If you’re planning a big purchase in the near future, or even if you’re simply checking up on your credit improvement efforts, you may be keeping a closer eye on your credit score than usual. But which credit score are you watching? And is it the same score a potential lender will be looking at when judging your eligibility?
Almost everyone knows they have a credit score. Some people even check it regularly. But far fewer know we have more than one score, and fewer still know there are different scores for certain loan types. So, which credit score is the most important? As you may have guessed, the short answer is that it all depends.
The FICO® credit scoring model was created in 1989 and has become the de facto standard for lenders in deciding a consumer’s creditworthiness and the likelihood of them repaying their debt. Since its inception, the FICO credit scoring system has evolved significantly. Updated versions of the scoring model have been created over the years, and each can yield slightly different scores.
In addition to the different FICO score versions, lenders can also choose from slightly different scoring models that are specific to certain industries. For example, if you’re looking to buy a car, a lender can request a score tailored to show auto loan risk. Need a personal loan? There’s a score designed to show installment loan risk, as well.
But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s take a closer look at just how credit scores are derived, and how the lenders make use of this information.
Three Different Credit Reporting Bureaus
Three major credit reporting bureaus keep track of consumer debt and the other financial transactions Americans engage in. You’ve probably heard of Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion, if not all three. These bureaus, also called credit rating agencies, gather and maintain consumer credit information reported by credit card issuers, lenders, and other companies you do business with.
The credit agencies also have access to financial records like tax liens, bankruptcies, and other publicly available information. All of this data ends up in the credit report each agency maintains on you, and it’s used to derive a credit score.
Sounds simple, right? But, of course, each agency has a slightly different way of calculating or applying value to individual transactions. And different lenders may report your business dealings to one or all three of the agencies. Because of this, your scores can vary from one credit agency to another — and sometimes dramatically.
Add to this the fact that each agency calculates different scores based on the needs of lenders in different industries, and that’s how you end up with dozens of credit scores.
Wait, I Have How Many Scores?
As previously mentioned, FICO has different versions, or generations, of its credit scoring model. It’s much like manufacturers that introduce new versions of computer operating systems but still support the older versions.
Lenders — and even the credit rating agencies — use these different versions of the scoring system based on software programs and models they’ve previously created, and updating or rebuilding them may not make sense.
The most recent version of the general FICO scoring system is FICO 9. However, FICO 8 is still the most widely used. Other supported versions include FICO 2, 3, 4, and 5. Considering there are three rating agencies and six versions of FICO scores, that’s 18 potential scores you could have based on that alone. However, as the infomercials like to say, “But wait, there’s more.”
Remember those industry-specific credit scores? The ones for auto loans, mortgages, credit cards, and other unique categories? Those can add up to another couple of dozen credit scores to the tally. There really is no easy way to calculate the exact number of credit scores you could have, but suffice it to say — it’s more than you can keep track of.
How FICO Scores are Customized
Industry-specific credit scores exist for one reason: to help certain types of lenders accurately single out higher risk borrowers from lower risk ones, for specific types of loans. If you’re applying for a credit card, the card issuer will be far more interested in your payment and usage history for that type of credit, known as your FICO Bankcard Score.
The same is true for auto financing, where the lenders are more interested in your FICO Auto Score. And, if you’re worried about the hit your credit score may take from multiple lenders pulling your credit, FICO gives consumers a 14-day window to apply for car loans. That means all credit checks during that period count as a single inquiry, which encourages shopping around for better rates.
As for mortgage lenders, they typically rely on the more comprehensive FICO General Score, although different versions of that exist, as well. If you’re looking to rent or lease an apartment, there’s yet another score that landlords get to see.
All of this goes toward explaining the variations in your credit score and why the one you see may not be what a potential lender is looking at.
What Causes Credit Score Differences?
At this point, it’s probably a little bit clearer how and why your credit score can differ from one reporting agency to another. In spite of the variations, however, they’re still more correlated than not. That’s because the bureaus use the same general pool of financial information about you to arrive at each score.
And that brings us to the final point. While the calculations of the different FICO scoring models may seem far more art than science, they still reflect your financial decisions and behaviors. Sure, your credit score from one agency may be lower than the other two, but it’s probably due to a valid entry on one report that’s not on the others. If that’s not the case, there are ways to dispute legitimate errors on your report.
The bottom line, however, is that no matter the number of credit scores you have, the way to ensure they stay as high as possible remains the same. Stick to the basic principles of making sure you pay your bills on time, not applying for too much credit, and not overextending the limits of your available lines of credit. Following these simple rules will ensure your credit score is the best it can be, regardless of the version or lender type involved.
Coming Back from Terrible Credit (Where to Start)
Coming back from bad credit can be difficult because people don’t always know where to start. Good or excellent credit may be your goal, but to reach that higher score, there are certain steps you have to take.
If you want to see positive changes in your credit score, there are a number of things that you can do to start on your path to better credit.
Review your credit report
Consumers shouldn’t assume that the information reflected on their credit report is accurate and up-to-date. Reviewing your credit report will allow you to catch mistakes such as the balance on your credit card or the date your last payment was made on your personal loan account.
If you have questions or doubts about the information on your credit report, you can submit a dispute and have an investigation completed to confirm the information. If any information is inaccurate, it could be corrected or removed, and potentially increase your score.
Watch credit utilization
Your credit score is calculated using a variety of information about your finances and your money management skills. Credit utilization accounts for a certain percentage of your credit score and depending on your credit utilization, your score can increase or decrease.
It is recommended that all consumers keep their credit utilization at 30% or less. This means that if your available credit totals $1000, you don’t want to use more than $300 of that available credit. If you go over this percentage, you will likely see a drop in score, and the only way to change that would be to decrease your credit utilization.
Make on-time payments
Everyone has monthly bills that they are responsible for paying. Whether a payment is on time, missed or late, creditors can report this activity to the credit bureaus, which in turn will affect your credit score.
Avoid applying for new credit
Applying for a new credit account will result in a hard inquiry on your credit report. Each hard inquiry can take points off your score whether you are approved or denied, so you will see a significant drop if you continue to apply for credit. Before applying for a credit card, personal loan, or another type of credit account, consider your odds of approval and if applying is worth losing the points.
Pay down debt
The amount of money you owe is another piece of information that is used to calculate your credit score. Paying down your debt can be beneficial to you because you will owe your creditors less money, but you will also increase your score. Basically, the more you owe, the lower your score will likely be. But if you work on reducing your debt, you can easily see a bump in your score.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much to ruin your credit. And once it is ruined, improving your score can take some time. Making better choices about your finances is key, so as long as you actively work to improve your score and avoid making mistakes such as defaulting on student loans, filing for bankruptcy, or even making a late payment on your auto loan, you can see a positive change in your score.
Need help recovering from poor credit? Contact Credit Absolute today for a free consultation.
Why is it Important to Monitor Your Credit? (Top Reasons to Monitor)
A person’s credit scores greatly influence their ability to secure a home loan, rent an apartment, or open a credit card account. Yet, many consumers still fail to keep a watchful eye on their credit report.
Checking up on their credit report may not be a priority, but considering the effect that credit has on a person’s life, consumers have more than one good reason to monitor their credit.
Correct inaccurate information
It is common for people to have inaccurate information reflected on their credit report. Creditors can see a lot of information when they check a person’s credit, from the spelling of their last name to the current balance on a credit card account and the last time the bill was paid. However, if this information is inaccurate, the consumer will have to be the one to get it corrected to ensure the creditor will be able to make an informed decision.
One thing consumers can do is file a dispute. In doing so, the consumer is requesting that the credit bureau investigate the information that has been reported. Typically, within 30 days, the credit bureau can inform the consumer of the results of this investigation and whether the information is valid or needs to be updated.
Protect yourself against fraudulent activity
The number of identity theft victims within the US totaled 14.4 million in 2018, according to Javelin Strategy and Research’s 2019 Identity Fraud Study. If an account is fraudulently opened in someone’s name, this account will appear on that person’s credit report. Unbeknownst to the consumer, there is someone out their charging thousands of dollars to a credit card with no intention of paying the bill.
Depending on when a person views their credit report, they will be able to see that there is an open account that they didn’t actually open and take action. Alerting credit bureaus of this activity can get the information removed from the credit report, but people should also report this to the FTC and contact the police, as identity theft is a crime.
Avoid unnecessary hard inquiries
Applying for credit will result in a hard inquiry. One or two hard inquiries on a credit report may not impact a person’s score by a lot, but as the number of hard inquiries increases, a person’s score decreases. Luckily, someone who knows their credit score knows their odds of approval when applying for a personal loan, credit card or another type of credit account.
For example, if a lender requires a borrower to have a score of 650, and an applicant has a score of 600, the chances of denial are high. Should that applicant know beforehand that they do not meet the lender’s minimum credit score requirement, they would be able to find a more suitable option for their credit profile and avoid unnecessary hard inquiries.
Improve/rebuild your credit
Credit reports contain a lot of information about an individual’s finances and credit health. The information that is reported to the credit bureaus is what is used to calculate credit scores, and certain information can cause a person’s score to drop significantly.
When someone monitors their credit, this gives them the opportunity to improve it because they can see what activity is negatively impacting their score. Someone with high credit utilization will be able to determine that using their credit cards less will increase their score. Or that if they avoid applying for credit too often, no new hard inquiries will be listed and decrease their score.
Being in the know is important when it comes to a person’s credit score. Even if they don’t want to monitor their credit on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, obtaining a free credit report every year would still allow them to keep an eye on things and do what is necessary to maintain a healthy credit score.
Do IRS Installment Agreements Affect Your Credit Score? Find Out Here
Paying your federal taxes when they become due isn’t always an option. When you have other debts to worry about and money is tight, you have to consider all of your options. An IRS installment agreement is a solution to this problem, but some people may be hesitant because they aren’t exactly sure how it works and how it can affect their credit score.
If you can’t pay your taxes and are considering alternatives, here’s what you need to know about IRS installment agreements and how your credit score can be affected.
What is an IRS Installment Agreement?
When the tax due date rolls around, taxpayers are expected to have already paid their taxes or to make a payment that day. It is like any other bill that you have to pay, but making one lump sum payment is not ideal for those who simply don’t have the money. Paying the total amount due may not be possible that day, and avoiding this debt is out of the question, so an installment agreement is an affordable alternative that will allow taxpayers to take care of this debt.
An installment agreement is one option for those who need a bit of time to pay their tax debt. An installment agreement is an agreement between the IRS and taxpayers. This agreement gives taxpayers the chance to take care of their tax debt over an extended period of time and ensures the IRS receives the money that is owed.
The IRS will then automatically withdraw payments on the due date every month, or you will make manual payments on or by the due date every month.
Do IRS Installment Agreements Affect Your Credit Score?
Credit scores are calculated using information about your payment history, debt, credit history length, new credit, and types of credit accounts you own. Each of these categories counts for a percentage of the credit score, and depending on a certain activity, people may see a negative or positive score change.
For example, a missed or late payment on your student loan, a new credit card account, and even a denied personal loan application can negatively affect your credit score. An on-time payment or not applying for new credit will have a positive effect on your credit score. That being the case, it is important to avoid certain activities if you don’t want to see a drop in score.
As mentioned above, your credit report will list the debts you owe; however; not all debts will be included in your report. The information listed on a person’s credit report is submitted or reported by creditors, and the IRS does not report federal tax debt to the credit bureaus. This means that an IRS installment agreement does not directly affect your credit score.
Should You Apply for an IRS Installment Agreement?
There are disadvantages to an installment agreement, but the one advantage that makes this option so appealing to taxpayers is that they can pay off their debt over time with no effect on your credit score. If you cannot pay your federal taxes by the due date, then an installment agreement may be the best option you have that will ensure you get this debt paid off and avoid further penalties.
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