Credit Score vs. FICO score – What’s the Difference?

picture of laptop with credit score illustration

As you work to improve your credit, you may question if there is a difference between your credit score vs. FICO. There is not just one simple score! In fact, there are numerous companies that offer credit scoring models including FICO and others. But how do you ensure you have your optimal score?

Knowledge about the various credit scoring products can absolutely improve your financial future. We will explain how the various credit scores are calculated. We also will describe the similarities and differences so you can make sure you check your scores and then strategically make improvements.

Question mark

What is a credit score?

First, it’s good to understand what a credit score is. Simply put, a credit score is a number that represents your credit-worthiness. It is a calculation made by a scoring algorithm created by various credit score companies. A credit score is used by banks and lenders to predict your credit risk.

Therefore, your score influences the likelihood of you getting a credit card or loan as well as the interest rates you’ll end up paying on these loans. The higher your credit score the better. If you have a poor score, lenders are more apt to not extend you credit or if they do, you’ll pay a lot more. 

Credit scores usually range from 300 to 850 regardless if you are considering credit Score vs. FICO. The number is formulated using various pieces of financial data reported by credit agencies. Usually, the credit agency data is from one of the big three – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

What is a FICO score?

A FICO score is only one brand of your credit score but it is extremely common. The FICO scoring model was created by Fair Isaac Corporation, in 1989. Over the years, its basic scoring model has evolved and FICO has added additional scoring models based on industry and loan type (auto loan, credit cards, and mortgages). Today, most lenders will use your FICO score or a variation of it. According to FICO, more than 90% of top lenders use FICO scores. 

Explanation of a FICO score

The basic FICO scores range from 300 to 850 and are calculated based on the following:

  • Payment history: 35%
  • Amounts owed: 30%
  • Length of credit history: 15%
  • New credit: 10%
  • Credit mix: 10%
Credit score ranges

What is considered a good FICO score?

According to FICO, here are the credit ranges:

  • Exceptional: 800+
  • Very good: 740 to 799
  • Good: 670 to 739
  • Fair: 580 to 669
  • Poor: 579 and below

Keep in mind that FICO scores that are based on specific industry or credit type may have a slightly different range.  

How do I get my FICO score?

You have a few ways you can get your FICO scores. FICO allows you to get your classic FICO score for Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax through the myFICO website. You may also get it various credit card issuers, such as Discover. Keep in mind though, because there are numerous FICO scores, you may not be able to see the same scores that your lenders are privy to. Knowing your basic FICO score does give you a good idea of where your creditworthiness stands.

TIP: Learn what is on your credit reports. All credit scoring companies use the data captured most likely by the three agencies, Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. Make sure your data is correct and if there is something unfavorable, work to resolve it. 

More Credit Scores

Another leading credit scoring model that you should be aware of is VantageScore. VantageScore was created by the three credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. While VantageScore is newer, created in 2006, it is growing in use. For this reason, you should also be aware of your VantageScore.

Explanation of VantageScore

The basic VantageScore ranges from 300 to 850 and are calculated based on the following:

  • Payment history: 40%
  • Age and type of credit: 21%
  • Credit utilization: 20%
  • Balances: 11%
  • Recent credit: 5%
  • Available credit: 3%

What is considered a good VantageScore?

According to VantageScore, here are the credit ranges:

  • Very good: 781 to 850
  • Good: 661 to 780
  • Fair: 601 to 660
  • Poor: 300 to 600

How do I find out my VantageScore?

You can get your VantageScores from free credit report websites, such as Credit Karma and Credit Sesame. Also, TransUnion and Experian offer VantageScores to consumers for a fee through their websites.

Credit Agencies and Their Scores

Each of the major credit agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion ) has its own credit score. These large finance bureaus collect and report on credit history. And, their corresponding scores utilize the data each agency maintains. Here are their credit score ranges.

Experian: 330 – 830

Equifax: 300 – 850

TransUnion: 300 – 850

While all of these scoring models are different, they all consider similar things in your financial history including your payments, age and mix of credit, credit utilization, balances, and recent and available credit.

Keep in mind that while these credit scores are great tools to learn about how you rank financially, banks will rarely use one of these credit scores as a stand-alone assessment of you.


As we have shown, there are numerous options as far as your credit score goes whether you are considering a credit score vs. FICO. The various credit scores are similar in that they use your financial data, most likely collected by one of the large credit agencies, to make a numerical representation of your creditworthiness. Credit scores are different from one another either because of the source of its information or the actual calculation. Ultimately, you need to be knowledgable about the several credit-scoring models out there. You can then learn more about what financial data is on your credit reports and find out where your credit scores stand.