Having a good credit score is important for consumers in the market to make a large purchase, such as a home or a car. However, the variety of different credit scores can confuse those who are unfamiliar with how they are calculated. Like one such Money Minute viewer who asks, “Why does my credit score vary depending on the reporting agency, and are credit monitoring services accurate when they calculate my credit score?”
RP Funding CEO and host of the Money Minute radio show, Robert Palmer uses his financial expertise to answer this viewer question and offer valuable advice on how to decipher credit scores from various credit monitoring services.
Are Credit Monitoring Services Accurate?
Many people lack the understanding that a credit score is a bank’s way of determining if they can take a risk on lending someone money. They also don’t know that there are different credit bureaus that calculate their credit scores.
Know Your Credit Monitoring Services
There are three credit bureaus in this country that calculate credit scores; Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. One of the reasons the credit scores change between bureaus is because they do not all use the exact same scoring model.
Timing is Everything
In addition to using different models, the timing of when the banks report to the three credit bureaus can contribute to variances in credit scores. The bureaus all receive slightly different data at different times of the month. For example, let’s say my bank uploads to Experian on the first day of the month, but they don’t upload to Equifax until the twelfth of the month. The differences in the way the data gets moved around across a number of days can affect the credit scores between bureaus.
As far as the accuracy of the credit monitoring services’ score, it depends on whether or not you are getting the FICO score. The traditional score that banks use for all three bureaus uses an algorithm written in the background by Fair, Isaac, and Company, or FICO. The algorithm takes information from one of the three bureaus’ reports to generate a credit score. This number can range from a low score of 300 to a perfect credit score of 850.
A lot of credit monitoring companies try to sell you what I call the “FAKE-O” score. Fake scores like VantageScore® are used more as a risk score by Experian, TransUnion and Equifax to help lenders determine your creditworthiness, but it is not a reliable credit score. There are also industry-specific credit scores that use the FICO algorithm such as mortgage scores, auto scores, and bankcard scores, among others. You don’t want that. You want the FICO score. That’s the real deal credit score you should be tracking and the best way to be sure the credit monitoring service is accurate.