If you have ever compared your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion), you probably noticed that they are not identical. Items that appear on one or two credit reports may not appear on the others. This is because the credit bureaus are separate entities that operate independently of one another. Creditors that report to one bureau may choose not to report to the other two bureaus. Some creditors may report updates to different bureaus at different times, or the bureaus may choose to update their files at different times, resulting in differences between credit reports.
Credit scores are calculated solely from information found on your credit reports. Since your credit reports from separate bureaus can differ, it makes sense that credit scores derived from those reports can also differ. But there is another reason why your score might differ across reports: the scoring model. Lenders use many different scoring models to calculate credit scores; you may have heard of FICO scores, VantageScore, the Experian Rational Risk Model, and the Equifax Risk Score, to name a few. The same report can generate many different scores, depending on the scoring model being used.
Ultimately, all scoring models have the same purpose — to predict the risk to a creditor of lending to a particular consumer — but the way that risk is calculated can differ between scoring models. Scoring models used can differ across industries; for example, a mortgage lender may use a different scoring model than an auto lender, because a mortgage lender seeks to predict different types of risk than an auto lender. Each lender uses the scoring model that best suits its needs. If you want to know which scoring model a lender is using, you can simply ask. Usually lenders are forthcoming with this information.
In summary, don’t be alarmed if you find that you have a different credit score between bureaus. In fact, it’s to be expected. Your scores can vary between credit reports because your credit reports themselves differ, and because lenders use many different types of scoring models. It’s recommended that you request your free annual credit report from each bureau, so that you are aware of your credit score and the items on your credit report for each bureau. You can request your credit reports at www.annualcreditreport.com.