FICO Score vs Credit Score

Your three-digit credit score is a measure of how well you manage your finances. There are different types of credit scores that lenders can use to assess risk when lending someone money, including FICO credit scores. Understanding the difference between credit scores and FICO scores and how they work is important for maintaining good financial health.

Key points to remember

  • A credit score is a three-digit number that measures your financial health and how well you manage your credit and debts.
  • FICO scores are a specific type of score that lenders can use when making borrowing decisions.
  • The FICO credit score system is arguably the most widely used and is calculated using information from your credit report.
  • Maintaining a higher credit score can make it easier to qualify for loans and lines of credit, as well as help you get great interest rates.

What is a credit score?

A credit score is a numerical representation of financial health, telling lenders at a glance how responsible you are when it comes to credit and debt. Generally speaking, a higher credit score suggests that you borrow and pay back what you owe on time. A lower credit score, on the other hand, may indicate that you are struggling to manage your debts.

So where do credit scores come from? They are generated by companies like Equifax, Experian and TransUnion based on information included in your credit reports. A credit report is a collection of information about your financial life, including:

  • Your identity (i.e. your name, aliases, date of birth, social security number, etc.)
  • Existing credit accounts (such as loans, lines of credit, or credit cards)
  • Public documents, including judgments, liens or bankruptcy filings
  • Inquiries about you from individuals or organizations who have requested a copy of your credit report

Credit reports are kept by the credit bureaus. Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are the largest in the United States. These companies compile credit reports based on information provided to them by creditors as well as information available as part of the public record.


You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus once a year at

What is a FICO credit score?

FICO credit scores are generated by Fair Isaac Corp. These scores were first developed for consumers in the late 1980s in response to the need for an industry-wide standard credit score to assess risk.

FICO scores are three-digit numbers ranging from 300 to 850, with 850 being the highest score given. FICO scores are calculated based on information included in consumer credit reports. Five specific factors are used in their calculation:

  • Payment history. Payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO credit scores. On-time payments can help your score, while late or missed payments can cause you to lose credit points.
  • Use of credit. Credit utilization refers to the percentage of available credit that is used up at any given time. This factor accounts for 30% of FICO score calculations.
  • Credit age. Credit age measures the average length of time a person has used credit. The higher a person’s credit age, the better. This factor accounts for 15% of FICO credit score calculations.
  • Credit mix. FICO also considers the types of credit someone uses, i.e. installment loans versus revolving credit. The credit mix accounts for 10% of FICO credit score calculations.
  • Credit applications. Credit inquiries represent 10% of your FICO credit score. A new inquiry is recorded on your credit report following a rigorous credit check.

FICO generates several versions of its credit scores that are designed for use in different lending situations. It is possible to have more than 30 FICO credit scores and each may be different, depending on the information in your credit reports that is used to calculate them. FICO 8 and FICO 9, for example, are widely used in credit decisions, while the newer FICO 10, which incorporates trend data, is less commonly used.

To note

Checking your own credit reports does not trigger credit attraction or affect your credit scores.

FICO Score vs. Credit Score: Which is Better?

The quality of a FICO credit score compared to another credit score largely depends on how the scores are calculated and how they are used. Again, FICO scores focus on payment history, credit usage, credit age, credit mix, and credit applications to give lenders an idea of ​​how likely you are to repay. money you borrow. Other credit scoring models may consider different factors to make the same decision.

VantageScores, for example, breaks down like this:

  • Extremely influential: Credit usage, balance and available credit
  • Very influential: Mix of credit and experience
  • Moderately influential: Payment history
  • Less influential: Age of credit history
  • Less influential: New accounts

VantageScores range from 300 to 850 like FICO, while assigning different weights to payment history, credit usage, and other activities. So, when it comes to the best score, a lender might prefer to use FICO scores if they want to gauge a person’s likelihood of repaying their debt. But if they’re more interested in how much debt a person has and their credit usage, they can use VantageScores.


FICO credit scores are used by 90% of major lenders to make credit decisions.

Is a FICO score the same as a credit score?

A FICO credit score is a type of credit score. The difference between them and other credit scoring models is that FICO scores are specifically developed by FICO. The FICO credit score system uses a proprietary model to generate consumer credit scores based on five factors: payment history, credit usage, credit age, credit mix, and credit applications.

Why do I have different FICO scores?

FICO offers several versions of its credit score for different uses. For example, you have one FICO credit score that is used when applying for a car loan and another that is used when applying for a credit card. FICO often updates its credit score models. They may also be different depending on the credit report used to calculate them. If a creditor reports a loan account to one credit bureau but not to the other two, it can affect the FICO credit scores generated by each credit report.

Do lenders use FICO score or credit score?

When you apply for a loan or line of credit, a lender will likely check at least one of your credit scores. Most lenders rely on FICO credit scores, but a lender may use another credit score model to determine whether to approve you for a loan or a line of credit.

How to improve a FICO score?

The easiest ways are to pay your bills on time, keep credit card balances low, keep old accounts open, use different types of credit, and limit how often you apply for new loans or lines. credit.


FICO credit scores and other credit scores can be used as a predictive tool for lenders when assessing your ability and commitment to repaying your debt. Regardless of the credit score model used, it is important to determine how to get the best score possible. Some of the easiest ways to improve your FICO score, for example, include paying your bills on time, keeping credit card balances low, keeping old accounts open, using different types of credit and limiting how often you apply for new loans or lines of credit. credit. The more you can improve your score, the easier it can be to get loan approval at the lowest rates.