Which Credit Score Is Most Important?

Updated · Apr 28, 2022

Experian, TransUnion, Equifax, CreditKarma and Credit Sesame—all provide credit scores.

And they usually aren’t the same.

To further complicate things, the lender could use another score—different from the ones above.

So, what does each rating mean?

And which credit score is most important?

Why Are My Credit Scores Different?

A person can have over 50 different credit scores.

They are based on the same factors—payment history, credit utilization, length of credit history, types of accounts, new credit inquiries—but with different weights.

As such, they are in the same ballpark. Still, there is some variation.

Let’s see why.

Credit Scoring Models

The two main scoring models are FICO and VantageScore. They use the same factors but weigh them differently. In both cases, your payment history is most important.

Which credit score matters more depends on the lender.

Most creditors use FICO® Scores to determine your creditworthiness. Still, some rely on VantageScore, and others come up with their own scoring system.

So, ultimately, all are important.

Score Version

FICO® Score has many versions. The most commonly used ones are FICO 8 and 9. The most recent one is FICO 10.

VantageScore also receives updates. As of 2022, the newest one is VantageScore 5.0.

The models are updated periodically to reflect market and consumer habits changes.

From that point of view, the most accurate credit score is the most recent one. Or it would be if the model version was the only factor affecting your score.

Credit Bureau

When you apply for a loan or credit card, the lender checks your credit score. This three-digit number is calculated using information from your credit report.

The three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—generate the report of your credit history.

That said, they might have slightly different information about you.

This happens because creditors are not obligated to report your history to all agencies. They could inform one credit bureau and not the other.

Which credit bureau is most accurate depends on the individual case.

If there’s an error or missing information on one of the agencies, your report won’t be accurate. But that doesn’t depend on the credit bureau.

It’s more or less up to chance.

Date of Accessing the Score

Typically, credit bureaus update your information every 30-45 days. If you apply for a loan before the update, recent activity might not be reflected in your report and, in turn, your score.

In addition, the weight of entries in your report changes with time.

For instance, opening new accounts decreases your score initially, then boosts it if you make regular payments.

If you need a good credit score to get favorable terms on a loan, keep this in mind. You can time your application accordingly.

Error in Your Report

Before applying for credit, it is essential to check your report for errors and signs of fraud.

These could be anything from a wrong address to credit you didn't apply for. Incorrect information could not only affect your credit score but lead to more serious consequences like identity theft too.

If you find any errors, it's important to dispute them.

To do that, notify the credit reporting agency.

It will investigate and if it finds that the information is inaccurate, it will remove it from your report.

Which Credit Score Matters the Most?

Now we know why we have so many scores. It's time to see which one is most important.

FICO 10 is the newest version. That said, the most commonly used one is FICO 8. For that reason, some consider it the most important score.

Older versions of the FICO® Score are considered outdated. That said, sometimes the credit score used for a mortgage is FICO® Score 2 or 4.

What’s more, FICO Auto Score 8 is the most common score used by auto lenders. If you're applying for an auto loan, that'll be the most accurate indicator of whether you'll get it.

Next, credit card issuers tend to use FICO Bankcard Score 8.

In addition, VantageScore is much more rarely used than FICO. Still, it becomes the most important score if the creditor relies on it to decide whether to give you a loan.

So, which credit score is most important?

As it turns out, it depends on the lender’s choice.

Finally, companies like Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, and Credit.com provide credit scores for educational purposes.

These are key to helping you understand and manage your credit score. That said, lenders don't use them, so they aren't key in determining your creditworthiness.

Which Credit Bureau Is Most Accurate?

The more important question is, “which credit report is most accurate?”

All three credit bureaus gather the same types of data. But, as we explained above, they may receive different information about you.

As a result, they will produce different reports. The accuracy of the report determines the accuracy of your credit score.

Some lenders request information just from one of the reporting agencies. The catch is that you never know which one.

In contrast, other creditors pull all three reports. Typically, they use the "middle" score to decide the rate and terms for mortgages.

This is yet another reason to check your credit report from all three bureaus regularly.

Wrap Up

Which credit score is most important?

That is a complex question. The short answer is—the one the lender chooses to use.

But there’s more to it than that.

The accuracy of your score depends on a variety of factors—the reporting agency, the scoring model, the type of credit you apply for, and even when you’re calculating it.

Read the full list above.

Aleksandra Yosifova
Aleksandra Yosifova

With an eye for research, Aleksandra is determined to always get to the bottom of things. If there’s a glitch in the system, she’ll find it and make sure you know about it.