Debt Smarts: Credit scores and their myths

Lita Epstein is WalletPop's resident credit score expert. Write to her in the comments box below.


Many of the questions I receive relate to credit scores and how to improve them. There are many myths out there which I debunk below, but first let's take a look at what a credit is and who creates it. Actually there isn't just one type of credit score. The primary driving force behind most of them though is the Fair Isaac Corporation, known by most as FICO.

Each of the three credit reporting agencies has a score developed by FICO. Equifax's is called BEACON, TransUnion's is called FICO Risk Score and Experian's is called FICO II. Each one is tweaked slightly differently, so you'll find your credit score is not exactly the same at each agency, but scores are usually within 20 points of each other. If you find a greater difference, one or more of the credit agencies probably have inaccurate information in your credit file.

In addition to these three types of scores, there are new scores from Fair Isaac called NextGen. The names given to these new scores are Pinnacle (Equifax), FICO Risk Score (Experian) and Risk Score Next Gen (TransUnion).

That's not all. In addition to these scores there is scoring done for insurance companies and others designed for different types of businesses that set up a different set of parameters they want monitored. Insurance companies believe that people with a low credit score tend to file more claims, so in many states your insurance premiums can be higher if you have a low credit score.