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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  |   49 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.

The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.


  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….

      • Pete J. says:

        Really! And the score the auto dealer uses gives them the justification to increase the interest rate on the loan. What a scam.

        • Anonymous says:

          I agree. I thought I was improving my score to the minimum requirements for a home loan. Turns out I’m still 80 pts away! All so they can charge you the highest interest on their loans

          • P.R. says:

            I applied for a mortgage yesterday,thinking the I’m ok because I’ve done so much work to get on track. The only credit score that was accurate was my transition report. My Equifax and transunion scores have been close. Yesterday the lender gave me insanely low numbers. I was over 100 points lower on my Equifax and my Experian score was higher when it was always the lowest. I got ill yesterday when the mortgage lender told me that one of my scores was 500!!!! What?! I checked several sites and they’re giving me decent numbers.I’m in the good category. I don’t know what to do. How can it appear that I’m doing well…then new numbers fall out of the sky.

        • Dani S. says:

          I TOTALLY agree, I am selling my home and trying to buy another one, thought my score was 703 and when I went to my lender they said nope, it’s 643 and I said WHAT???!!!! I argued and he forwarded me who they use to run the reports and they take the middle score of the 3 main reporting agencies versus taking the highest. I think that is totally bogus!! I qualify but getting a 4.25% versus a 3.? % loan kinda stinks!

      • Corey says:

        My credit score is averaged at 763; a really good score but my mortgage lender is using 709 so he can give me a higher mortgage rate. It’s all a total scam and our government is not protecting us or giving us the ability to see the model they’re using. Hate this.

  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.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you! My question as well. I am trying to buy a house and am paying Equifax and Experian – come to find out today, my actual score is 80 points less. Frustrating!

      • Anonymous says:

        Same here! My 3 scores averaged was 714, but when I went to get pre-approved, my numbers were 674, 654 and 662…I was like WHAT THE WHAT!!!! It doesn’t make sense to me. I worked my butt off to ensure I was way out of the 600’s…this is so disappointing. I want to know what model they use.

  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.

    • Sonya T says:

      I agree with you! I have also been reading that Auto lenders especially misrepresent the truth of your credit score to finance you at a higher interest rate.

  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:


  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.

  23. Kathy says:

    I too do not agree that we as consumers cannot see what the lender sees. I checked my report and score two days before I applied for a loan. My score showed a 738, but when the lender pulled it, they got a 668! 70 points lower with no real explanation! I was approved for the loan, but not at the banks best tems. This is ridiculous! I am the consumer and I should be able to see what the bank will see!!

  24. DaveK says:

    I would probably accept a scoring model if it only adjusted the score a few points . I was recently denied a line of credit wigh a 703 , my banks so called “credit model” says I’m a 631 !! Don’t you think 72 points may be a bit excessive of an adjustment ?? Oh … YES !!! I’m shopping for a new bank !! But it still sucks that they were allowed to show a hard credit check with such an unfair “credit model” !!

  25. Peter F. says:

    I am a victim as well. With confidence I went to a bank for a mortgage having “excellent credit”, just to hear after they pulled my credit score (which cost you additional score points down the road), that our fico is WAY less than expected and disclosed to me against money a couple of days earlier.
    I read all the comments above, but here is the question: where to go and file our complaint (beside of the fraudulent 3 credit score companies who formed a monopoly with their annualcreditreport.com? Last, and their advertising (“The only source for your free credit reports. Authorized by…”) should already be seen as a crime.
    I am in for the fight. Let’s start!

  26. Nicole says:

    I am in the same situation. I am fighting to increase my score to buy a house with better terms but I do not know what my score is because it is blind shots in the dark based on what the lender pulls and which planet is in alignment with Jupiter or some such. This is the biggest scam and no one is doing anything about it! Credit should be open to each person to see what they are rated at if it is going to be used for every decision against us including employment, etc. Even when buying with cash they want a credit check!

  27. Mkjones says:

    I am in the mortgage business and work for a company that specializes in working with lower credit borrowers because we can go down to a 580 mid score. It’s a constant frustration for us as well. Consumers who think they qualify, actually don’t. Or they already “know” they won’t qualify – but they do. Get your credit pulled through a mortgage company. Take advice on what to pay off and what to ignore from them. Find out how to qualify for a mortgage by APPLYING for a MORTGAGE. Spending money and time – just to avoid a hard inquiry is overrated. Most credit scoring models are built so you can shop for a mortgage within a certain period—generally 14 to 45 days—with little or no impact on your score. If you shop outside of this period, any change triggered by shopping should be minor—a small price to pay for saving money on a mortgage loan.

  28. Anonymous says:

    I was told by not only FICO.com but the auto company my credit was 690-708. Got it pulled for a mortgage the EXACT SAME DAY… It’s 612-622. I’ve worked for two YEARS to build up my credit to be told that I might not be able to buy my first house. The sad thing it’s all due to student loans my company I work for 5+ years ago were supposed to pay off…they didn’t, even though told me they were paid. So, now, until I pay off another 50k of student loans, it always says I was multiple months late YEARS ago. Not since, but that doesn’t matter. It’s full of crap. I always pay my bills, make over 100k per year, but can’t get a house? But, they will sell me 10 cars! No sense! It’s rigged to screw everyone!

  29. Anonymous says:

    I hear and agree with everyone. My score for an auto loan was 83 points lower than what I could pull. If anyone has a wholelife insurance policy with a cash buildup account you might consider borrowing from yourself for that auto against the cash account. You will still pay interest but it will be to yourself… Take that to the loan officer…!!!

  30. Derek O says:

    This provlem has me talking to a lawyer this week. It means nothing if all we are getting are smoke and mirrors.

  31. G.M. says:

    the whole system is pathetic! I have 3 credit score 800. what give these people the right to dictate policy as to your credit worthiness and overlook a life time of hard work and assets. collateral use to even matter…. not anymore. a MILLION dollars in real estate, zero debt, buying home with cash, not only dont count its frowned down upon. the entire number system is so sick and twisted.

  32. preachergirl says:

    the credit world is a another in justice way to keep blacks and latinos from getting a home loan. that is why they have these scoring system in place. it was design that way. and now they take trans union as a middle score. when they use to take experian. every thing in this world system is mess up. believe that so you how to be over 800 to be able to score on there system. i know i am right where you are.

  33. Kelly D. says:

    This seemingly unregulated reporting practice may be misleading for a reason. My 749 score had me shopping a newer vehicle. My Bank claims my score is 643? Yes they would use more than CRA scores & have access to lots of information. I (We) are more likely to make a substantial purchase at our presumed rate & keeping the economy stimulated. (Apologies for the conspiracy angle)…I am now trying to justify the difference in lending rates as I have become emotionally attached to my potential new Truck!

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