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Why Does the Credit Score My Lender Sees Sometimes Differ From What I See?

Written by Equifax Experts on July 1, 2014 in Credit  |   27 comments

Your credit score may differ among the three credit reporting agencies, and the credit score you see may be different than the one your lender sees. The Equifax Experts explain why this sometimes happens.

why-does-the-credit-score-my-lender-sees-sometimes-differ-from-what-i-seeImagine this: You spend six months saving for a down payment on a new car. Before heading to the dealer to make your purchase, you pull your credit report and credit score to ensure you will qualify for the best loan terms. Your credit score is good, but when you’re offered financing at the dealership, it’s not at the competitive rates you were hoping—the auto lender’s score was lower than the one you pulled on your own.

What you didn’t know before you picked out your new car was that the information that lenders use to assess your creditworthiness may be different from what you will see in the credit reports you pull.

Lenders use different credit scoring models to gauge your risk as a borrower. Each lender chooses the one that best suits its needs, and some use scores that are weighted according to their industry. For example, a mortgage lender might use a different scoring model than an auto lender. Other lenders use a blend of the scores that are assigned to you by the three credit reporting agencies (CRAs).

(Click here to learn more about why your 3 credit scores may be different)

What you need to know about your credit score

Use your credit score as a guide. Given the use of different credit scoring models, it can sometimes appear as though you will never know exactly how you will be viewed by lenders. However, each credit score is a useful tool to help you take stock of your financial standing. Your credit score reflects your history of borrowing and repaying money, and lenders use that same history to determine your creditworthiness.

(Read more: Eight Things You Don’t Know About Your Credit Score)

A low credit score could cost you. Lenders use your credit score as a factor in deciding whether you qualify for credit and which terms and interest rates they will offer you. The lower your score, the less likely you are to be approved. Taking steps to improve your credit score could reduce your interest payments over the life of your loan. A good credit score may also grant you access to better financial deals, like refinancing options and credit card rewards.

There are ways that may help you to improve your credit score over time. If your credit score isn’t adequate to get the interest rates you want or to qualify for a loan, it is possible for you to take steps to change it for the better over time. You can’t expect to correct a poor credit history overnight, but cultivating good credit behaviors could eventually help you achieve a better score in the years ahead.

Your payment history is weighted most heavily in calculating your credit score, so make on-time payments on all of your accounts. Just one late or missed payment could lower your credit score.

You should also keep your balances low because a credit utilization ratio—how much of your available credit you’re using—of more than 30 percent on your credit accounts could make lenders see you as a greater risk.

As you’re trying to take steps to help improve your credit score, consider using existing credit responsibly and only open new lines of credit when necessary. Opening multiple credit accounts at once shortens your average account age and can lower your credit score.

You can track your progress by regularly checking your credit report. Look for inaccurate or incomplete information that could be negatively affecting your score, and promptly take actions to dispute inaccuracies. Getting in the habit of monitoring your credit report could help encourage you to maintain good credit habits, and it can also alert you to any potential signs of identity theft.

27 comments

  1. Scott K. says:

    Why is there no tool that allows a consumer to view the score using the common models that the auto/mortgage/credit card lenders use? Is it really all that hard for you to provide that since these lenders obviously already have such tools? Consumers should not have to go to these lenders blind.

    Your article doesn’t really help. It states what I’d consider obvious. If the lender is seeing a different score, then obviously they’re using a different model, but that model should not be made exclusive to those lenders as if it should be some kind of secret that needs to be kept from the consumer.

    • Jennifer says:

      I totally agree!! It has been frustrating to try to get a mortgage and your “FICO” score is 100 point lower!! Really….

  2. L.L. says:

    I do not understand how one is to use one’s credit score as a guide if the one received is different than the one potential lenders will see. What use is that kind of guide if you don’t even know the true reference point?

  3. Gary M says:

    I’ve always believed a credit score was accurate depending upon the agency reporting. Equifax, Experian, Trans Union. If someone, an auto dealer, perhaps, pulls a report that is considerably lower than the three major credit agency’s report, what is one to do?

    If you, Equifax, are saying someone can do such a thing, why am I paying your company for three Credit Scores on a regular basis.

  4. A. K. Moorehead says:

    Your credit score should be the same across all credit bureaus & to all credit providers. This has became an “all important” number and it appears to be completely unregulated and can be adjusted by the bureaus & credit providers too meet their financial gains with no thought of how it effects the individual customers.
    This personal score has became a “profit center” for the credit bureaus and credit providers.

  5. Willhelm L. says:

    Why is it that Equifax score drop for the least amount of negative change, sometimes by 100 points with the blink of an eye?
    It takes people like myself with poor credit scores a lifetime of work to bring it up by a 100 points by paying down a lot of debts, only to see the score drop like a piece of lead by Equifax.
    Does it even make any sense to buy a membership to monitor information on our credit?

  6. Joan says:

    Thanks for this information. How do I obtain my own credit report.

    • EFX Moderator says:

      Joan, you can visit AnnualCreditReport.com to pull one of your free credit reports from each of the three national credit reporting agencies (CRAs)—including Equifax. Click here to learn more details about how to check your Equifax credit report. I hope that helps.

  7. Tamara H says:

    You guys at Equifax are so full of it. When I reported an error you reduced my score after it was resolved my score wasn’t adjusted back to where it was prior to the error being reported. I despise the way you handle business .

  8. Fec up with CRAs says:

    So it pretty much means that information provided by Credit bureaus to customers for a fee is inaccurate and useless. How convinient.

    • John Doe says:

      this is so true, i paid for 3-report/score and lender was nowhere near what the bureaus were reporting. Its all a scam.

  9. Tony says:

    I now see little value in continuing my paid Equifax credit membership and intend to cancel. If I am applying for university, and my teacher says my grades are B’s, but at the same time my teacher tells the university my grades are only C’s, this is not fair. I am not aware of any other such legal bait and switch in the country…At some point, I am sure the regulatory authorities will catch up to this as more and more consumers complain. I certainly will add my voice tomorrow…I am sure you will only post positive comments.

  10. Charles S. says:

    Just took out a Mortgage and when the bank got my score, it was higher than the one I got, but it had been a year since I last got it.

  11. tj. says:

    The biggest scam ever. Needs legislation to force these folks sell the true score and the straight facts. Anything less is a fraudulent rip-off. And fines for every error on a report.

  12. Anonymous says:

    So if lenders select different components of the score that is more reflective of their industry does that mean it is possible the score they come up with is higher than the one we pull from our records? If not then the system is rigged. The law of averages is such that some of their scores should be higher, some the same and some lower. But no matter what credit I used even when I was over 800 on all 3 bureaus, my score was always higher than what lenders come up with. Please help explain.

  13. Marty says:

    I’m in the process of applying for a mortgage. I checked my score on Equifax and it is 80 points higher than the score my lender reports they received from Equifax. I don’t understand how that could be legal. Equifax sells a service to people and reports one score, then provides a hugely different score to a lender? The other two services my lender got scores from (Experian and Transunion) report to my lender the exact same scores they report to me. What’s up with Equifax?

  14. Marie says:

    Good job. This information is accurate. I work in banking and we have our on model to determine one’s creditworthiness.

  15. Steve T. says:

    I think it is very deceitful to have different methods to report your credit score. There should be one Standard that applies across the board that both you and the lender have a full understanding of.

  16. TERRANCE says:

    THIS ARTICLE IS FURTHER PROOF THE THE CREDIT SCORING MODE IS A SHAM. HOW CAN YOU BE THE SAME PERSON WITH THE SAME INCOME, SPENDING, AND CREDIT HABITS HOWEVER YOU COULD HAVE AS MANY A 3-30 DIFFERENT CREDIT SCORES DEPENDING ON WHO YOU ASK, WHAT TIME OF DAY IT IS, IF IT’S RAINING, ETC…

  17. Anonymous says:

    Wow!!! This means you are lying to your subscribers! OMG!

  18. David H. says:

    After monitoring my credit score on a frequent basis, I’ve noticed that the scoring system is stacked against the consumer. For example: I pay my credit card balances in full each month. When I make credit card purchases they immediately show up on my credit report, and they are used to determine the balance to credit limit ratio which can have a big impact on my credit score. When I get my credit card statement and pay the balance in full, it takes over a month for the credit card company to report my new zero balance. I use my credit cards for business reasons, but if I charge anything of significant value, my credit score drops immediately. Can someone please explain the rational behind this practice? To avoid a negative credit score, I have started paying my credit card balances in full each time I make a purchase of any value, instead of keeping my charges to a low level and paying the balance in full when I get my statement.

    • Anonymous says:

      Let me help you. Yes, it SUCKS that they see a diff score than you. But for your question, I can help you.

      If you charge $10,000, no one KNOWS you pay it off in full. They just see $10K charged on a 10K. Get it? So you charge X amount and pay off X amount every month. But the credit report has no way of knowing you pay in full. They just see your balance.

      How YOU pay your balance is up to you. You following me? So the BEST way is to NEVER max out your card. If I have a 10K limit, I NEVER charge more than a few thousand on it. Thus, it will never show I am maxed out.

      Also, find out WHEN they report it. It always shows what day of the month they report your balance. So make sure you have a zero balance a few days before they report. If your due date is the 5th, but they report on the 1st, then you will ALWAYS be behind the 8 ball and never win. So come up with your OWN due date based upon a few days earlier than they report.

  19. Terry M. says:

    Helpful information. Some good tips. Thanks

  20. Anonymous says:

    Typical BS from Equifax. The credit bureaus are a scam industry. They rig their models on scoring so no one can understand their systems. Then they have the audicity to charge for a credit report. They make substantial profits and provide no service to the consumer. Have you ever tried to dispute an item on your credit report? Good luck. Good luck getting ahold of a live operator to assist. Experian doesn’t even have a telephone number to communicate with you unless you order a copy of their report and pay for it. These companies are terrible and should be put out of business.

  21. Jennifer says:

    Equifax is a joke. I have had 3 fraudulent bills go into collections. I have had them removed 3 different time in the past year through their “dispute center”. The last letter I got from them removing these three “collections” was dated May 28, 2014. Well guess what just appeared on my credit report yesterday through Equifax… The SAME THREE BILLS and dropped my credit score another 74 points.. I am supposed to put an offer on a house next Friday and because of this it looks like I might not be elligible now because it shows I have 3 bills that haven’t been paid for 2 months!!
    I called Equifax and all they had to say is send in the dispute and I should have an answer within 4-6 weeks!!! This house will be gone by then!!

  22. Nicholas V. says:

    Not very helpful.
    The scores originally were supposed to provide a consolidated number that represented someone’s overall credit worthiness. We as consumers could see those 3 numbers (only one from each credit bureau) and could work to improve our scores. Lenders would see the same scores. Now there are at least 50 VERY disparate score “weightings” available to lenders. We no longer get any meaningful info from our “consumer” score weightings and lenders simply pick whichever score weighting fits what they’ve already decided to do (or not do) for their customer. I received 2 scores from the same bank within 2 days that differed by more than 60 points. The first from someone who thought they could help me, and the 2nd from someone else who was sorry they couldn’t. What started out as a great idea is now just another source of income for my bank.


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