Do All 3 of Your Credit Scores Matter?

The title of this article actually features a big mistake. The mistake is the idea that you only have 3 credit scores and it is one of those credit myths which resurfaces over and over again. In truth while you do only have 3 credit reports, one from each of the 3 major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian), you really have hundreds of different credit scores.

Your Many, Many Credit Scores

Credit scores come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. There are different brands of credit scores (i.e. FICO and VantageScore), different varieties of credit scores (i.e. mortgage industry adjusted scores, auto industry adjusted scores, credit-based insurance scores, general scores, etc.), and even different versions of credit scores (i.e. FICO Scores versions 1-9). While one lender might check your FICO 8 auto industry adjusted credit scores the next lender might be viewing an entirely different scoring model altogether. The result? You are unlikely to receive the exact same number twice when your credit scores are pulled by multiple lenders or even when you check your credit on your own.

The 3 Score Myth

Because you do indeed have 3 credit reports when a lender, such as a mortgage lender, checks all of 3 your reports he or she will also likely be viewing a snapshot of 3 of your credit scores at that time, one from each credit bureau. This leads many people to incorrectly assume that they only have three credit scores. However, as we have already covered above, you actually have a very wide variety of credit scores at any given time. It all depends upon who is checking your credit.

Strike a Pose

Another popular credit scoring myth is the idea that your credit scores are always in flux, automatically changing whenever the information on one of your credit reports is updated. Yet credit scores are actually only generated at the moment whenever you or a lender request them. Credit scores (designed to help lenders predict the level of risk associated with doing business with you) are just a snapshot of your credit worthiness at that exact point in time.

When you apply for a loan your lender will not be concerned with your mountain of available credit scores. Instead, your lender will only be concerned with the specific snapshot of credit scores which he or she pulls for you.

Do Lenders Check Credit Scores from All 3 Credit Bureaus?

Yes, some lenders indeed will want to see a copy of all 3 of your credit reports and a snapshot of all 3 of your credit scores generated by the credit scoring model of their choice. Most notably mortgage lenders will rely upon all 3 of your credit reports and scores to use when evaluating your application for a new loan. For this reason it is important to keep all of your credit reports (and by extension your credit scores) in the best shape possible. You cannot control which credit scores a lender may use, but you can exercise a lot of control over the information which appears on your credit reports.

Many other lenders such as auto lenders, credit card issuers, and banks granting personal loans will only check 1 of your 3 credit reports and scores whenever you apply for new financing. The catch, however, is that you probably will not know ahead of time (unless you ask) which credit report and score they will be checking. If you want to be sure that you receive access to the most attractive financing terms possible regardless of what you may be applying to receive you need to make earning and maintaining great credit across the board a priority. Otherwise you could find yourself wasting money on higher rates and fees or even being denied outright for financing.