You may know that FICO scores range from 300 to 850 and that higher scores are more desirable. If you’re buying a house, you may strive to boost your FICO score to qualify for the best conventional mortgage rates. If you’re applying for a car loan or credit cards, you also work to boost your FICO score.
What you may not know is that your FICO score is not the only score you should worry about. Especially if you intend to buy a car, open a checking account or rent an apartment, there are specialized scores that may determine whether you are successful or walk away empty handed. Fortunately, some lenders look beyond your FICO score to consider your entire financial profile when making a credit decision.
Multiple FICO Scores
FICO is actually an acronym for Fair Isaac Corporation, which is responsible for generating the FICO score. But in reality you probably have multiple FICO scores, one from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. If you’re planning a major purchase, such as a house or a car, you should obtain all three credit reports plus each of your credit scores. And while you can obtain your credit reports free of charge from the AnnualCreditReport.com website, gaining access to your actual credit scores is likely to cost money.
The Vantage score was created by the three major credit reporting bureaus and is administered through TransUnion. It was created for 30 to 35 million Americans for whom a conventional FICO score cannot be calculated. For instance, if you don’t use credit cards and have never bought a car or a house, you may not have a FICO score, but if you have rented an apartment or paid utility bills, you are likely to have a Vantage score. Vantage scores originally ranged from 501 to 999 and were arranged in five bands: A for scores between 900 and 999; B for scores between 800 and 899; C for scores between 700 and 799; D for scores between 600 and 699 and F for scores of 599 or lower.
In 2013, VantageScore 3.0 was introduced which brought several changes to this credit rating system. It offered the ability to now score 30 to 35 million people who were previously considered “unscoreable” because of a lack of credit history. In addition to this change, they also implemented new ways of scoring individuals, ignoring all paid collections, as well as any collections, paid or unpaid, under $250, and offering credit relief for disaster victims, by ignoring accounts negatively impacted by natural disasters. The other major change to this new version is that it now uses a score range of 300 to 850, the same scale used by FICO, making it easier for consumers to interpret and manage their credit scores.
Innovis Credit Report
While many people are familiar with the “big three” credit reporting agencies, a fourth credit reporting bureau is largely unknown, at least to consumers. But the Innovis credit reporting agency, based in Texas, is well known to mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Just as with the three better known credit reporting bureaus, you are entitled to one free copy of your Innovis credit report every 12 months. As of August 2015, there does not seem to be a separate Innovis credit score.
Payment Reporting Builds Credit (PRBC)
If you are committed to living a pay-as-you-go lifestyle, you are unlikely to have a credit report or a conventional FICO score. PRBC and its parent company MicroBit represent the largest nontraditional credit reporting bureau in the world. Users can use PRBC for free and view their credit reports and credit scores for no charge. Credit is built by recording on-time payments for utilities, rent or any other financial obligation. Credit scores range from 300 to 850; most users have scores ranging between 700 and 850
FICO Auto Industry Option Score
Many auto dealerships evaluate your credit using the enhanced FICO Auto Industry Option score. This specialized version of your FICO score emphasizes your history with auto loans. If you have been especially conscientious about paying your car note, your FICO Auto Industry Option Score could be considerably higher than your regular FICO score. There’s no way you can find out for yourself whether that’s the case, because the FICO Auto Industry Option Score is only released to the trade.
Auto Credit Tiers
Car buyers may also be judged by auto tier score system. Instead of a standard FICO score, the auto credit tier system is graded much like a report card: A+, A, B, C, D or F, although the tier system may substitute numbers for letter grades. Each number or letter refers to a band of scores.
Fortunately it is possible to get a car loan even if your scores are miserable. That’s because a car loan is secured by the car. Miss a payment and kiss your car goodbye. Just avoid those “buy here, pay here” lots. Even if your credit is bad, you can almost always find better terms than the sky high interest rates offered by such establishments.
Rental History Report
Did you trash your last apartment or skip out on three months’ rent? Were you evicted from an apartment recently? If so, you may be in for a nasty surprise when you attempt to rent a new place. Your landlord may have filed a negative rental history report against you. Of course, if your eviction was years ago and you have years of good tenant history since then, you have less to worry about. Likewise, if your FICO score is above 800, you will undoubtedly find someone who is willing to rent to you.
For millions of Americans, checking accounts are practically impossible to obtain. That’s because of negative information contained in ChexSystems. One bad check won’t cause you to have a ChexSystems report, especially if you made good on the check. But a string of bad checks or an account closed due to bad checks could cause you to have trouble opening a new checking account in the near future. You are entitled to one free copy of your ChexSystems file every year. You must request your ChexSystems report through the ChexSystems website, which is consumerdebit.com.
If you’re in the market for a house or condo, you may feel as though your FICO score doesn’t tell your whole financial story. Digital Risk, the creators of a multi-faceted mortgage risk system called Veritas would agree. Veritas evaluates factors beyond your FICO score to predict how likely you are to react to an economic downturn or a financial crisis. If you score well on the Veritas scale and find a lender that uses it in its mortgage decisions, you may well be able to overcome a lower FICO score to gain an approval. Unfortunately, Veritas scores are only available to lenders, not consumers.
Bankruptcy Risk Score
The next time you apply for a loan or a credit card, the lender or merchant may generate a bankruptcy risk score for you. A bankruptcy risk score is a specialized report that predicts whether a given person is likely to declare bankruptcy in the near future. Bankruptcy risk scores range from 250 to 900.
You are unlikely to know whether your bankruptcy risk score was considered in a credit decision, because bankruptcy risk scores are not released to the general public. You can influence your bankruptcy risk score positively or negatively through your own financial conduct. Nonetheless, your bankruptcy risk score may also suffer if you live in an area that was especially hard hit by the financial crisis or the collapse of the housing market.
Your Credit Profile and Your Life
Your credit report and your credit score impacts several aspects of your life. Landlords, credit card companies, mortgage lenders, utilities – even insurance companies and employers often base their decisions at least partially on information obtained within your credit report. If your credit profile has blemishes, you may feel judged. The good news is that with time and effort, you can improve many aspects of your credit report and boost your credit scores.
Audrey Henderson is a Chicagoland-based writer and researcher. She holds advanced degrees in sociology and law from Northwestern University. Her writing specialties are sustainable development in the built environment, policy related to arts and popular culture, socially and ecologically responsible travel, civic tech and personal finance.