One way to keep track of your financial well-being is to regularly check your credit score and credit report. Credit scores are used by various companies, such as stores and banks, to get a sense of how well you can manage credit. This helps companies to determine how much of a risk you are in terms of paying the loaned money back. Payment history is taken into consideration in terms of on time payments and if you carry a balance. They consider how often you pay your payments on time, your credit utilization, how long you’ve had a credit line, sources of credit, etc. If you are considering making a large purchase, like a home, an automobile, or taking out a loan, your credit score will be an incredibly important factor in the decision.
There are three primary credit bureaus that keep track of your credit history: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Lenders will consider the information that has been reported to these institutions to determine your creditworthiness, and to establish the terms of your lending agreement. Some may choose one credit bureau over another, which may result in slightly different scores. To make sense of these records, companies may rely on your FICO or Vantage credit scores.
These scores are somewhat comparable, but these two scoring models place different weights on certain aspects of your credit behavior found on your reports. Although your credit scores may vary, the differences don't mean that any of the scores are inaccurate. Your credit scores might be different based on which credit reporting agency your lender uses. When you check your credit scores, you may not be seeing the same credit score numbers as your lender.
Lenders will most likely look at your FICO scores (about 90% of credit decisions are made using it). The scores range from 300 to 850—the average score being between 650-720.
A FICO score lower than 580 is rated poorly and is considered a high lending risk. Scores ranging between 580 and 669 are considered fair. Scores between 670 and 739 are good. Scores 740 to 799 are deemed even better. Finally, scores above 800 are exceptional and are considered the lowest lending risk.
Here is how FICO scores are calculated: 35% is payment history, relative amount owed is 30%, length of credit history is 15%, new credit is 10%, and credit variety is 10%.
Note: Since FICO updates its calculation models, there are various iterations of the scores.
VantageScore is a newer, alternative scoring model, developed by the three large credit reporting companies. Their scores also range from 300 to 850—the average score being 698.
However, compared to FICO, VantageScores have slightly different range ratings. Scores between 300 and 600 are rated “subprime” and are considered high lending risks. Scores in the range of 601 and 660 are “near prime.” Scores 661 to 780 are deemed “prime.” Lastly, scores above 781 are deemed “superprime” and the lowest lending risk.
The credit behavior weights are slightly different for this model. For instance, VantageScore 3.0 is scored like the following: 40% comes from payment history, 21% from age of credit source, 20% from credit utilization, 11% from current balances, 5% from new credit lines, and 3% from available credit. VantageScore 4.0 looks a little differently because of its slightly different weights.
Keep in Mind
Your FICO and Vantage score may vary depending on which of the three credit bureaus is consulted. Regardless of what model is used, the general rule of thumb is this: the higher the score, the better. Since these credit scores are meant, in part, to determine creditworthiness, make sure to stay on top of your payments and credit utilization, for example. To see how you are doing, many banks offer complementary FICO score monitoring services along with their credit cards. HUECU members can view their credit scores through online banking (LINK TO COME). To maintain great financial health, check your score once a month to track any potential deviations. This way you have a better idea of how lenders view you in terms of credit risk.
The score that your credit card company provides you with, for example, might be slightly different than the score your lender sees. This is because, as mentioned before, different kinds of lenders may opt for more industry-specific versions of FICO. For instance, mortgage lenders may use FICO Score 2, 4, or 5. However, for an auto loan, a company may consult FICO Auto Score because it is more sensitive to factors relevant to “auto-loan-specific” risk behavior.
Free Credit Counseling
All HUECU members have access to free credit counseling through our partners at GreenPath Financial Wellness. Accredited credit counselors can review your credit report and provide you with tips to improve your score. Having a GreenPath counselor pull your credit score will not impact your credit score negatively. Contact a GreenPath counselor at huecu.org/GreenPath.