Is Your Credit Score Accurate? It Depends on Who You Get It From

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If you’re like most consumers, you have a vested interest in keeping your credit score high to make it easier to get mortgages and other loans. You also have more than just one credit score and might be confused about which one even matters.

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As Consumer Reports noted in a lengthy investigative article last week that looked into credit score apps, one of the problems with trying to access your credit information is figuring out which score to focus on. It’s a pretty good bet that you have many credit scores — even within the same credit reporting agency such as Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

One person contacted by Consumer Reports last year had six scores from Experian alone, and those scores differed by as much as 100 points. The other two major credit agencies also provided multiple scores, none the same.

The five apps researched by Consumer Reports — Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, Experian Credit Report, myFICO and TransUnion Score & Report — provide a variety of different credit scores.

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The truth is, there really is no such thing as a “most accurate” credit score because they are based on different models for different purposes.

Credit Karma acknowledged to Fast Company last week that there are “dozens, if not hundreds” of scoring models. Credit Karma, TransUnion and Credit Sesame use the VantageScore model as opposed to the older and more established FICO model, which is considered the industry standard. But even FICO has multiple scores.

Complicating matters further is the fact that different loan applications might require different credit scores. If you’re applying for a mortgage loan, for example, the lender will probably look at your FICO score. But that might not be the case for car loans because auto lenders use industry-specific scores designed to predict how likely you are to repay a car loan on time. FICO provides a car loan score. TransUnion provides two of them — the TransUnion Auto Score and the TransUnion CreditVision Auto Score — even though its app uses VantageScore 3.0, which, Consumer Reports said, many lender don’t use at all.

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Consumer Reports’ advice to anyone looking to use a credit score app to bring more clarity is this: buyer beware. The apps have “significant drawbacks and few upsides,” CR said, and all collect and share more data about users than is needed to perform core functions. This is mainly so the apps can upsell other products and services.

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“And most do not provide access to the type of credit scores that can meaningfully help you,” Consumer Reports said.

Its advice? Skip the apps and try to find free credit reports elsewhere, such as with AnnualCreditReport.com.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte MagazineStreet & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, will be published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.

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