Credit 101: Fico Score vs Credit Score

Credit is a big piece of contemporary life. We use it for everything from buying music online to buying homes and starting businesses.

Yet, vague terms like “credit score” and “FICO score” fill the world of credit.

You might find yourself asking, “What’s a FICO Score? Should I worry about my FICO score vs credit score?”

Understanding FICO scores, credit scores, and the difference helps you understand your creditworthiness. So, let’s jump in and look at what these terms mean.

Credit Score

At its core, a credit score is a number that banks use when they decide whether they should give you credit.

A lot of information goes into your credit score. Some of the things that make up that score include:

  • total credit accounts
  • how long you’ve had the accounts
  • payment history

Banks don’t generate these numbers themselves. Banks and businesses send reports about your credit accounts, like credit cards and loans, to credit bureaus. The credit bureaus take all of that information and calculate your score.

Only the credit bureaus know the exact math they use to generate scores. In general, though, they assign different weights to different factors. For example, payment history typically gets weighted very heavily.

Fico Score

A FICO score isn’t an individual score provided by one credit bureau. It’s actually one approach that credit bureaus use to calculate scores. Under this model, the factors that affect your score include:

  • payment history
  • total debt relative to available credit
  • types of credit
  • recent credit
  • duration of credit history

Again, the FICO model assigns weight to each factor. The information goes through an algorithm and a score pops out the other side. You might think of this as the catch-all FICO score

Here’s the catch. There are numerous FICO scores designed around different kinds of credit.

For example, one version of the score might apply to credit cards. Another version focuses on automobile loans. Yet another version assesses mortgages.

Any FICO score you get depends on what kind of credit you want.

What’s the Difference?

In one way, the difference between your FICO score and credit score is minor. All FICO scores are credit scores. As one of the most popular scores among credit bureaus, there’s a good chance your credit score is a FICO score.

In another way, the difference is substantial. Credit bureaus have lots of options for how to calculate credit scores. The FICO method is just one way to get there.

In that sense, while all FICO scores are credit scores, not all credit scores are FICO scores.

Parting Thoughts on Fico Score vs Credit Score

When considering FICO score vs credit score, it’s important to remember that FICO scores are credit score. It’s also widely used approach. That means your credit score probably is a FICO score.

Even so, there are many ways a credit bureau can calculate your score. Don’t assume your score is a FICO score unless it’s called a FICO score.

Looking for tips on boosting your credit score? Check out our post on raising your score.

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