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Ask Creditnet: Do Lenders Use the Same FICO scores?

Dear Creditnet: Are the FICO credit scores I can buy at myFICO.com just an estimate of the scores actual lenders use? I'm getting ready to apply for a mortgage and want to make sure there are no surprises when potential lenders pull my credit.

Answer: Thanks for your question. It happens to highlight a topic that many consumers find confusing when they're preparing to finance a major purchase such as a home or a car—which credit scores really matter? The fact is FICO scores are FICO scores.

The FICO credit scores lenders pull are exactly the same scores you can buy at myFICO.com. In theory, as long as you pull them at the same time, they should be identical. However, it's important to note that you can only purchase FICO scores based on both your Equifax and TransUnion credit reports at this time. Experian-based FICO scores are no longer accessible to consumers.

Lenders, on the other hand, still have access to them and often look at all 3 of your FICO scores when reviewing an application for credit. So, while the credit scores you can buy from myFICO.com are the same ones actual lenders use, you're only getting a look at two out of three. If that doesn't sound fair, you're not alone. A lot of people were outraged when Experian ended their partnership with FICO back in 2009.  

Unfortunately, nothing has changed yet. Any other credit scores peddled on various websites are simply estimates of the mighty FICO score. They may look and feel like a FICO score, but they're not.  If you can get access to these scores for free, it can't hurt to take a look, but don't waste your time or money paying for them.  When you're ready to take a look at your real FICO scores, head to myFICO.com.

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Joshua Heckathorn's picture

Joshua Heckathorn is a credit expert and has been featured on CNNMoney, FOX Business, Yahoo Finance, The Street, and many other national publications during the past twenty years.  He received a Bachelor of Science in Management (Finance) from Brigham Young University's Marriott School of Business and earned his MBA from Seattle University.

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