Flip on an episode of the Great British Baking Show, and you’ll see firsthand how judges impact the outcome. These experts see the exact same performance but rate the outcomes in different ways influenced by the weight they place on the components. The same variation occurs when determining your credit score! There are a number of factors that make your score fluctuate up and down between 300 and 850. However, two companies hold the specific and proprietary algorithms that compute your score: FICO and VantageScore 3.0. Both use data from the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. So what’s the difference between these two judges?


The FICO Score is owned by the data analytics company Fair, Issac, and Company, who created the tool back in 1989. The three consumer credit agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) joined forces in 2006, creating the VantageScore, as an alternative scoring tool. Due to its longevity in the business, the former is used more often by lenders than its younger competitor. If you have received a score in years past from a mortgage or auto lender, it was most likely this type. In this model, it’s scoring of the highest to lowest percentages considers these factors:

Payment history – 35%
Owed amounts – 30%
Credit history – 15%
Credit mix- 10%
New credit – 10%

These factors reveal whether you’re late on your payments (collections are always bad news), what kinds of loan types you hold, such as a car loan, a mortgage, or credit cards, and whether or not your recent activity reveals you’ve opened new lines of credit or have submitted several applications for new credit (which is frowned upon). They also dive into the total amounts owed across all your current loans and open lines of credit as well as the length (longer is better) of your entire credit history. Once the full history of your credit is known, FICO issues a score with its proprietary algorithm. The resulting score is what lenders see and helps them evaluate your creditworthiness.

VantageScore 3.0

VantageScore 3.0 and rates your credit score in much the same way. However, rather than determining your score by percentage, they determine it by what is more or less influential in your credit history. Your balance, available credit, and credit usage overall are extremely influential with regard to your credit score. After that comes the various mix of credit accounts you hold, followed by the history of your payments, then the total age of your credit history, and any new credit you may have recently opened.

Back in 2022, the VantageScore 2.0 revised its scoring range from 501 to 900, making the current 3.0 model scores range from 300 to 850. So even though these two companies determine your score in unique ways, your score itself should not fluctuate greatly between them. They’ll vary slightly, yet within the same ballpark. Receiving significantly different scores is an indicator of data inputs negatively impacting your score, and warrants a closer review of your credit reports. The general consensus is that a score of 700+ is considered good. Find out more about your credit score and these two companies at experian.com.

Check Your Credit Score for Free

For many years, accessing a credit report was readily available at no cost at AnnualCreditReport.com. In contrast, accessing your score requires paying a fee! As consumers’ appetite for financial knowledge and competition increases, lenders added offers for free credit score access to their borrowers.

If you have an existing relationship with these popular lenders, you’re able to check your credit score for free. Here is a brief lender list currently offering score-related benefits are:

The exact offerings, including credit scores, credit monitoring, or even alert services, vary by company. You might receive either FICO or AdvantageScore 3.0, depending on your creditor and the frequency with which the number gets updated. Taking advantage of the opportunity, by logging onto your lenders’ website and enrolling in the free benefit.

Beware of tools like CreditKarma and Credit Sesame, however, as they provide only an approximation of your credit score and not the actual score itself. Be prepared for variations if you decide to go this route. If you wish to know your actual credit score, it is always best to pull it from one of these two trusted and well-known credit reporting companies.

Now that you know the difference between scoring tools, it’s worth mentioning that the two elements of consumer credit, the credit report and credit score, are not interchangeable. If you want to brush up on the differences, check out our article Your Credit Report vs. Your Credit Score.

At Organized Instincts, our team of daily money managers services will help you attain higher FICO and VantageScores. Schedule a no-obligation conversation today and learn how these two judges’ calculations might be negatively impacting your credit score, and how we can help turn things around.