FICO Score vs. Credit Score: What’s the Difference?

Irina Tsymbaliuk
FICO Score vs. Credit Score

If you deal with loans, you’ve definitely heard about FICO and credit scores, which are used to assess a borrower’s risk. Overall, they both reflect how well you manage your finances, how reliable you are as a borrower, and how good your credit rating is. However, there are a few fundamental points that are important to compare. So, understanding the difference between a FICO score and credit score will help you improve your rating and, therefore, get approved for loans with better terms and lower rates.

So, is FICO the same as a credit score? How are they calculated, and how do they differ? Keep reading for our complete FICO score vs. credit score guide.

Credit Scores: Definition and Key Features

Credit Scores: Definition and Key Features

First and foremost, a credit score is a numerical expression of your financial capabilities and creditworthiness that demonstrates to the lender your reliability as a borrower and the potential risks associated with providing you with a loan. It’s taken into consideration when deciding whether you should be approved for a loan or line of credit, and it also determines the terms, interest rates, and credit limits. The higher your standing is, the more responsible you are in matters of full and timely repayment of credits. A lower credit rating, in turn, may indicate that you are not trustworthy in matters of debt obligations.

The score is calculated based on several factors:

  • Bill payment history;
  • Current debt;
  • Number of open loans;
  • Types of open loans;
  • Age of credit accounts;
  • Credit utilization rate;
  • Whether there has been bankruptcy or debt collection, and so on.

Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are the three nationwide bureaus. An important point is that various companies use different calculation methods, which means that one person can have several different outcomes. In some cases, additional aspects of your credit history may be taken into account, or certain factors may be more important than others. But one way or another, the more points you get, the better it is for you.

FICO Score: Definition and Key Features

FICO Score: Definition and Key Features

Is a FICO score the same as a credit score? Although these metrics refer to the same thing, they are not the same. A FICO numerical value is calculated by FICO using complex mathematical formulas. FICO provides several versions of scoring models that are among the most widely used for assessing the creditworthiness of borrowers. So, FICO offers a three-digit number (usually between 300 and 850) that provides lenders with information about a borrower’s creditworthiness, assessing the likelihood of repaying the loan on time and in full.

A FICO rating includes five factors:

  • Payment history (35%);
  • Credit utilization (30%);
  • Credit history length (15%);
  • Credit mix (10%);
  • Credit inquiries (10%).

The FICO score is a cornerstone indicator since it determines the terms and interest rates you can expect when receiving a loan. In practice, if you are rated “good” or “excellent,” lenders are assumed to bear low risk, and you can expect lower interest rates, more flexible terms, and more credit options.

Keep in mind that FICO creates many models to assess creditworthiness, all of which are used in different lending scenarios. Therefore, you, as a borrower, may have several different FICO ratings depending on the data used in the calculation.

And if you are wondering, “Is my FICO score my credit score?” we’ll talk about that now.

Main Differences Between Credit Scores and FICO Scores

Main Differences Between Credit Scores and FICO Scores

As we have already discovered, credit and FICO ratings are not the same thing. Now, let’s examine the main points that determine the fundamental difference between a FICO score and credit score.

Calculation Method

Your credit standing contains data from your report, such as bill payment history, current debt, number of active loans, types of active loans, age of credit accounts, utilization percentages, bankruptcies, foreclosures, and so on. Next, based on this information, this rating is calculated—different companies use different scoring models and prioritize different factors.

FICO value, in turn, is based on specific mathematical calculations, which establish a certain influence of each factor—payment history (35%), credit utilization (30%), credit history length (15%), credit mix (10%), and credit inquiries (10%). By evaluating these parameters and ranking their importance, your FICO standing is calculated.

Although credit and FICO scores are calculated differently, they represent the same thing. These two ratings are based on different scoring approaches, they take into account different factors and evaluate them with different degrees of importance.

Industry Adoption

This is perhaps one of the key points in the FICO vs. credit score comparison. While credit ratings are largely considered to be nothing more than “educational,” FICO ones are widely used by most lenders across a variety of industries. FICO is one of two companies whose scoring models are most often used by lenders.


720 is considered an excellent score, between 690 and 719 is good, between 630 and 689 is fair, and below 629 is bad.

When it comes to FICO, the range is from 300 to 850. A score above 670 is good. In general, 800+ is exceptional, 740 to 799 is very good, 670 to 739 is good, between 580–669 is fair, and below 580 is poor.

Although this is not a complete comparison of credit scores vs. FICO scores, these factors help you understand the fundamental difference between a credit score and FICO score.

Final Thoughts

So, is your FICO score your credit score? The best approach is to think of the FICO metrics as one of the different ways to assess creditworthiness. Although it may seem that credit and FICO standings are different names for the same thing, this is not entirely true. There are several significant differences between these models regarding calculation method, industry adoption, and score range.

However, it is fair to say that while these scoring approaches may rely on slightly different data and weight factors slightly differently, they measure the same thing and are used for the same purpose. And your task, as a borrower, is to make sure you get the highest score possible. The better your rating, the higher your chances of getting a loan approved at the best rates and the most flexible terms.