Which Credit Bureau, Report or Score is Most Accurate?

If you’ve ever applied for a loan, apartment rental or even a job, you might have seen the three-digit number that is your credit score. And if that number changes from day to day, or application to application, chances are you’re wondering why.

What many borrowers don’t realize, however, is that there are multiple credit scores. So, if you’re wondering which credit bureau, report or score is the most accurate, here’s what you need to know.

Key Points

  • Your FICO score is most likely to be the credit score most lenders will use to assess your creditworthiness
  • The VantageScore model is also accurate, but FICO is more commonly used by loan providers
  • This means the credit score your potential lender sees may not be the same as the scores you get from free sites like Credit Karma
  • Credit scores from credit bureaus (like Experian) will be more accurate than credit scores through free sites, which are usually estimates
  • Information from all three major credit bureaus should be equally accurate since the three share data
  • It’s still important to check all three credit reports once a year to make sure that all information on each is correct

What is the Most Accurate Credit Score?

Approximately 90% of all U.S. lenders use the latest version of the FICO credit score. Even if they use a similar scoring model, credit scores from other companies can vary by up to 100 points from this score. So, monitoring your FICO score is a good idea since that’s the one most lenders will check.

The other most accurate scoring model is the VantageScore 3.0. Keep an eye on this score as well if you’re looking into loans or other financial products.

The basic range between both models is 300 to 850, but there are some slight differences in the scoring algorithm.

Here are the credit score ranges for the two models:

FICO score rangeVantageScore range
Excellent credit score800 and up781 and up
Very good credit score740 to 799 661 to 780 
Good credit score670 to 739601 to 660 
Fair credit score580 to 669500 to 600 
Poor credit score300 to 579300 to 499

READ MORE: What credit score do you start with?

Which Credit Report and Credit Bureau is Most Accurate?

Because the three major credit bureaus share information, all three credit bureaus should be equally accurate. Though credit reports should also be the same (and thus equally accurate), it’s possible that an error could make it onto one of your credit reports. For that reason, it’s important that you check all three reports once a year. You can do this for free at annualcreditreport.com.

Credit Scoring Models

There are dozens of credit scoring models, but these three are most common.

FICO Score

Founded in 1956 in San Jose, California, FICO was originally known as the Fair Isaac Corporation. It started as a data analytics and software optimization company but became known for its first general-purpose FICO score in 1989.

However, it wasn’t until 1995 that the FICO score became mainstream. That was the year the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, or Freddie Mac started using the FICO score in all new mortgage applications. More lenders began using this scoring model to evaluate consumer data and calculate their credit risk.

The basic FICO credit score range is 300 to 850.

  • 300 to 579 (poor credit): Most lenders will reject applications from borrowers with a score in this range.
  • 580 to 669 (fair credit): Some lenders will work with consumers with fair credit. However, interest rates will be higher, and the loan amounts will often be lower.
  • 670 to 739 (good credit): The average consumer has good credit and can qualify for most loans or credit cards. The interest rates are usually middle-of-the-line.
  • 740 to 799 (very good credit): Consumers with very good credit qualify for most loan products with decent rates.
  • 800 to 850 (excellent credit): Around 18% to 20% of people have excellent credit. They are eligible for the best rates and their applications are rarely rejected.  

READ MORE: What credit score do you start with?

The FICO credit scoring model uses the following factors to determine an individual’s score:

  • Payment history: This includes late payments, on-time payments, accounts in collections, foreclosures, and bankruptcies. It makes up 30% of the score.
  • Length of credit history: This focuses on the age of each credit card or loan account. It accounts for 15%.
  • Credit utilization: This refers to how much of their available credit a person is using. The recommended credit utilization is below 30%. Credit utilization accounts for 30% of the overall score.
  • Mix of credit: This refers to the different types of credit or accounts a person has, such as open lines of credit, installment loans, and so forth. It makes up 10% of the score.
  • Most recent credit applications or hard inquiries: 10% of the score is based on how many recent loan or credit card applications a person has had. The more hard inquiries, the greater the impact on the score.
  • Derogatory marks: Although not percentage-based, things like bankruptcies, accounts in collections and foreclosures all hurt the overall score.

You can find your FICO score at myFICO.com. Another option is to get it from your credit card issuer, bank or credit union.

Industry-Specific FICO Scores

FICO scores 8 and 9 are general scores. However, there are several industry-specific FICO scores in use today. Each score is used for specific financial products, like car loans. For example:

  • FICO Auto Scores 2, 4 and 5 are used in auto loans.
  • FICO Bankcard Scores 2, 4 and 5 are used in credit card decisions.
  • FICO Scores 2, 4 and 5 are used by mortgage lenders.  


VantageScore is a credit scoring model that was jointly developed by the three major credit bureaus. Because it is their product, this is most likely the credit score you will see if you’re checking your score through the credit bureaus.

Some lenders, landlords and banks will use this model instead of the FICO score, but FICO will be more common.

Pro tip: If you need a major loan, be sure that you know your FICO score. There are countless horror stories from people who thought they knew their credit score, but it turns out had the VantageScore when the lender was using FICO to determine the borrower’s interest rates. Even a small difference in interest rates can add up to hundreds of dollars over the life of your loan.

Around 23% of consumers have an excellent VantageScore, while 38% have a good score.

This scoring model uses five categories to determine a person’s credit score. However, it doesn’t give exact percentages for each category. The most important factors are:

  • Credit usage: Most influential
  • Credit mix: Highly influential
  • Payment history: Moderately influential
  • Credit history length: Less influential
  • Recent activity: Less influential

The three credit bureaus and most major credit card issuers (CreditWise by Capital One, Credit Karma, Discover’s Credit Scorecard, etc.) usually provide a VantageScore.

READ MORE: Why did my credit score drop?

CE Score and Other Credit Scores

The CE (community empower) score is a free credit score created by CE Analytics. Quizzle.com once used it before the site converted to VantageScore. It ranges from 350 to 850.

Some credit scores are used for educational purposes only. Many of these existed before the FICO system. These scores are less accurate and less comprehensive than the FICO or VantageScore. They are, however, a good resource for those who want to monitor their credit for free.

You Have Dozens of Credit Scores

In the United States, every consumer has at least 60 different credit scores, though most never use nearly that many.

Non-VantageScore and non-FICO scores include:

  • PRBC alternative credit score
  • ChexSystems Consumer Score
  • Credit Optics Score (by SageStream)

A person’s creditworthiness is important. It can determine whether a lender or creditor will lend to them. Plus, it can help a prospective landlord decide whether to lease to them and what deposit to demand. It can even come into play in certain employers’ hiring decisions.

Some lenders view different scoring models as more or less accurate than others. However, this primarily depends on what it’s used for and the information included. Overall, credit scores serve one purpose: to determine a person’s credit risk and track their credit history.

Since every formula is based on the individual’s credit history, the final credit score tends to be accurate. But, since each score is weighted differently, the numbers aren’t always exactly the same.

6 Reasons Why Your Credit Score Might Differ

If your credit score isn’t quite adding up across different sources, here’s why:

  • Credit scoring model used: Most commonly, this will be your FICO or VantageScore 3.0. Credit card companies almost always use one or the other.
  • Score version: Each company uses a different base score. For example, the FICO 9 (second-latest version) ranges from 300 to 850. This model puts less weight on things like medical debt and doesn’t calculate past accounts in collections. However, it does consider rent payments, if reported, in the overall score.
  • Industry-specific scores: These scores focus mainly on things like auto score, mortgage score and other installment loans.
  • Credit bureau: Not every lender reports the same information to every credit bureau. So, your Experian score might differ from your Equifax or TransUnion score.
  • Data provided to the credit bureau: Lenders aren’t legally obligated to report to all three credit bureaus. Some lenders don’t report a consumer’s activity to any bureaus at all.
  • Timing: Scores vary from day to day. This depends on what’s been reported recently, what’s fallen off the report and the age of an account or remark.
  • Errors on your credit report: A person’s credit score reflects any errors that appear on their report. If an error only appears on one credit bureau’s report, then that bureau might give you a lower score. Always dispute any errors as soon as you find them for an accurate score.

Regardless of the scoring model or report, you should check your credit score regularly. That way even if the numbers don’t perfectly match up, you’ll still have a good idea of what lenders and prospective employers are seeing. 

READ MORE: How to get a free credit score

Credit Reporting Agencies

Here’s a breakdown of each credit bureau, including how to contact them.


Like Equifax and TransUnion, Experian collects data from a person’s credit history to make an accurate credit report. Experian uses the VantageScore and FICO scoring models like the other credit bureaus.

How to get an Experian credit report

You can get a free Experian credit report and credit monitoring at Experian.com.


Equifax uses much of the same data as Experian to compile a credit report. However, Equifax lists all accounts as either “open” or “closed,” which makes it easier to separate old data from current data.

How to get an Equifax credit report

You can go through Equifax.com and get a free copy once a year.


TransUnion operates based on the same principles and scoring model as the other two major credit bureaus. A TransUnion report also includes the same type of information and is equally accurate.

How to get a TransUnion credit report

You can get a free credit report once per year at TransUnion.com.

Pro tip: You can pull free copies of your credit reports from all three credit bureaus once per year at annualcreditreport.com.

How Often Should I Check My Credit Report?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recommends checking your credit report annually. If you’ve been a victim of identity theft or noticed an error on your report, consider checking it more frequently. You might also want to check your score before applying for a loan or new job.

READ MORE: How to check your credit report

Will Checking My Credit Information Hurt My Credit Score?

Only hard inquiries impact your credit score. Every 12 months, you can get a free credit report from any of the credit bureaus without hurting your score. If you check it another way, make sure it won’t result in a hard inquiry. For more information, check out the CFPB’s page.

READ MORE: How to build credit

How Does Credit Repair Impact My Credit Score?

Credit repair services review your credit report for any information that shouldn’t be there. They then try to remove that information for you by disputing it with the credit bureaus. This process can take up to a year and generally comes with a service fee ranging from $20 to $150. If successful, it can lead to a boost in credit score.

There are many scams out there, so verify any credit repair company before starting the process. Check with the Better Business Bureau or the CFPB for any complaints, negative reviews or licensing errors.

READ MORE: Best credit repair services

Will Credit Monitoring Help My Credit Score?

Credit monitoring is a service that observes any changes in a person’s credit score and financial behavior. This service can help catch any errors early and guard against identity theft. If something doesn’t seem right with your activity, the credit monitoring service can temporarily freeze an account until you verify it. This, in turn, prevents any extra damage to your credit or finances.

Most credit monitoring services charge a monthly fee of around $30. Look for a legitimate company not offered by the credit bureaus. That way, you’ll have more security in case of a data breach, such as the one experienced by Equifax in 2017. 

The Bottom Line

Your credit score is extremely important when it comes to things like loan or credit card applications, rentals, or employment. It’s also important to monitor your credit reports because incorrect information there can drive down your credit score. Check your reports and score at least once a year, or before making any big financial decisions like taking out a personal loan or mortgage.

Although there are many reporting systems out there, the FICO and VantageScore 3.0 are the best ones to monitor. Get a copy of your report from the bureaus, a free online website or a reputable service.

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