More than 9 out of 10 lenders use your FICO score when qualifying you — but there are still close to 10% that will turn to your VantageScore instead. This puts you at risk of having the wrong information if you are only focusing on your FICO score.
We will show you how your VantageScore really works, and explain how you can make the most out of it. But in the end, it’s all about practicing good borrowing behavior all the time.
What is a VantageScore?
A VantageScore is a credit rating derived from the calculation algorithm created in 2006 by the three major credit report bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The three bureaus devised an approach towards calculating that made it possible for more consumers to have a score. After all, there are millions of borrowers that are quality borrowers, but they cannot qualify for anything because they have yet to receive a FICO rating.
The four main benefits of VantageScore are:
- Your credit score gets calculated faster,
- You do not get violently penalized for all missed payments,
- Debt in collections will no longer hurt your score once paid off, and,
- You will not need years of borrowing history to qualify for new credit.
Fast Facts About Your VantageScore:
- VantageScore 1 & 2 range from 501 to 990 points,
- VantageScore 3 ranges from 300 to 850 points,
- Scores calculate after a single month of payment history,
- The scoring system was created in 2006 by Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
How Can You Check Your VantageScore?
To get your VantageScore 3.0 rating, you would typically have to pay for the request — and this would be the same scenario where you pay for each of the bureaus separately. However, you do not need to directly pull your VantageScore; it’s included in many free credit monitoring services.
If you want to get your VantageScore for free on a regular basis, just check out one of the following free services:
- Credit.com – Monthly VantageScore 3.0 through Experian
- Credit Karma – Monthly VantageScore 3.0 through Equifax & TransUnion
- Credit Sesame – Monthly VantageScore 3.0 through TransUnion
- LendingTree – Monthly VantageScore 3.0 through TransUnion
- Quizzle – Bi-annual VantageScore 3.0 through Equifax
*Many take the time to sign up for separate offers; by combining multiple free credit monitoring services, it is possible to gain access to more than one bureau’s VantageScore 3.0 rating at no cost.
**There are many misconceptions surrounding VantageScore ratings. The truth is this is not a FICO score, which makes it a FAKO score. But, it’s more valuable than all the others — and in that sense, is just a cost-effective alternative to getting your FICO score. Plus, you can get numerous freebies through each of the free credit monitoring services stated above.
What is a Good VantageScore?
The points range for VantageScore credit ratings changed after VantageScore 3.0, so the quality range for VantageScore scores will vary depending on that.
The first two VantageScore ratings worked with a scoring system that varied scores from 501 to 990 points. The breakdown for score quality ranged as follows:
Now, the new scoring model factors credit scores from 300 to 850 points. This model works a lot differently, and pits scores in the following ranges:
FICO vs. VantageScore Score Conversion
While the majority of lenders still use your FICO score, there is no denying that your VantageScore is still effective. The latest, VantageScore 3.0, comes with the same scoring range — both vary from 300 to 850 points. This is much different than what VantageScore offered before, which was a ratings range from 501 to 990 points.
The problem with relying on your VantageScore solely is it’s application. If your eventual lender is using your FICO score, it’s not so valuable to know a figure the lender will not even see. This is why most just bother to track their FICO score, but it can be just as beneficial to monitor the VantageScore instead as it still shows score progression.
You cannot translate your FICO score to VantageScore. At best, you can assume the two will be within 20 to 30 points of each other. That is, if your lender pulls our VantageScore 3.0 rating — meanwhile, it could be a 200 to 300 points variance with the older VantageScore ratings.
Who Uses VantageScore?
All sorts of lenders are using your VantageScore as a means of calculating your eligibility for financing. This includes everything from credit card issuers to mortgage providers. In fact, the group of creditors most likely to use these scoring models just so happens to be financial institutions.
As per VantageScore.com, this scoring system is currently (2014-2015) used by:
- 7 of the 10 largest banks in the United States,
- More than 2,000 lenders nationwide, and,
- Mortgage lenders looking to attract more marginal borrowers.
“Marginal borrowers,” is a term used to describe any borrower who has little credit history.
For instance, someone who is self-employed will not qualify for much and might avoid building credit as a result. Instead of rejecting them for a home loan, the different scoring model makes it possible to consider them as eligible through other qualifying standards.
How is Your VantageScore 3.0 Calculated?
The calculation algorithm for VantageScore works like FICO — you have the base version where the percentage factors are the same; this means what influences your score will never change. But, there will be version updates where certain things that impact your score will be weighed different.
This means, for example, that stuff like payment history will always be a prominent factor, but what’s classified as a previous payment could differ with time.
With that said, this is the calculation algorithm that gets used for your VantageScore rating:
- Recent Credit – 30%
- Payment History – 28%
- Credit Utilization – 23%
- Account Balances – 9%
- Depth of Credit – 9%
- Available Credit – 7%
As you can see, there is now no importance put on your available credit. This makes it a very appealing credit score for anyone who is new to borrowing, because:
You typically do not want to get a bunch of credit cards at once. So, let’s say you get your first card with a $300 credit limit. Your goal is to build your FICO score up through that card and then take on new cards with much better terms. If you get all your credit cards at the same time, you will get stuck with poor terms until they decide to re-negotiate with you.
The problem with not having many credit cards is that you do not have much available credit to use. Your credit utilization ratio will always be pretty high. Otherwise, just to keep a low utilization ratio you would need to pretty much never use the card. It’s still important to maintain low credit utilization (30% or less) so do not completely ignore your debt-to-credit ratio.
Side note: FICO is in the midst of creating a credit score for thin file borrowers that will essentially compete with the VantageScore algorithm. VantageScore has seen a tremendous increase in popularity in recent years, and it’s backed by the three major credit bureaus, so it will be interesting to see which scores lenders use in the future.
How to Improve Your VantageScore 3.0 Rating
There is an emphasis on your recent credit history. This means you can build up a strong credit score by showing good borrowing behavior for just a short period of time. If you avoid any repayment delinquencies, and spread your debt across various types of credit accounts, you will obtain an excellent score fast.
Also, you can improve your VantageScore 3.0 rating by paying off any debts that are currently in collections. Unlike FICO scores, VantageScore 3.0 ratings do not factor collection debts into credit scores when they get paid off in entirety.
That said, when you have a good VantageScore rating and you want a new credit card you have the power to apply anywhere in the course of 14 days and essentially have just one hard inquiry weigh into your score. This part is a huge plus over FICO scores, as they only allow the inquiry grace period for other financing types; while VantageScore extends it to credit card inquiries.
If you must be late on a payment, try to avoid being late on your more serious debts (such as your mortgage) as they weigh more heavily than, say, your credit card debt.
VantageScore vs. FICO
While VantageScore is becoming more popular, there is no denying that FICO reigns king in the credit-scoring industry. The two scoring systems have a lot in common, but they also have many differences; the list below will give you an idea on how the two scores differentiate.
With FICO, credit scores range from 300 to 850 points; VantageScore ratings fluctuate in range — the first two versions include scores from 501 to 990 points, while VantageScore 3.0 is also 300 to 850 points.
With FICO, all late payments are handled in the same way — meanwhile, VantageScore weighs them on a sliding scale based on the significance of the credit account. For example, late mortgage payments cause significant damage while late credit card payments are nearly overlooked. However, consistent late payments will cause an accumulative damage to your credit rating — regardless of the score type.
With FICO, you have 45 days to shop around for most loan types. This is a grace period for you to use, so that your inquiry does not result to many hard inquiries on your credit report. While VantageScore only gives two weeks, it includes one key factor: coverage for credit card inquiries, which FICO does not include.
Debt in Collections
With FICO, it’s only your FICO Score 8 calculation that allows you to pay off debt in collections to remove it’s effect from your FICO score calculation. Even worse, this rule only works for debts with balances of $100 and under. Meanwhile, VantageScore has a limit-free approach towards removing the effect caused by the debt once it gets paid off.
Conclusion: Your VantageScore Matters, Learn It!
We cannot understate how important it is for borrowers to understand what scores their lenders plan to use when qualifying them. It’s the difference between knowing what to waste a hard inquiry on; if you only knew which rating gets used, then you know your cut-off point for each credit offer you consider.
Thankfully, you do not have to get “locked in” to an expensive credit monitoring or identity theft protection plan. FICO scores are pretty hard to access — in fact, you can weasel one of the three every few months or so, but myFICO (FICO’s consumer division) is the only legitimate source of recurring FICO scores from all three bureaus.
If you are a newer borrower, we recommend that you take advantage of one of the free credit monitoring services we mentioned earlier: Credit.com, Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, LendingTree, and Quizzle. These are not the absolute best services — some paid ones offer more — but they are more than sufficient for anyone looking to focus specifically on their VantageScore.