How to Find Your Absolutely, Positively REAL and TRUE FICO Credit Score. Seriously.

Real FICO credit score

I‘m on a quest.  Much like Indiana Jones and his quest for the coveted Holy Grail. Only, my quest is not nearly as dangerous, but it does lead you down many dark tunnels and great quests filled with mystery and suspense.  I’m on a quest to find my real FICO credit score (cue Indiana Jones theme music….).

Okay, so this quest isn’t that exciting.  For me it was a quest because it took several days to get the answer I was seeking.  You’re probably wondering: why the  obsession with my credit score?  I already knew I had a decent score.  I had learned that when we recently built our dream home and then again after we refinanced since our bank had to run our credit scores then. 

So why am I now really obsessed?

how to Find fico credit score

More than one?

A large part is attributed to my book, Soldier of Finance, that I’m working on.  A good chunk of the book is dedicated to learning your credit score and various ways to improve or raise your credit score if you need it.  What I realized was that the more I wrote about credit scores the more I learned I didn’t know about them.  In fact, I feel like instead of majoring in Finance I should have majored in “Credit Scores” because the whole system is confusing.

Why The Fuss? Some financial experts like Dave Ramsey say to not worry about your credit score.  Personally, I disagree.  Your credit score is the heart rate to your financial health.  You don’t want to obsess over it, but you do want to check it every once in a while to make sure your pulse (score) is still good.

First Stop: Quizzle.com

how to Find fico credit score

First Stop

One of the first sites that I visited to get my “free credit score” was Quizzle.com. After retrieving my score here, which was 758, I realized that technically it wasn’t my real FICO credit score.

finding my real fico credit score

758, yes!

What? Not my real credit score?  Doh! (I’ll explain this more in a bit.)

how to Find fico credit score

Crap

So if that’s not my real FICO score, what is?

We  just completed the building of our dream home earlier this year and refinanced when rates dropped a few months back, so I knew that my bank would have our most recent credit scores.  I contacted my banker to see what scores they had on me.

ask your banker how to Find fico credit score

Excuse me, Mr. Banker sir…

This is what I got from them:

776 / 765 / 773    These are from all three credit bureaus.  Also, these are mortgage report credit scores which will be lower then credit scores that you would pull.

Did you catch that?  Look again:

….these are mortgage report credit scores…..

how to Find fico credit score

Mortgage report who?

Mortgage report credit scores….what the heck is that? (this is the classic phrase that my Phillipino mother says all the time.  Love you mom!)  Now thoroughly perplexed, I emailed my banker to see exactly what that meant.  His second response: (I’m sure he’s loving me by the way)

I found out about a year ago, that Freddie & Fannie had been working with the three credit bureaus to set up a scoring model for the purpose of mortgage loan requests.  The mortgage scoring is tougher then the normal consumer scoring.  Both are FICO scores utilizing the same system, but as one example, consumer models don’t give a lot of weight to collection items, whereas the mortgage scoring system does.  People who have collection items on their credit will score lower with the mortgage scoring system then the traditional consumer scoring system.  That’s one of the examples, but since FICO is a proprietary system, the public knows very little about the full details that go into your score.

After I read the email, this was my response:  Huh?

I knew at this time I was in way over my head.

Just like a typical male that won’t stop to ask directions when he’s completely lost, I trudged on hoping to find my answer of what my real credit score is.  Next stop MyFico.com.

Note:  After going through this process, I have also learned that CreditKarma.com is also another option in retrieving your free credit score.  They pull your credit score from TransUnion.

Credit Scores at MyFico.com

how to Find fico credit score at MyFico.com

Third time a charm?

Still curious I decided to actually purchase my credit score through MyFico.com.  It cost me $25 bucks, but I didn’t care.  I was on a mission.  (Note: I have since learned that I could have signed up for a free trial to get my credit score for free.  Crap.)

how to Find fico credit score

Two…..really?

Thinking there would only be only one true credit score, it gave me two.  One from TransUnion and the other from Equifax, which were 779 and 770 respectively.

Really? Two Credit Scores?!

More than one credit score

Bleep….

So here’s what I’m looking at so far: 758, 776, 765, 773, 779, and 770. At this point I have no clue which one is the real deal.  No more messing around.  It was time to break out the big guns.

Contact the Expert (about freakin’ time)

ask the expert how to Find fico credit score

Please…I’m begging you…

Looking to sort through the credit score maze, I contacted personal finance guru and author of Your Credit Score, Your Money and What’s at Stake, Liz Weston and explained to her my situation.

First, Liz explained to me my Quizzle score.  She said,

“It is true that the scores many consumers get aren’t FICOs, and these “consumer education” scores can be 30 to 100 points higher than your FICOs.”

Okay, great!  Consumer education scores.  That helps a ton!.   So in fact, Quizzle’s credit score is just supposed to give you a general range of where your credit score is at.  My score there wasn’t too far off, so at least it gave me a good starting point.   Now, what about the “mortgage report credit scores”

Liz had an idea but verified with a contact at FICO – nothing like going straight to the source!  She states,

It was my understanding that most mortgage lenders use the classic FICO score, which is what you get at MyFico.com. The scores will be different day-to-day (and even sometimes intraday) because the information in your credit files is constantly changing.

I’m not sure what your banker means when he says Fannie and Freddie worked with the bureaus to changed the FICO formulas, since they (none of them, the agencies or the bureaus) wouldn’t be able to do that. That’s FICO (Fair Isaac’s) purview.

But this wouldn’t be the first time a banker or mortgage lender gave bad info. There’s a whole chapter in my credit scoring book devoted to myths perpetrated by those who should know better.

IMG_3578

Woo-hoo!

She later confirmed that the banker was off in his statement.  In my banker’s defense, this stuff is really confusing - obviously.  Liz adds,

“Fannie and Freddie don’t do anything in concert when it comes to risk-evaluation tools, and neither do the bureaus, other than creating VantageScore as a would-be competitor to FICO (not that VS made much headway).

Fannie and Freddie are evaluating a version of the FICO called the FICO 8 Mortgage Score, but they have yet to tell the mortgage industry that they will accept that score instead of a classic FICO.

The FICO 8 Mortgage Score was introduced to lenders from Equifax in March but just became available to lenders from TransUnion and Experian last month, so your lender couldn’t have been using it to generate scores from all three bureaus earlier this year.

The FICO 8 Mortgage Score does give more weight to a person’s mortgage history, but not to collections. This is in line with other versions of the FICO, such as the one for the auto lending industry that gives more emphasis to a person’s auto loan history.”

There you have it. This is probably more information than you eve wanted to know about your credit score, but at least now I have a better understanding.

Note: If you have a question for Liz, check out her site Ask Liz Weston.  This lady knows her stuff.  Thanks Liz for helping out!

Getting a Second Expert Opinion

IMG_3579

Deep thought pose

Then I checked with Philip Tirone, a mortgage broker and the author of 7 Steps to a 720 Credit Score, from 720CreditScore.com. Philip echoed what Liz said, and then he added this:

“The consumer education score is worthless because no lender will ever use it. And because it is almost always higher than a FICO score, the consumer score gives a person an artificial sense of security about their credit score. They would be much better off getting the scores directly from FICO and ignoring the consumer scores entirely.”

Philip added that 100 percent of the credit scores that he reviews in his capacity as a mortgage broker have been based on the FICO score.

Okay, but I’m still confused. Where do TransUnion and Experian come into play?

Philip explained,

“There are three primary credit-reporting bureaus—TransUnion, Experian, and Equaifax—who are responsible for collecting your credit information and applying a formula to the information: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. So you have a TransUnion FICO score and a TransUnion consumer score, and so on and so forth. When a lender pulls your credit score (and as I’ve noticed, this will always be your FICO score), the lender actually gets three scores, one from each of the three bureaus. The lender ignores the high score and the low score, looking at the one that falls in the middle, and assigning interest rates only.”

Philip went on to explain that only TransUnion and Equifax sell both FICO and consumer scores to the public. If you buy a score from Experian, it will always be the consumer score.

Assuming what I’ve written is true, I also suggest inserting this after: “It was my understanding that most mortgage lenders use the  classic FICO  score, which is what you get at MyFico.com. The scores  will be  different day-to-day (and even sometimes intraday) because the   information in your credit files is constantly changing.”

This explains why the scores I got from MyFICO were different from the scores I got from the lender—they were pulled on different days. You can read more about how Experian pulled the plugged from allowing consumers to purchase their credit score at Credit Cards.com.

Credit Score Takeaways

Real Credit Score

Big Cheesey Smile

The biggest thing I got out of this is that you have several different scores and they constantly change.  I don’t want you to become obsessed over your credit score like I did, but it is important for you to know.

As I went through this process, my intern was intrigued so he looked up his credit score and found it he was in the low 600’s.  Ouch!  What was the primary culprit? He didn’t have any credit cards or any credit history.  His parents had warned him of getting into credit card debt, so he avoided them.   Getting his credit score was an eye opening experience since he’ll be soon graduating and joining the real world.

Have you had any credit score surprises?  What did you do about it?

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Comments | 18 Responses

  1. says

    Thanks for doing all the detective work for us Jeff!

    I suspect the credit score puzzle will only get more complex as the credit bureaus keep adding in additional scoring criteria to help get a more comprehensive view on a borrower’s ability to pay back a loan.

  2. Ken says

    I checked my scores at creditkarma.com and myfico.com. My credit score at creditkarma was 765 and my fico.com from Equifax was 802. So, if I read everything correctly, my creditkarma score should have been higher because it is a ”consumer education” score. Might be another one of those credit score mysteries…..

  3. Andrew says

    Great post! Thanks for doing this research and sharing it. I’ve been going crazy trying to understand why MyFico (yep, I paid for it, too!) gave me different credit scores than a mortgage lender who recently ran my scores. I disagree with Dave Ramsey as well. Credit scores ARE important because lenders use it to determine (along with other factors) what kind of interest rate you can get on a loan.

  4. says

    Thanks for the information. Working on an article right now about how the FICO 8 will effect consumers, but your article reminded me that many consumers have no idea about even the basics when it comes to credit scores.

  5. steelers1234 says

    i just check my chedit score through the internet they were 681 683 and 687, I bought a new vehicle and they told me my credit score was 591, did they use the fico score

  6. Michele Dobbs says

    I would like to propose a class action lawsuit against Transunion. I PAID for a credit report and score from Transunion. The score was 756. I felt fairly safe I could get a decent interest rate. My mortgage broker pulled my credit and score less than 24 hours later and it was 100 points, yes 100 points less.

    I contacted Transunion and they said the score given depended upon the model they used to provide the score and that the number I got is always going to be higher than the number given to a potential creditor.

    Why pay for a score if it/s meaningless. Transunion should state that in their advertisements that the score given is not the real score given to creditors. They don’t, why–no one would pay them for the score.

    I would love to find an attorney brave enough to take on Transunion who is taking our money and providing no benefit. In my opinion. It’s fraud.

    • Rita Stallings says

      I am having the exact same problem. I’ve been paying Transunion/ TrueCredit for years to be able to keep up with my credit scores which is 748-674-696. I contacted My Fico.com and found out they had my Equifax report showing 100 points (596) below what True Credit had shown on my report. I also feel they should repay me all the money they have taken from me. I also feel that 596 is much to low as my credit report is not that bad and I do not owe much money. I am so perplexed I just don’t know who to believe.

  7. Brian says

    mike dobbs is absolutely correct. what good is it to buy their product when it is completely worthless??? give me my money back.

  8. paulette says

    OMG!! I applied for a mortgage recently because I got my three “scores” and thought I was okay. And the lender showed I was about 100 points less than what I thought. Boy was I mad. I thought I was the only one who didn’t have a clue. This article is an eye-opener. I do have a question. If there were late payments in the past, how long before they don’t hurt so much in the rear? I know they will be there for at least 7 years. Everything was paid off in full and all have been paid on time for two years. I was just wondering…..

  9. Peggy says

    Excellent Article. My experience has been wasted money purchasing scores that are varying 100 point spread. In the process of credit repair this is quite upsetting….why can’t there be one score?????—then we would all know what we are getting. Thank you again.

  10. New Jeff Rose fan says

    THANK YOU SO SO MUCH for explaining this fairly convoluted credit score maze in way that was both an easy to understand and actually interesting. Your article was very helpful, and now, a whole lot of things i’d been confused about, suddenly all make sense.

    One part i did not truly grasp, though, was how a FICA score could change much in a single day. Well, of course, if that day you were late on a payment, or took out a big loan, sure, the score would change,
    but, otherwise, i didn’t quite get how the FICA score could change much on a day where not a lot happened financially to a person.

    still, thank you again. I wish more people could take boring and complicated topics and inform us about them in such an entertaining and informative way as this author, Jeff Rose does.
    [Jeff, since you are adept at explaining complex, multi-faceted things, can you now explain to me how to save my computer's Firefox bookmarks prior to installing the new windows8 OS? ha.]

    PS—Oddly, in the smaller print, on something on the FICA site called “score watch” feature————-it called my fica an
    “Equarian FICA score” yet it was from the actual MyFICA.com,

    ??????
    and it said, my FICA score was 728 “based on my FICA score and my equarian credit report”
    which confused me. I thought it would just be ‘plain’ FICA score, and was surprised the other 2 major credit reporting agencies were Not mentioned…?????????

    i used the “free 10 day trial thing, if that made a difference…? hope i remember to cancel it now before 10 days goes by…

  11. Jeff says

    I’ve been watching MyFico.com for a year now and have got my FICO score to about 660. (Was 550). I’m also paying a company to remove really old and bogos claims on my credit reports. This is going on for 2 months now and they have removed about 5 things on each credit company. Today I went and paid for the freecreditreport.com to see how it looks. 550 is my score WTH!!!! how is it MUCH lower than my Fico. I mean I have almost perfect credit for over 8 years now with many credits paid off including vehicles. Can someone please explain? Thanks, Jeff

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