Did you know your credit score could be different from one lender to the next? For example, if you’re trying to choose a mortgage lender who offers the lowest interest rate, you would probably apply with multiple lenders. You may notice that your FICO score was not the same across the board. How is that possible?

Many consumers are surprised to learn that there are multiple versions of FICO scores. Your score could vary slightly depending on which version your creditor is using.

What FICO scores are and what they mean

A FICO score is a credit score model from the Fair Isaac Corporation that lenders have used since 1989 to assess the credit risk of individual consumers.

FICO scores are three-digit numbers, which typically range between 300 and 850 (although industry-specific scores can use a broader range of 250 to 900). The higher your score is, the better you look financially. A high score indicates that you have used credit responsibly and pose a lower risk to lenders who offer you a new credit line. For this reason, lenders often offer favorable interest rates to applicants with higher FICO scores.

For reference, the average FICO score in the US is 716.

Why there are different FICO score versions

There are multiple versions of FICO credit scores for two main reasons:

  • Changing analytics: FICO scores are periodically redeveloped to incorporate new analytic tools. Through the updating process, FICO releases new versions to the market. Lenders can decide if they’re going to migrate to the newer version of the FICO score or continue using the version they are already using.
  • Industry-specific scores: Some FICO score versions are tailored to specific types of financial products. For example, industry-specific versions of FICO focus on auto loans and credit cards (also referred to as “bankcards” in the context of FICO scores).

How different FICO score versions are used

The most widely used version of FICO scores is called FICO score 8. If you are unsure which version of your FICO scores you should monitor, FICO score 8 is a good place to start.

Since its release in 2014, FICO score 9 has also been commonly used, although it hasn’t yet reached the level of use that FICO score 8 has.

FICO score 8 vs. 9

Versions 8 and 9 of FICO scores are similar, but FICO score 9 is generally considered the more forgiving of the two for a few reasons:

  • With FICO 9, third-party collections no longer hurt your credit score once those debts are paid off.
  • FICO 9 treats medical collections differently than other types of debt. Unpaid medical collections will have less of a negative impact on your score than other unpaid collections.
  • FICO 9 can take your rental history into account as long as your landlord reports the payments. This can help young adults build credit faster.

FICO score 8 and 9 are commonly used for student loans, personal loans, medical loans, credit card lines and auto loans. However, there are industry-specific FICO versions for certain types of debt as well, including auto loans, credit cards and mortgage lending.

Industry-specific FICO score versions

According to myFICO.com, the industry-specific FICO credit scores leverage all the predictive power of the base FICO scores “while also providing lenders a further-refined credit risk assessment tailored to the type of credit the consumer is seeking.”

By offering auto-specific and bankcard-specific FICO scores, FICO has managed to tailor its products and provide more clarity to the lenders who use them.

Auto lending

In addition to the standard FICO score 8 or 9, an auto lender might use one of the following:

  • FICO Auto score 2
  • FICO Auto score 4
  • FICO Auto score 5
  • FICO Auto score 8
  • FICO Auto score 9

Credit card lending

In addition to the standard FICO score 8 or 9, credit card companies might use one of the following:

  • FICO score 3
  • FICO Bankcard score 2
  • FICO Bankcard score 4
  • FICO Bankcard score 5
  • FICO Bankcard score 8
  • FICO Bankcard score 9

Mortgage lending

In addition to the standard FICO score 8 or 9, mortgage lenders might use one of the following:

  • FICO score 2
  • FICO score 4
  • FICO score 5

Newly released FICO scores

In 2020, FICO announced the FICO score 10 suite, which includes:

  • FICO score 10
  • FICO auto score 10
  • FICO bankcard score 10
  • FICO score 10T

While these scores are in operation, they are not as commonly used as FICO score 8 and FICO score 9.

FICO score use among different credit bureaus

The three credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, track credit histories for individual consumers. Each credit bureau assigns consumer credit scores based on the information they receive from creditors. This means a consumer could have a different FICO score from each of the credit bureaus.

Here are the most commonly used FICO credit score versions across the different credit bureaus:

Score Experian Equifax TransUnion
Most widely used FICO® Score 9
FICO® Score 8
FICO® Score 9
FICO® Score 8
FICO® Score 9
FICO® Score 8
Used in auto lending FICO® Auto Score 9
FICO® Auto Score 8 FICO® Auto Score 2
FICO® Auto Score 9
FICO® Auto Score 8 FICO® Auto Score 5
FICO® Auto Score 9
FICO® Auto Score 8 FICO® Auto Score 4
Used in credit card decisions FICO® Bankcard Score 9 FICO® Bankcard Score 8
FICO® Score 3
FICO® Bankcard Score 2
FICO® Bankcard Score 9 FICO® Bankcard Score 8
FICO® Bankcard Score 5
FICO® Bankcard Score 9 FICO® Bankcard Score 8
FICO® Bankcard Score 4
Used in mortgage lending FICO® Score 2 FICO® Score 5 FICO® Score 4
Newly released FICO® Score 10
FICO® Auto Score 10
FICO® Bankcard Score 10 FICO® Score 10T
FICO® Score 10
FICO® Auto Score 10
FICO® Bankcard Score 10 FICO® Score 10T
FICO® Score 10
FICO® Auto Score 10
FICO® Bankcard Score 10 FICO® Score 10T

How FICO scores are calculated

Each FICO version weights different aspects of your credit history slightly differently, but all FICO scores are calculated based on the following five factors:

  • Payment history (35% of your score): Are your payments made on time?
  • Amounts owed (30%): How much of your available credit limit are you currently using?
  • Length of credit history (15%): How long have your accounts been open?
  • Credit mix (10%): How much of your credit is used for assets, such as education or real estate, compared to consumer debt like credit cards?
  • New credit (10%): How much of your available credit is due to recently opened lines?

How to check your FICO scores

You have multiple ways to check your credit scores. For example, Experian offers a FICO score 8 with its free credit monitoring service. Many lenders participate in the FICO score Open Access program, which enables them to provide their customers with free access to their FICO score and share insights to help customers understand their credit health.

But what if you want to view an industry-specific version of your score? Perhaps you’re getting ready to buy a home, and you want to see what your mortgage lender will see when they pull your credit. In this case, you could subscribe to a service like myFICO to view your specific scores. You may also be able to contact the credit bureaus directly to purchase a copy of your report with the specific score outlined.

You are entitled to a free copy of any credit report used by any creditor to decide whether to extend credit to you. You simply need to request a copy from the creditor in writing within 60 days of the credit pull.

How to improve your FICO scores

You can build a good credit score by improving in each of the five areas measured by FICO scores:

  1. Payment history: If you have past-due bills, bring them current and pay all your bills on time going forward.
  2. Amounts owed: Try to use less of your available credit. For example, if you have a credit card with a $10,000 limit, keep your balance under $3,000.
  3. Length of credit history: Don’t close your credit card accounts when your cards are paid off. Keep them open so they add to your credit history length.
  4. Credit mix: Minimize consumer credit card debt.
  5. New credit: Avoid opening multiple credit lines in quick succession.

The bottom line

Your FICO score can vary depending on which FICO version your lender is using to calculate your score. Different versions are released as analytical tools improve over time. Additionally, industry-specific versions help tailor the risk assessment to the type of credit you seek.

The discrepancies between FICO scores may be surprising, but it is not cause for concern. The difference in your score between versions is typically minor and is unlikely to affect whether you’re approved for a loan.

If you have concerns about your FICO scores, you can get a free credit report periodically or pay for a subscription service to actively monitor your scores over time.