score, or Vantage Score credit scores are. Use this guide to learn the difference between a credit score, FICO Score, and Vantage Score.

Types of Credit Scores

The term “credit score” includes several types of credit scoring models. These credit scoring models tell both the consumer and lenders where the credit score stands. All credit scores are calculated and used for score checking depending on the circumstances, like auto loans, personal loans, lending decisions, a new account, a credit card, or mortgages.

The most common types of credit scores used are FICO Scores and Vantage Scores.

What is a FICO Score?

The term “FICO Score” is often used interchangeably with the term “credit score.”

FICO is a publicly traded company based in California. The analytics company was founded in 1956 by an engineer, Bill Fair, and a mathematician, Earl Isaac. FICO Scores have been an industry standard in helping lenders and creditors evaluate their customers' latest version of their credit profile to know if they are creditworthiness or are a credit risk with their credit scoring model.

The FICO Score was created in 1981. This predictive power, known as a credit scoring model evaluates a credit report to generate credit score ranges between 300 and 850. Many lenders then use this credit scoring model's own criteria to determine your creditworthiness or credit risk level for their lending decisions on a loan or credit limit.

What is a VantageScore?

In 2006, the 3 major credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax – joined forces to create a VantageScores® credit scoring model to compete with FICO Score. One of the bureaus, Experian, even went so far as to stop offering FICO score information to consumers on credit reports.

Since then, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax have been aggressively marketing VantageScores credit scoring model. The most current version is VantageScore 4.0 credit scoring model, which uses the same range as the FICO credit scoring model; credit score ranges from 300 to 850. You can pay extra to get your Vantage Score when you order a free credit report from

What is the Difference Between FICO Scores vs Vantage Scores Credit Scoring Models?

One way the two main credit scores use their credit scoring models differs by the method each one uses to pull your credit history.

A snapshot of all the available credit accounts, payment history, and historical data determines FICO Scores when it was generated. A Vantage Score focuses more on your credit account history and informs lenders of your credit behavior, payment history, and trended data.

Both types of credit scores use a variety of similar factors to create your credit score from the trended data in your credit report. However, the defining difference is how much these factors influence your credit score. While both credit scores look at your credit report to examine your credit accounts, credit limit, credit history, payment history, hard or soft inquiries, and available credit, each factor influences differently each score to determine a possible credit risk or a good credit score.

What Factors Affect My Credit Report?

The specific method used to calculate a score from one credit report is a trade secret. No one can predict exactly what FICO Scores or what each credit bureau will score after evaluating your credit report, but we do know some important details about how scores differ between FICO Scores and Vantage Scores.

1. Length of Credit History

To generate a FICO score, you must have a past six months of credit history with at least one account active. Vantage Score only requires a short period of one month credit history in the past two years.

2. Late Payment Penalties

Although both credit scores are affected by late payments, each model penalizes credit scores for late payments differently. For example, Vantage Scores issue higher penalties for late mortgage payments than FICO Scores. If you’re having a hard time to make your payments, talk to our debt counselor for free today. 

3. Collections Penalties

When you have credit accounts that have been reported to the credit bureau and sent to a collection account, both FICO Scores and VantageScore will be negatively affected. Vantage Scores will ignore all collection accounts once they have been paid off, and FICO Scores will ignore accounts that are paid off or have an original balance under $100.

4. Hard Inquiry Grace Period

When you’re actively shopping to qualify for a personal loan or auto loan, both models have a grace period that groups all similar credit pulls together as one. Vantage Score has a grace period of 14 days, while FICO Score has a grace period of 45 days.

5. Multiple Bureaus, Multiple Scores

It’s possible for many lenders to pull a FICO Score based on only one credit bureau out of the 3 major credit bureaus. That means your FICO score could be different from one lender to another based on which credit reports the score was based on.

If your Equifax-based score versions are worse than your TransUnion-based score versions, one lender might qualify your loan application while the other might deny you. With Vantage Scores, there is more uniformity across all three bureaus, so the score doesn’t tend to vary from lender to lender.

Vantage Scores vs. FICO Scores Conversion

There is no official method of converting a Vantage Score to a FICO Score. Each scoring model uses different criteria and methods of pulling credit reports data; it's nearly impossible to convert. However, keeping both scores in mind can give you a much more well-rounded understanding of your credit reports health.

For example, most scores might have a Vantage Score of 623, then check their FICO Score and see that it’s 721. On the FICO credit scoring model, the score is fairly in the higher credit score range. However, it's right at the cutoff that separates fair from poor credit on the Vantage Score credit scoring model.

What does this mean? The two scores are different enough that it’s not wise to compare them directly.

Take each score for what it tells you. For example, when it comes to credit utilization, Vantage Score is an indicator of your most recent credit habits, while the FICO Score is more of a snapshot of your utilization rate currently. Knowing what each of the scores emphasizes helps you make moves to improve to a higher credit score over time.

Which Type of Credit Score is Most Common?

Although both scores are useful, around 90% of lenders use the FICO Score to evaluate potential consumers when they want to qualify for a credit card, new car, loan, or credit limit increase.

How to Get Your Credit Reports?

In the past, the only way to receive your scores was by purchasing it from FICO Score (at or through one of the major credit bureaus. Now, there are many free apps and websites that allow you to see your credit report for free.

Most online bank sites have an option to view your score for free. You can also sign up for tools like CreditWise from Capital One or Experian, to keep track of your scores and work towards a good score.

When you visit some websites to get your free credit report, you will be offered the opportunity to purchase your score. This score is typically your Vantage Score, but as most lenders use FICO Scores, it may not be worth your money to pay for your score from that vendor.

There are also a lot of banks, lenders, and credit card issuers that offer free FICO Scores to their customers through the FICO® Score Open Access Program. Over 200 financial institutions and 100 financial counseling agencies (including participate in the FICO® Score Open Access Program.

To learn more about credit scores, check out our Understanding Your Credit Reports and Credit Scores Course. If you’re looking to improve your credit score and no longer be a credit risk, check out our credit report review service.

Navigating the Nuances of FICO Scores and VantageScores: A Key to Your Credit Score Success

Knowing the distinction between FICO Scores and Vantage Scores is important for managing your account well. Understanding your credit health requires knowledge of both credit reports and credit scores. However, these two tools use distinct methods and models to calculate your score.

Learn these differences to understand credit better, so your score accurately represents your financial habits and history. Remember, whether it's a FICO Score or a VantageScore, each score is a key to unlocking your financial potential.

Article written by
Melinda Opperman
Melinda Opperman is an exceptional educator who lives and breathes the creation and implementation of innovative ways to motivate and educate community members and students about financial literacy. Melinda joined in 2003 and has over two decades of experience in the industry.

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