Home > Credit Score > FICO v. VantageScore: 5 Differences You Should Understand

Comments 17 Comments

It’s been almost a decade since VantageScore appeared on the credit scoring scene to challenge Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO), following years of FICO’s dominance that led to its credit bureau risk scores becoming the industry standard for lenders making prescreened credit offers, approving or denying applications for new credit, and managing their existing credit accounts. (Full disclosure: I worked for FICO for 16 years).

While consumers are still more likely to see their credit applications evaluated with a credit score created by FICO than by VantageScore, they are, at the same time, most likely to receive Vantage scores when ordering their credit reports from the major consumer reporting agencies (CRAs): Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

This emergence of two big players where once there was only one can’t help but lead to comparisons between FICO and VantageScore, particularly when finding a large point spread between two different scores. Hopefully, by identifying and closely examining some of these differences, you’ll be able to keep on track toward a better credit rating, regardless of what scoring system is used. Note that my comparisons are based on the most recent versions of each.

1. The Scoring Models Are Different

FICO bases its credit scoring models on credit reports belonging to millions of anonymous consumers obtained separately from each of the three CRAs. They then build a separate model for each CRA based on that agency’s data. FICO scores range from 300 to 850, with higher scores indicating lower risk.

Vantage, on the other hand, develops its credit scoring models using a combined set of consumer credit files from the three CRAs to come up with a single formula for use by all three. Vantage scores range from 501 to 990, but the more recent model–VantageScore 3, ranges from 300 – 850. Just like FICO, higher scores equating to lower risk, and unlike FICO, letter grades from A to F.

2. Credit Scoring Requirements Differ

Not everyone has a credit score, since any scoring formula requires at least some amount of credit experience upon which to base its predictions. And for those of us who do have credit scores — whether FICO or Vantage — there are many different ways to obtain a copy of them.

While many of the differences between the two makes of credit score are minor, some of the bare minimum requirements needed to create a score differ substantially between FICO and VantageScore, with FICO requiring at least six months of history and at least one account reported in the past six months, and Vantage only requiring one month of history and an account reported to the CRA within the past two years. As a result, Vantage is able to score millions more consumers, which is good news for those new to credit or who have not been using credit recently.

3. Late Payments Are Not Created Equal

Fundamentally, both look at accounts with a history of late payments in similar ways, particularly in terms of:

  • Recency: How long ago the most recent late payment occurred.
  • Frequency: How many accounts on the credit report have experienced late payments.
  • Severity: How many payments were missed on an account.

One difference between the two models, however, is that while FICO treats all late payments — regardless of the type of account — similarly, VantageScore “penalizes” late mortgage payments more than it does other types of credit. As a result, if you’re late on your mortgage, that late payment may more seriously impact your Vantage than your FICO score.

4. How Inquiries Are Counted Can Differ

While hard credit inquiries impact both Vantage and FICO scores only minimally — especially when compared with other, more serious, scoring factors — each scoring model offers consumers a benefit not provided by the other when multiple inquiries appear on a credit report for a single type of credit transaction.

While both treat multiple inquiries posted within a focused period of time as a single inquiry, they differ in their “deduplication” methods, as:

  • FICO uses a 45-day span, while Vantage uses 14 days.
  • Vantage applies this special treatment across all types of credit (cards, autos, etc.), while FICO only applies it to mortgage, auto and student loans.

Again, inquiries don’t have a major scoring impact, but when a score is just a couple of points lower than it needs to be to qualify for a mortgage, understanding the ways in which multiple inquiries are counted can be important.

5. Low-Balance Collections May Affect One and Not the Other

When it comes to scoring third-party collection agency items on a credit report, VantageScore 3 ignores paid collection accounts. FICO 8 ignores entirely all collections where the original balance was under $100. However, FICO 8, which is not yet used for most scores that lenders use or that consumers will receive. Until the newest version is more widely adopted, you may or may not see the benefit of this reflected in your score.

In concluding this FICO/VantageScore comparison, it’s as good a time as any to remind ourselves that regardless of the scoring model it’s still all about making all payments on time, keeping balances low and only applying for new credit when necessary; yet when every point counts, knowing some of the subtleties of credit scoring can make all the difference in the world.

You can get a free VantageScore 3, updated monthly, from Credit.com. You can also see how your score compares to others and get an action plan for your credit.

Editor’s note: This story was updated July 7, 2015, to reflect the newest credit scoring models released by VantageScore Solutions and FICO.

More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

  • http://www.eCredable.com Steve Ely

    Outstanding explanation of the differences of these two scores. As long as consumers focus on good financial habits and pay their bills on time, the score will generally take care of itself.

    • Barry Paperno

      Isn’t that the truth, Steve! But you’ve got to admit that credit reports and scores can present some head-scratching surprises, even for those who manage their credit perfectly.

  • http://www.creditplus.com Adam Pope

    I recently had a client who’s borrower had a $5 collection on their file in error. They had it removed and score went up 54 points! I was always told FICO ignores small collections, but no way to explain that. Nothing else changed on the file?

    • Barry Paperno

      I knew someone would bring up this excellent point, Adam! Most likely, the score in question was not FICO 8, the latest version of FICO. The older versions don’t exclude collections of any amount. (Note: I added a reference to this in the above post after the initial publication, and no doubt after you read it.)

  • Pingback: Did Credit Scores Just Get Fairer? | Credit.com News + Advice()

  • Pingback: The Gun Score: A Credit Score for the NRA | Credit.com News + Advice()

  • Pingback: The States With the Highest Credit Scores | Best Credit Repair()

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Hi Tina –

    We compared FICO and Plus score ranges in this article: The Credit Score Range. The FICO score goes up to 850 and the Plus score goes to 830 so all other factors being equal, a similar Plus score will likely be a little lower.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler


    I truly wish I had a simple answer for you. My first thought is that when those negative items came off your credit reports you “jumped scorecards.” Within scoring models consumers are further segmented into buckets and compared to other consumers in those groups. When the serious derogatories were no longer reported you may have moved into another group.

    My other thought is that perhaps you removed more recent information which affects how your score is calculated.

    And that’s the problem with quick fixes like this; there is so much going on within the scoring model that it is really hard to tell which items will have exactly what effect.

    The only thing I can think of that might have a positive effect is if someone you live with can add you to a positive longstanding credit card account – “piggybacking” – but that may or may not work as we wrote about here: The Credit Building Trick That Won’t Help You Buy a Home

    As for comparing the Experian NES score with FICO, I wouldn’t suggest you do that. Even if you knew how the numbers correspond, the individual variables both scores consider may be treated differently. So right now your goal should be to focus just on the FICO scores used by your mortgage lenders.

    That’s not to say you didn’t do the right thing. Cleaning up these negative items will help in the long run but clearly it is not helping you in the short term.

    There is a tool called CreditXpert that some loan officers use to help borrowers like you. Have you asked your loan officer if he or she has access to it and can run an analysis for you? It is supposed to show them legitimate ways to get your scores up based on the credit scoring models lenders use.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Glad I can help though I wish I could offer you more specific suggestions. My concern with a secured card is that it will be a new account and so it’s not going to provide that much of a credit reference. I wonder if it’s worth talking to another mortgage lender with more experience on the credit side…

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    It may be a different model. Do they tell you which model they are using? (There is more than one Experian score…)

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    The VantageScore you are getting through TU must be VantageScore 2 which runs on a scale of 501 – 990. So that is quite a different scale to begin with. The other VantageScore you got may be VantageScore 3 which runs from 300 – 850. I know it gets confusing! We talked about the different credit scoring scales in this article: What Is a Good Credit Score?

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    That certainly is a big difference. Are both scores based on information from the same credit reporting agency? When you say “true” FICO score what do you mean–did you purchase it directly from FICO and have you confirmed the score range is 300-850? (One FICO score provided by a major card issuer, for example, goes up to 950.)

  • Funguy 2020

    Why am I feeling that the Vantage Score is not taken very seriously, and was created to make the consumer feel good, with an artificially-high score? That’s like changing the 2 points you get for scoring a basket in basketball, to 4 points. Same game, just double the points.

    • Yuliya Zborovskaya

      ugh so true, most places still use the FICO, so when i checked creditkarma for my “credit score” it said 640 (they use the vantage), tried to apply for preapproval for a mortgage, they use FICO and my credit score was really 588. huge difference, and i obviously got denied.

  • Eve Rizzageno

    Can you tell me if the VantageScore® credit score is similar to the score a lender would pull if they used FICO? I have been working on improving my score for awhile now and have frequently pulled a score through sites such as CreditKarma and other ” free score” sites that are higher than a lender might . Like Lisa below, It’s very frustrating and disappointing. I just pulled an updated score from Quizzle today 9/11/16 that is 653 which is wonderful as I am trying to be pre-approved for a USDA loan however I don’t want to contact the lender and have him pull up a FICO score that is below 640.
    Is the VantageScore a reliable indicator or should I pull up a FICO and if so, which site is most accurate? Thanks.

    • Jeanine Skowronski

      It’s a bit like comparing apples to oranges. Both scoring models have differences and similarities, but even if we were to break all those down, it still might not reflect the score your lender is looking at, since they may have a proprietary version of either. What you want to do is track a single consumer score over time as your work to improve and focus on information on your report summary — what areas are you scoring well on? What areas can you do better? You also should focus on what range you fall in to get an idea of how creditworthy you may be to lenders. Here’s a quick rundown:

      Excellent Credit: 750+
      Good Credit: 700-749
      Fair Credit: 650-699
      Poor Credit: 600-649
      Bad Credit: below 600

      You can view your scores for free on Credit.com here: https://www.credit.com/free-credit-report-card/





      • Eve Rizzageno

        Thanks Jeanine. this scoring system in not helpful to the consumer at all. I found out recently that companies have to pay monthly to keep the negative reporting on a person’s record. Is that accurate? How about positive reporting?
        I pulled my credit score from several different sites on 9/12/16 and the numbers are all over the place. Is it possible to get pre-approved now with these scores? I surely do hope so. I have very little debt right now and am going to pay down significantly my current credit card debt which is only 1500.00 next week. It should only be about 600.00 total debt after that. How long before I see a bump in my low credit scores? Will it take 30 days?
        Here are my current scores. Weird how wildly spread the numbers are.
        Equifax: FICO® Score 8
        powered by Equifax 727
        Transunion: FICO® Score 8
        powered by Transunion 615
        Experian: FICO® Score 8
        powered by Experian 601
        Transunion Vantagescore 653
        Credit.com score: 670

        • Jeanine Skowronski

          Companies pay to pull reports from the bureaus and as part of the deal report to the bureaus. Is that what you’re thinking of? Negative info can stay on reports for 7 years , by law. Some bankruptcies can stay on for 10. Companies can’t continue to report after those windows, so if you have info on your credit report that is older than that, you can dispute it.

          You can find more info here:




  • Jeanine Skowronski

    It depends on what score they’re using — which could even be different from the two scores you mention. That being said, there are a few things you can do to try to give your credit (and all your scores) a quick boost. More info here:




Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other sponsored content on Credit.com are Partners with Credit.com. Credit.com receives compensation if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any financial products or cards offered.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team