Why Do Credit Scores Fluctuate From Bureau to Bureau?
Written by: Kristy Welsh
Last Updated: September 25, 2017
Credit score fluctuation is a topic we see lot of questions about in our discussion forum. Readers are always asking why do they get a different score from TransUnion, Equifax, Experian, and FICO? And, why do they check their scores one month, and then the next month their scores are completely different? Answering these issues requires two entirely different responses — so we will address each question separately.
Different Credit Scores - Why There's More Than One and Which One Really Counts?
The reason you will see different credit scores from say, Experian, TransUnion, and FICO, is because they each use a different scoring system. The score from TransUnion is based on their own proprietary scoring model (VantageScore) whereas, your FICO score is based on the actual scoring program developed by Fair Isaac. Each program has it's own scoring range and their own way of determining what goes into your credit score.
When Fair Isaac first released their credit scoring system (FICO Score) back in 1989, the big three (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) credit bureaus were all buying the "rights" to use that program to determine credit scores. Then in 2006, the credit bureaus decided to launch their own credit scoring model and VantageScore was born. So, when you request a credit score from say, Equifax, you are getting a VantageScore. Whereas, when you request a credit score from say, myFICO.com, you are getting a FICO score.
The majority of lenders use your FICO score to determine credit worthiness but lenders will pull all scores from the big credit bureaus to use along with your FICO score. Besides just looking at your score, lenders are also reviewing your credit report to see what type of credit risk you are and if they will lend you money or not.
Why Do Scores Fluctuate from Month to Month and Bureau to Bureau?
While there will almost always be some minor differences in your scores across the three credit bureaus because of slightly different models used, significant score differences can result from the following:
- All of your credit information may not be reported to all three credit bureaus. The information on your credit report is supplied by lenders, collection agencies and court records. Don't assume that each credit bureau has the same information pertaining to your credit history.
- You may have applied for credit under different names (for example, Donald M. Smith versus Don Smith) or a maiden name, which may cause fragmented or incomplete files at the credit reporting agencies. While, in most cases, the credit bureaus combine all files accurately under the same person, there are many instances where incomplete files or inaccurate data (social security numbers, addresses, etc.) cause one person's information to appear on someone else's credit report.
- Lenders report credit information to the credit bureaus at different times, often resulting in one agency having more up-to-date information than another.
- The credit bureaus may record the same information in different ways.
The bottom line is, FICO Scores are not the only credit bureau scores. There are other scoring models used and each credit bureau will evaluate your credit differently. And, lenders report to different agencies so the information on your credit report can be different from bureau to bureau. Lastly, your credit score will change over time because you will have either made a payment on one account, charged more on another account or maybe just became late on another. All of these changes will affect your score.
Credit Score Fluctuations During Credit Repair
If you are in the process of repairing your credit, don't get too hung up on the month to month fluctuations of your credit score. Remember, it's the long term effects we're shooting for, not the next day results. It's just like going on a diet — even if you are strictly following your diet, the body naturally fluctuates on a daily basis and from one day to another you may see a gain. But in the long run, if you are following the diet (which includes not just diet, but exercise), you will get results.
Some quick reasons why your score may go up/down during your credit repair efforts.
- You've removed an old trade line. The credit scoring models likes to see a credit history of at least 60 months on all active trade lines.
- You've removed an account which was showing as open with a zero balance. This may have put your over all credit card limits ratio way over 25 percent used. Let's say you have 3 cards showing, two with 50 percent of the $1,000 limit used, and one with a credit limit of $5,000 with zero used. This takes you from 14 percent of your credit limit used to 50 percent of your credit limit used. Remember, credit scoring rates you favorably if you have less than 25 percent of your total balance used. Jacking up your available credit balance to 50 percent may wipe out the benefits of removing old late payments.
- Any item showing as disputed may decrease your score.
- Removal of any installment loans such as car and mortgages from your credit report. The scoring model likes to see a balanced report, with both installment and revolving lines of credit.
Remember, these are potential reasons, and depending on the rest of your credit report may or may not have any effect.
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