Shopping around for a loan or new credit? Once you’re ready to start applying, there’s one major detail you’ll want to keep top of mind: your credit score.
Your credit score gives lenders an idea of your creditworthiness, or the likelihood that you’ll repay the money they lend you. The higher your credit score, the more creditworthy lenders will consider you.
Today, there are two types of credit scores that show lenders your creditworthiness – FICO and VantageScore. Both credit scoring models have their own unique variations and data-gathering methods, so it’s common to see two slightly different scores depending on where you look.
In this article, we’ll walk through the FICO and VantageScore credit tiers, how the scoring models calculate your score, and the factors that influence your credit score in each scoring model.
Credit Score Ranges
Both FICO and the most recent versions of VantageScore (3.0 and 4.0) use a credit range of 300 to 850. The range is broken up into 5 separate credit tiers ranging from Super Prime to Deep Subprime.
The credit tier your score is in has a significant impact on what kind of interest rates you receive – and even the types of credit you could qualify for. In general, a higher credit score opens doors to new credit and will help you qualify for lower rates on whatever type of credit you’re applying for.
VantageScore and FICO Credit Tiers:
- 781 – 850: Super Prime
- 661 – 780: Prime
- 601 – 660: Near Prime
- 500 – 600: Subprime
- 300 – 499: Deep Subprime
Read more: How Credit Score Impacts Interest Rate
So – how are your credit scores calculated? This is where the main differences between the two types of credit score come to light.
FICO’s credit scoring formula is broken down into five separate categories. Each category influences a certain percentage of your score, with some categories being more influential than others.
How Your FICO Credit Score is Calculated
- 35% payment history
- 30% amounts owed
- 15% length of credit history
- 10% types of credit/credit mix
- 10% credit inquiries/new credit
Determining your VantageScore can be a bit more complicated – different lenders and creditors tend to use different versions. While VantageScore 4.0 is the most recently updated version, a good number of lenders still use 3.0. For this reason, it’s wise to research what credit score your prospective lender will be checking before applying.
VantageScore 3.0’s credit scoring formula is broken down into six categories, while 4.0’s uses five.
How Your VantageScore 3.0 Credit Score is Calculated
- 40% payment history
- 21% age and type of credit
- 20% percent of credit used
- 11% total balances/debt
- 5% recent credit behaviors and inquiries
- 3% available credit
How Your VantageScore 4.0 Credit Score is Calculated
- Extremely influential: total credit usage, balance, and available credit
- Highly influential: credit mix and experience
- Moderately influential: payment history
- Less influential: age of credit history
- Less influential: new accounts
As you can see above, VantageScore 4.0 no longer uses percentages to show influence on your credit score. Instead, categories are rated by their level of influence, ranging from extremely influential to less influential.
Credit Score Factors Explained
Looking to improve your credit? Making consistent on-time payments is the way to do it. For both FICO and VantageScore 3.0 models, missed payments have the greatest influence on your credit score. The impact can be significant, too – for borrowers with perfect credit, a payment that’s 30+ days past due could bring their score down as many as 100 points.
Amounts owed/percentage of credit used
Before approving you for a loan or new credit, lenders want to make sure you’re using your current credit responsibly. They’ll take a look at your credit utilization ratio, which tells them the amount you owe compared to the available credit on your accounts.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to keep your credit utilization rate below 30%. For example, if you have $10,000 of available credit, keeping your combined balances below $3,000 is a smart financial move.
Age of credit
Lenders want to see that you’ve had experience using credit before lending to you, which is why your scores consider the age of your credit. The longer you’ve had credit, the better it is for your score.
The average age of your accounts plays a role as well, with higher average ages being a plus. To find the average age of your accounts, simply divide the ages of your oldest and newest accounts by your total number of accounts.
The more types of credit you have, the better it is for your score. If you have experience with different types of credit, like installment loans, mortgage loans, and credit cards, you may have an advantage over borrowers who’ve only used one type.
Credit inquiries/new accounts
Oftentimes when you apply for new credit, you’ll receive a hard inquiry on your credit report. This could cause a temporary decrease in your score. But, as long as you use that new credit responsibly, it should bounce back up in no time.
So… Which Credit Score Should I Check?
The simple answer? Both. Overall, more lenders and creditors will use your FICO Score – but you can never be too certain. Make sure to find out the credit score your potential lender will check before taking the time to apply.
One more note: The credit score you get online may not match the one your lender sees perfectly – no worries. It’ll be close enough that you can get a good idea of where you stand. Once you know your numbers, you’ll be able to make decisions that are best for you and your finances.
Read more: 6 Tips for Building Your Credit
We are not credit analysts and do not specialize in credit. The contents in this article are for informational purposes only and do not constitute financial or credit advice.