What Is a VantageScore?

When you check your credit score on websites or apps, either through credit card companies or lenders, one of two scoring models will be used — FICO or VantageScore.

VantageScore is the newer of the two scoring models, and its usage has grown in the financial industry, including by credit card companies and websites that offer your credit score for free. Here’s a look at what VantageScore is and why you might encounter it as you keep tabs on your credit.

What Is VantageScore?

The VantageScore model was developed in 2006 by the three national credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — as an alternative to the more established FICO scores. FICO scores, which were created by the Fair Isaac Corp., started in 1989.

The VantageScore system was designed to provide a consistent credit scoring model that could be used by all three credit bureaus. It also aimed to expand the number of people who receive credit scores, like college students, recent immigrants and others who might not have used credit or use it sparingly, says Jeff Richardson, senior vice president and group head of marketing and communications for VantageScore Solutions.

Credit expert John Ulzheimer, who formerly worked for Equifax and FICO and has written for VantageScore’s newsletter, says it’s important to have a scoring system that is competitive with FICO.

“The financial services environment operated with only one choice in tri-bureau credit scoring systems for decades,” Ulzheimer says. “That meant an overwhelming majority of decisions about our applications were influenced by one scoring company: FICO. Giving lenders a second, equally effective option allows them to test the efficacy of scoring models and upgrade (if warranted), and price credit products more accurately.”

Ulzheimer says that while FICO is still the most widely recognized and used credit scoring model, “VantageScore has carved out a nice market share.” Credit scoring is no longer a one-player industry.

In addition, Ulzheimer credits VantageScore for creating the free credit score market.

“Before FICO started allowing credit card issuers to give away their scores to their customers, VantageScore was the only noneducational credit score being given to consumers on a large-scale basis,” Ulzheimer says. However, FICO’s Open Access program now helps consumers get their FICO credit scores at no charge from more places than they can get their free VantageScore rating, Ulzheimer notes.

[Read: Best Balance Transfer Cards]

What Influences VantageScore

The basic scoring systems of VantageScore and FICO are fairly consistent, and the scores are primarily based on the credit history contained in consumers’ credit reports.

VantageScores weigh factors a bit differently than FICO scores. There are six factors that VantageScore 3.0 takes into account.

— Payment history: 40%.

— Depth of credit: 21%

— Credit utilization: 20%.

— Balances: 11%.

— Recent credit: 5%.

— Available credit: 3%.

The VantageScore 3.0 is more well known than VantageScore 4.0. The 4.0 version puts more emphasis on payment history and new credit, and puts less weight on depth of credit.

Although the factors that contribute to the FICO score are similar to VantageScore and both systems’ scores range from 300 to 850, “we weigh (these) behaviors differently,” Richardson says. “These are two very different models. It’s the same data, but we interpret it in different ways.”

What Is a Good VantageScore?

A good VantageScore is any rating above 661. VantageScore credit score ranges fall into the following categories:

— Superprime: 781-850.

— Prime: 661-780.

— Near prime: 601-660.

— Subprime: 300-600.

When your score is prime or superprime, you should be able to qualify for the credit you need. Near-prime borrowers have a decent shot of getting approved for a loan but may have to pay higher interest rates than borrowers with higher scores. Subprime consumers may not qualify for loans or lines of credit.

Pro tip: You can check your credit score for free through several apps and websites.

[Read: Best Cash Back Credit Cards.]

Improving Your VantageScore Credit Score

If you want an excellent credit score, there are several steps you can take:

— Pay your bills on time every month. Setting up automatic payments can help you accomplish this goal.

— Keep your account balances low. If you’re using more than 30% of your credit line, pay down the balance as soon as possible.

— Apply for different types of credit, including revolving (i.e., credit cards) and installment (i.e., mortgage or auto loan) debt as needed.

— Open new accounts sparingly and space out your credit applications.

Begin building credit as early as possible because it can take years to develop a strong profile. If you want to jump-start the building (or rebuilding) process, consider opening a secured credit card or store credit card account. You can also ask someone you trust with good credit to add you as an authorized user on their account.

Who Uses VantageScore?

A variety of financial and nonfinancial institutions use VantageScores. “Over 3,000 (entities) use VantageScore credit scores every day to assess consumer creditworthiness,” Richardson says. “Most top 10 U.S. banks, large credit unions and leading fintech (institutions) use VantageScore credit scores in one or more lines of business — including credit cards, auto loans, personal loans and more. Last year, over 19 billion VantageScore credit scores were used, representing a 30% yearly increase.”

Nonfinancial institutions such as consumer websites, utility companies and government entities use VantageScores for credit screening checks before a rental or purchase, or to share directly with consumers. These websites also provide credit scores that help consumers track their credit status.

Organizations that use VantageScores for credit include:

— Credit card issuers.

— Personal and installment loan companies.

— Auto lenders.

Mortgage lenders.

Credit unions.

— Banks.

— Tenant screening, telecommunications and utility companies.

— Consumer websites.

— Government entities.

VantageScore and FICO Score Differences

There are several versions of VantageScore and FICO, and each uses a different scoring model. For example, a lender will likely use an older version of FICO for a mortgage application, while a consumer site might rely on the latest version of VantageScore.

Generally, VantageScore uses public records, rent, utility and telecom billing information, and older credit file information to develop a consumer profile.

With FICO, the most used version is FICO 8, which does not consider rent payments. However, FICO 9 does and lenders could possibly start using it in the near future. Also, FICO introduced new versions in 2020 such as UltraFICO Score, FICO Score 10 and FICO Score 10T, all which take additional consumer data into account.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, or FHFA, recently announced that lenders who sell mortgages to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac must use VantageScore 4.0 to determine borrower eligibility starting the third quarter of 2024. This move will help more qualified borrowers get a home loan.

Ulzheimer says the FHFA also approved the use of FICO 10T scores. “By some time in 2025, if you believe the FHFA, mortgages delivered to (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) will have to include both a FICO 10T and a VantageScore 4.0 score, per applicant, per credit report.”

Your credit history will be recognized more quickly with VantageScore because it will look at the first month of reported credit activity, Richardson says. FICO requires that an account be open for at least six months before issuing a score.

[Read: Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards.]

How VantageScore 4.0 Differs From VantageScore 3.0

VantageScore 3.0 was released in 2013 and VantageScore 4.0 in 2017. One of the main differences between the two is that VantageScore 4.0 relies on trended credit data that covers more than a month of consumer activity.

For example, if a consumer has high credit card balances around the holidays and pays them off every year, it’s important to not let the credit score be unduly influenced by that one month’s activity, Richardson says. Instead, the score looks at a longer time frame to see how the behavior is distinctive from someone who has high credit card balances all year. Also, if consumers pay double the amount owed on their monthly auto loan payment, for example, they can be rewarded for that behavior.

This data allows VantageScore to be more predictive, allowing people new to credit to have an opportunity to get a higher score than they would have otherwise, Richardson says.

The 4.0 version also uses machine-learning technology to better predict the behavior of people with limited credit history and removes potentially negative items from consideration in a consumer’s credit score, such as civil judgments and some medical collection information.

More from U.S. News

What Is an Excellent Credit Score?

Fastest Ways to Improve Your Credit Score

Ways to Build Credit as a Student

What Is a VantageScore? originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 07/03/24: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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