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Which Credit Score Should I Check?

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It would be a phenomenal waste of time to try and find out all your credit scores.

Don’t take that the wrong way: Credit scores are important, but there are dozens of them. There are so many scores, it’s hard to know where to begin. I suppose we can start with why there are scores of scores. (Pun intended. See? Credit scores can be fun.)

Species of Credit Scores

First off, there are two big distinctions when it comes to credit scores: Those used by lenders and educational scores. All scores can be educational, actually, because you can learn a lot by keeping track of one, but lenders purchase credit scores from scoring companies like FICO and VantageScore to help them decide whether or not to approve your loan applications.

FICO — if you know anything about credit scores, you’ve probably heard of these guys. They’re the biggest player in the credit scoring industry, but there are many FICO scores. They have about 50 different scoring models that lenders can buy, depending on their business. Depending on what the lender wants to know, they can buy different scores that focus on a particular part of your credit history. For instance: Auto lenders are going to care a lot more about your previous car-payment history than your credit card activity, and vice versa.

Just like how you shouldn’t try and find all your scores, I’m not going to list all the scores you could possibly have. The point: You should know that you have a lot of credit scores, and chances are most of them aren’t going to be the same three numbers.

Focusing on What’s Important

There is no single, ultimate credit score. Not FICO, not VantageScore, not anyone. Don’t get obsessed with numbers.

At the same time, you should have an idea of where you fall on the credit spectrum. The best way to figure this out is to choose a score you can access regularly and measure how your number changes over time. Comparing the same, single score will reflect how your behavior, like making loan payments on time or driving up a high balance on your credit cards, is impacting your score. You can see your VantageScore 3.0 and Experian credit score for free with Credit.com. Also, some credit card issuers offer free FICO scores on credit card statements.

The most important credit score is the one your lender uses, but you’re never going to know exactly which score that is. Short of knowing every score you have, the next best thing you can do is know how your habits generally impact your credit standing, and that is best measured by comparing apples to apples: See how the same score changes over time.

More on Credit Reports and Credit Scores:

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  • Jeremiah Diskin

    Christine, you brilliantly summed up it all in one sentence at the end,”Short of knowing every score you have, the next best thing you can do is know how your habits generally impact your credit standing” In my opinion, making timely payments is the best way to stop worrying about credit scores.

    Jeremiah Diskin,
    Financial Planner

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