FICO Score vs Credit Score

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on August 25, 2023

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FICO Score vs Credit Score Overview

A credit score is a numerical representation of an individual's creditworthiness, which lenders use to evaluate the risk of lending to that person.

The score is calculated based on various factors from one's credit history, such as payment history, credit utilization, and the length of credit history.

On the other hand, a FICO Score is a specific type of credit score developed by the Fair Isaac Corporation. While all FICO Scores are credit scores, not all credit scores are FICO Scores.

The FICO Score has become one of the most widely recognized and used credit scores in the U.S., with its proprietary algorithm and specific scoring range (typically 300 to 850).

However, other scoring models, like the VantageScore, also exist and may be used by some lenders, making it important for consumers to understand the distinctions and implications of each.

What Is a Credit Score?

A credit score, often viewed as a financial report card, is a numerical representation of an individual's credit risk.

This figure translates the complex financial history of an individual into an easily digestible number, offering insights into their reliability as a borrower.

Lenders, whether they're providing a credit card, mortgage, or personal loan, lean on this score to determine the likelihood of the borrower repaying the loan without defaulting.

The construction of this score is based on several key components of a person's credit history:

  • Payment History (35%): The most critical factor, this reflects whether a person consistently pays their debts on time. Late payments, defaults, and bankruptcies can negatively impact this portion of the score.

  • Credit Utilization (30%): This represents the ratio of current total debt to the total available credit limits. A lower utilization rate indicates financial responsibility, while high utilization can signal potential over-reliance on credit.

  • Length of Credit History (15%): A longer credit history, if positive, can be beneficial for the score as it provides more data on a person's spending habits and payment behavior.

  • New Credit (10%): This involves the number of recent credit inquiries and the timing of the opening of new credit accounts. Frequently opening new accounts or having many recent inquiries can indicate financial distress.

  • Types of Credit in Use (10%): This reflects the mix of different credit accounts, such as revolving (credit cards) and installment (mortgages, student loans).

A diverse mix can be favorable as it shows experience managing various types of credit.

What Is a FICO Score?

Originating from the Fair Isaac Corporation, the FICO Score has carved out its space as the gold standard in the world of credit scoring since its inception in 1989.

While all FICO Scores examine the five main components of credit (payment history, credit utilization, length of credit history, new credit, and credit mix), what sets FICO apart is its unique and proprietary algorithmic formulation.

There are several specific elements and versions of FICO Scores to be aware of:

Scoring Range

Standard FICO Scores operate on a scale ranging from 300 to 850. The higher the score, the lower the credit risk perceived by lenders. Scores above 670 are generally considered 'good' to 'excellent,' while scores below 580 are viewed as 'poor.'

Different FICO Score Versions

FICO has released various versions of its scoring model over the years to cater to changing lending landscapes and incorporate fresh data analytics techniques.

  • FICO Score 8: The most widely used version, FICO Score 8, improved sensitivity to high card utilization and treated isolated late payments less harshly.

  • FICO Score 9: Introduced changes in how medical debts are treated and considered rental history.

  • FICO Score 10 & 10T: The latest iterations, where 10T incorporates trended data, analyzing credit behaviors over a 24-month period, not just a snapshot.

Industry-Specific FICO Scores

These are tailored for particular lending decisions. For instance:

  • Auto Score: Ranges from 250 to 900 and is used predominantly by auto lenders.

  • Bankcard Score: Also ranging from 250 to 900, this score is used by credit card issuers.

  • Mortgage Score: Adopted by mortgage lenders, this score looks closely at factors relevant to home loans.

Key Differences Between FICO Score and Credit Score

While both the FICO Score and general credit scores assess an individual's creditworthiness, they vary in their proprietary algorithms, origins, and specific metrics used in their calculations.

• Definition and Origin: Credit score is a general representation of an individual's creditworthiness based on various models and their credit behavior

FICO Score is a specific scoring system introduced by the Fair Isaac Corporation in 1989, standing as one of the most established and widely adopted credit scoring models in the U.S.

• Algorithm and Calculation: Different credit scores may have varied algorithms and weightings for credit factors.

FICO Score uses a proprietary algorithm that evaluates five primary factors: payment history (35%), credit utilization (30%), length of credit history (15%), new credit (10%), and credit mix (10%).

• Variations and Versions: There are numerous credit scoring models available, such as VantageScore, TransRisk, and more. Each may have its version.

In FICO Score, multiple versions exist, each catering to evolving credit behaviors and lender preferences. Examples include FICO Score 8, 9, and the latest FICO Score 10 & 10T.

Moreover, industry-specific FICO Scores are tailored for auto lending, credit cards, and mortgages.

• Scoring Range: Credit score ranges can differ based on the model. While many operate on a 300-850 scale, others might have different ranges.

While FICO Score ranges from 300 to 850, with higher scores indicating lower credit risk. However, industry-specific FICO Scores (like Auto and Bankcard) can range from 250 to 900.

• Access for Consumers: Many platforms, apps, and financial institutions offer free access to different credit scores.

While some credit card providers and banks offer FICO Scores as a perk, consumers can also access it directly through the official myFICO website, often for a fee.

Key Differences Between FICO Score and Credit Score


Credit scores are essential tools used by lenders to assess an individual's creditworthiness, representing their reliability as borrowers. The scores are derived from various factors, including payment history, credit utilization, and credit history length.

Among the different credit scoring models available, the FICO Score, developed by the Fair Isaac Corporation, stands out as one of the most widely recognized and used credit scores in the U.S.

What sets the FICO Score apart is its proprietary algorithm, which considers payment history, credit utilization, length of credit history, new credit, and credit mix.

Additionally, FICO has released multiple versions of its scoring model, adapting to changing lending landscapes and incorporating new data analytics techniques.

While other credit scoring models like VantageScore also exist, it's crucial for consumers to understand the distinctions and implications of each.

FICO Score vs Credit Score FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

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