Credit score Q&A: “Are credit scores and Fico scores the same?”
This is a pretty common question, and one that creates quite a bit of confusion because Fico scores are so very popular.
You could almost blame Fico for causing this “problem,” given the fact that they’ve pushed their proprietary credit scoring system as the be all and end all credit score.
Fico Scores Are a “Brand” of Credit Score
In fact, they’ve pretty much branded Fico scores as credit scores, making the two interchangeable to most consumers.
But in reality, Fico scores are really only one of the many credit scores available to consumers, and only one of many used by creditors.
However, most creditors and lenders pull Fico scores when they check your creditworthiness.
At the same time, most credit scores consumers pull on their own, or receive for free via a variety of different services, including free trials, are not Fico scores.
This doesn’t mean they’re worthless, or not representative of the credit scores prospective creditors will see.
After all, they are modeled after the Fico score for the most part, meaning they will generally have the same credit score scale and scoring properties. But they’re still not genuine Fico scores.
The only way you can get a Fico score is by purchasing one via myFico.com, or viewing one after a creditor pulls it.
And Fico pushes the “only trust a Fico score” mantra, but there’s one huge problem.
You Can’t Order All 3 Fico Scores
In the past, you could order all three Fico scores on your own, one from each of the three major credit reporting agencies.
This was clearly the best way to determine your creditworthiness, as you would see the same thing as lenders (for the most part).
But the general public can no longer order an Experian Fico score, meaning you only have access to Fico scores from Equifax and TransUnion.
This is essentially worthless to some degree, as you won’t know what’s going on with your Experian Fico score.
You can still see your Experian Fico score if a lender pulls it, but by then it’ll be too late, assuming there are any problems.
Funnily enough, Fico calls on consumers to check all three of their Fico scores before applying for loans, but now this is impossible.
So what are we consumers to do?
Are Fico Scores and Other Credit Scores Really That Different?
Well, when it comes down it, Fico scores and credit scores pulled via free trial websites and other sources, known in the industry as “Fako scores,” shouldn’t be all that different.
Sure, there could be quite a range between your Fako score and your Fico score, but I would say more often than not the two credit scores should be pretty inline with one another.
I’ve pulled free credit scores via the trial websites in the past and they’ve always been pretty reliable in terms of predicting what my Fico score actually was.
So you certainly do not need to order genuine Fico scores, especially when you can only get your hands on two of them.
I’d rather have three Fako scores so I knew where I stood with all three of the credit reporting agencies.
Otherwise you could be completely in the dark with Experian, which is probably an even bigger risk than simply seeing a little divergence between Fico scores and Fako scores.
After all, a lender may only rely upon your Experian Fico score, or a lender may use your midscore, which takes into account all three credit scores.
So it’s pretty critical to know where you stand with all three companies, not just two, even if the numbers might be slightly off.
All that said, I still believe the free credit scores you can obtain from a variety of companies are a pretty good indicator of where you stand credit wise.