What your credit score means to you.

credit score

The Basics

There is a whole jungle of credit score models out there, from Credit Karma’s consumer-friendly TransRisk score, the lender standard FICO, to the new-kid-on-the-block VantageScore.

All these models have one big thing in common: they numerically assess (your three-digit credit score number) your creditworthiness so that lenders can determine your risk as a potential borrower. The big difference is in how they do that.

Credit score models use different algorithms to weigh each part of your credit report differently, plus your credit report from the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian — may also differ slightly and calculate differently into the varying models. Which explains why you might have a 750 score on Credit Karma but a 766 FICO score. The different scoring models have different credit score ranges and different formulas, so comparing scores is like comparing apples to oranges.

So What’s the VantageScore

Once upon a time in the 1970s, the Fair Isaacs Company created the first credit scoring system now adopted as the industry lending standard. More recently, the VantageScore was cooperatively created between the big three bureaus as a new generic credit score model that claims to give a “consistent interpretation” and more “accurate score”. Shared by all three bureaus, VantageScore is touted on the website as “The New Standard in Credit Scoring”, intended to compete with the FICO score. Some of the main differences between the classic FICO score and the new contender include:

  • VantageScore aims to create an easier-to-understand system by using letter grades to spell out what kind of credit score you have: 901-990 = A or Super Prime, 801-900 = B or Prime Plus, 701-800 = C or Prime, 601-700 = D or Non-Prime, and 501-600 = F or High Risk.
  • VantageScore’s credit score formula takes into account 6 components of your credit score: payment history, utilization, balances, depth of credit, recent credit, and available credit. FICO’s classic model has 5 components: payment history, amount of debt, credit history, types of accounts, and inquiries.
  • VantageScore claims to better score thin file consumers more accurately.
  • You can purchase a VantageScore for $7.95 and a FICO score for $15.95.
  • While FICO remains the industry standard, more than six billion VantageScore credit scores were used by lenders and other industry participants, including seven of the top 10 largest financial institutions in the U.S., in the 12-month period from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015..
  • Keep in mind, your VantageScore will still vary between the three credit bureaus. While they use the same scoring model, the information on your credit report may differ from bureau to bureau.


The most important thing to focus on isn’t differences between your credit score from different models, or even what credit score model to use.

Evaluate your credit score the way lenders will – not just as 3 digits, but as a glimpse of your credit health. So monitoring your credit score over time and understanding why your credit score changes is your most valuable insight, allowing you to figure out good credit habits and how to build towards a better credit score. That’s what Credit Karma aims to do for consumers—help you understand and work towards healthy credit by giving you free, everyday access to your credit score.

So whether you check your FICO score, VantageScore, or your Credit Karma score, use it as a gauge to figure out how to take your credit score from current to excellent.

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