John Ulzheimer is a nationally recognized credit expert and contributor to On the Money. Learn more at Credit.comor JohnUlzheimer.com.
Q. Why do the credit bureaus have diffferent ranges in their credit scoring? Why is there such a variance in each of the credit bureau's score? I only have a mortage and a home equity loan. I have no credit card debt. Card balalnce was paid off nearly a year ago. I have not used a credit card in over a year. I only use my debit card for purchases. Why has my credit score gone DOWN? Is it beacuse I am not using my credit card? Help, we are trying to get a mortage and not getting any straight answers. --Chris
Ulzheimer: Hi Chris – Those are some good ones. I’m going to answer your questions individually.
Why do the credit bureaus have different ranges in their credit scoring?
Different scoring models have different score ranges, or “scaling”, as it’s called in the credit modeling world. FICO® scores range from 300 to 850 at each of the three credit bureaus. But, the credit bureaus also sell their own non-FICO scores and the ranges are not necessarily the same. A credit score can have any range you can think of; 0-100, A-Z, 50-500…it’s completely up to the developers of the score to set the range. What’s most important is that you have the highest score possible regardless of the actual range.
Why is there such a variance in each of the credit bureau’s score?
I’m assuming you’re asking why your FICO score can vary so much between credit bureaus. Hopefully that’s right. If so, that was one of the questions I was asked in 1997 when I was interviewing for my job at FICO. Good thing I got the answer right.
There are two reasons why your scores will vary across bureaus. The first is a small reason. The formula in the FICO score isn’t exactly the same at each of the bureaus. It’s a little different. And, it’s different by design. It actually makes for a more powerful credit score to customize it for each bureau. It’s a long complicated topic but let’s just say that one size doesn’t fit all for credit scoring models.
The second and more important reason is that your credit reports are not the same across the three credit bureaus. And, different credit data is going to equal different FICO scores. In the 17 years I’ve been in this business I’ve never seen a consumer have three identical credit reports. It simply doesn’t happen.
I only have a mortgage and a home equity loan. I have no credit card debt. Card balance was paid off nearly a year ago. I have not used a credit card in over a year. I only use my debit card for purchases.Why has my credit score gone DOWN? Is it because I am not using my credit card?
Unfortunately I don’t have enough detail about your credit reports to answer that. I’d be guessing and that’s dangerous in the credit world. It could have gone down for a variety of reasons. You should get your three FICO scores from myFICO.com and it will clearly explain why your scores aren’t higher. It won’t explain why they are lower than last year but that’s history. Address why they are low today and solve the problem. Are you sure you’re comparing FICO to FICO? Your earlier questions make me think you may be comparing different model types.