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Why You Have Different Credit Scores

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If you've ever purchased a three-in-one credit score, you might have noticed that your credit scores are different among the three credit bureaus. As if understanding your credit score wasn't difficult enough, having different credit scores makes it even tougher to understand. Here's why that happens.

Credit bureaus use different credit scoring models

Each of the credit bureaus uses a different model for calculating your credit score.

According to Fool.com, Equifax is the only credit bureau that sells the FICO score to consumers. Equifax uses the term BEACON to refer to the credit score that’s sold to other businesses. The score ranges from 350-850.

Both Experian and TransUnion developed their own credit score calculations based on the FICO scoring model.

The Experian credit score, known as Experian/Fair Isaac Risk Model or PLUS, ranges from 330-830.

The TransUnion score, also known as EMPIRICA, ranges from 300-850.

Credit bureaus have different credit report data

Credit bureaus collect data independently of each other – and they typically don't share it. Not only that, your creditors and lenders might report data only to one or two of the credit bureaus. So, your Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion credit reports might all look different from each other.

Each credit bureau calculates your credit score with the data in its credit file. For example, Experian calculates your credit score with the data in your Experian credit report. So, if you have a collection account that appears on your TransUnion credit report, but not on your Experian credit report, then your TransUnion credit score might be lower.

Which credit score is your lender using?

Lenders usually have established relationships with one or more of the credit bureaus. You can ask your lender from which credit bureau it purchases credit scores (they may or may not tell you), but you typically can't request that your lender use a certain credit bureau to retrieve your score.

Most lenders use the FICO score developed by FICO, the company formerly known as Fair Isaac. You can purchase your FICO score based on Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reports from myFICO.com. (For a few years, Experian-based FICO scores were unavailable for consumer purchase, but they have recently been made available again.)

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David Kirkpatrick, Senior Editor, Internet and Technology

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