If you’ve ever used a credit monitoring service, or even just looked at your credit scores side by side, you’ve probably wondered why you have different credit scores. If the credit reporting bureaus have the same information about you, shouldn’t you have the same score across the board? However, there are multiple credit score models.

In fact, while most people think they have just three credit scores, you may in fact have many. But why?

Accuracy and Timeliness of Information

Not all credit reporting bureaus get the same information at the same time. You might have missed a payment somewhere and it got reported to one credit bureau but not another yet.

Similarly, you might have paid down a large amount of debt, reducing your overall credit utilization, but not every credit bureau has received that information yet.

Finally, not all creditors report to all three major credit reporting bureaus. Not all credit reporting bureau will have all of your information all of the time.

Proprietary Scoring

When you look up what is considered in your different credit scores, you’ll find that there’s a general breakdown: Payment history, your credit utilization rate, and other factors like your credit mix and total accounts make up the rest. Things get even more complicated when you realize that different credit scores have their own calculations.

So if you apply for credit from 10 different creditors, that’s potentially 10 different scores from 10 different algorithms.

Then there are scores that are used for different purposes, adding another layer of complexity. For example, there are credit scores for insurance rates and for predicting your bankruptcy risk, as well as different credit scores for mortgage approvals.

What Different Credit Scores Mean for Your Credit

For the most part, if the credit bureau or creditor in question has up-to-date and accurate information, you should have similar credit scores from one source to the next. Where the little differences can become big differences is for people who are on the line between one grade of credit and the next.

It helps to monitor your credit score to have a general idea of where you are in the credit ranges. What’s more, you should keep an eye on your credit report itself to ensure that the information is accurate and up-to-date. Even if there are slight variations from one score to another, the beginning of building a good credit history is knowing what’s included on your report.

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