Credit scores: They determine whether we can buy a home, car and even get student loans. Consumers in general are captive to credit reporting agencies. We expect them to get our payment histories right. For years, FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) has had a corner on the credit score market. Consumers are not privy to their FICO score and the first sign of a problem is a credit rejection. The rejection reasons for most loans is a low credit score. Over the last decade, a FICO competitor has emerged: Vantage.
What is Vantage?
The three major credit reporting agencies came together and created Vantage. Vantage’s scoring model is different than FICOs model. Vantage uses a shorter look-back period for late payments. They also use a different grading system for charged off accounts. Vantage’s goal was to address a specific need. They believed there as a need for “a highly consistent, more predictive scoring model that is easy to understand and apply”. Remember, they still look at many of the same factors as FICO, just for shorter periods of time.
Multiple credit score confusion
Consumers have a different credit score depending on the reporting agency. Transunion, Equifax and Experian reports often contain different information. This is due to the various times they pull reports from your creditors. When you apply for a credit card, car loan or mortgage, your lender pulls your credit report. These reports have a FICO score associated with them. Depending on which report your lender requests, your FICO score will vary. This causes confusion for borrowers who are not provided the same scores offered to lenders.
Vantage Use vs FICO
While some lenders are using Vantage scores, FICO still has a corner on the market. Credit decisions based on FICO scores may be more detrimental to those new to the credit markets. The fact is, like it or not, most major lenders still use FICO to make lending decisions. Borrowers with a strong FICO score are more likely to have their request approved. Low credit scores likely mean a rejected request. This applies to credit cards, car loans and home mortgages and is not shocking.
What does this mean for consumers?
Not much. Access to credit will vary little regardless of whether a lender uses FICO or Vantage. Consumers will have the same access to credit regardless of which score the lender uses. Since a small minority of lenders are using Vantage, you won’t see any changes in your ability to borrow. For young borrowers, lenders who use Vantage may offer them a slight edge. The problem is finding these lenders may be challenging.
FICO versions: What you may not know
Early in 2016, FICO released FICO9. Most lenders have not adopted this version of your score. Chances are high they will not adopt this model either. The reason is simple: Many lenders are using older models for credit decisions. For example:
Car loans – The three major reporting agencies use FICO Auto Score most of the time. Depending on the lender, they may use version 2, 4 or 5.
Credit cards – Credit card companies prefer FICO Bankcard 8. Credit agencies often still use versions 2, 3, 3 4 and 5.
Mortgage loans – This is perhaps the most complicated scoring. Experian uses FICO Score 2, Equifax uses FICO Score 5 and Transunion uses FICO Score 4.
Consumers who are considering applying for credit should pull a free credit report. Verify all information in your report is correct. Understand what factors go into determining your credit score. Don’t open up credit lines you don’t need, make your payments on time and keep your balances low. This is the path to a higher FICO score which you’ll most likely need if you apply for a home mortgage or car loan.