FICO Credit Scores Lose Some Legitimacy, Thanks to Court Decision

You may not realize it, but when you buy a score from one of the three credit bureaus you could be buying a VantageScore rather than a FICO score. Why does it matter? Mortgage lenders likely are using the FICO score, so what you just paid for won't give you the information you need.

A FICO score, named for the Fair Isaac Company that provides it, is based on a range of 300 to 850. A number from VantageScore Solutions is based on a range of 501-990, which tends to make you look like you have a higher score than the lender will see.

FICO wants to stop VantageScore Solutions from using any numbers that overlap the 300 to 850 range, which would leave VantageScore just 0 to 299 or 851 to 999. Neither range would allow enough room to create a valid scoring system.

VantageScore got what it wanted last week when U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery denied a new trial after a jury determined that one could not trademark a score range. If her ruling stands, FICO likely will no longer have a trademarked range and consumers will have even less understanding of what they are buying.

"Only the credit score your lender uses is what matters," said Odysseus Papadimitriou, CEO of, a card comparison website. Right now, he said, there is a lot of "confusion about whether they are getting a score that the lenders use."

The court decision will only add to the confusion.