Though it defies logic, it’s part of financial life in America.
But why? And does it matter?
Why Are My Credit Scores Different?
A podcast listener recently asked the question of money expert Clark Howard. This particular listener claimed Experian listed his score at 753, but a local car dealer ran a credit check and quoted him an 840 score.
Although the 87-point gap is unusually large, Clark pointed out that it’s not at all uncommon for anyone’s score to vary from credit bureau to credit bureau.
“You have many, many different FICO scores depending on the purpose they’re for: mortgage, car, credit card — and depending on which bureau they’re relying on,” Clark says. “So you said your Experian was 753. The 840 they pulled could’ve been from Transunion or Equifax. The different credit granters report to different bureaus. It’s very rare they report to all three.”
It’s important to note that a FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) score can come only from that specific entity, though you can have more than one FICO score. Most lenders use a FICO score to determine whether to loan you money.
“The three main bureaus hate that FICO dominates the credit score market, so they started selling their own impostor score called a VantageScore,” Clark says.
Your FICO score and your VantageScore can vary quite a bit. Here’s some more information on how you can find each score.
What Is a Good Credit Score?
Many people with good credit scores overestimate the importance between, say, a 760 and an 800 credit score. At that point, Clark says, “You’re already qualifying for the best loans and the best loan rates.”
While subtle score differences may matter for some people in some instances, surpassing 800 usually provides you no additional value.
If you’re trying to get a loan and they tell you that your credit score is higher than you anticipated, that’s typically a good thing.
“Usually when I hear from people, it’s to the bad. They’ll check their score and it’ll be a 775, and then they go to a car dealer and they say, ‘You only have a 644.’ They’re like, ‘What?’ In your case, it was obviously to the good for you,” Clark says in response to the listener’s question.
It’s possible to sweat your credit score, and its constant fluctuations, too much and too often. But it’s also possible to get a free credit report from multiple sources.