Your Ultimate Guide to the VantageScore Credit Score

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While FICO leads the pack in the credit scoring business, VantageScore entered the game in 2006 to challenge FICO’s dominance.

Developed by all three credit reporting agencies (CRCs) – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax – VantageScore is gaining traction. Here’s how it works, and how you can get the best VantageScore credit score possible.

What is the VantageScore credit score?

The motive behind creating this new score was to create a simpler, more consistent, and more predictive credit score, according to VantageScore.

Although the big three credit bureaus developed VantageScore, it was transferred to independent management by VantageScore Solutions.

If you’re curious to see your VantageScore credit score, here’s a list of providers from which you can obtain it for free.

3 main benefits of the new credit score

1. Helps the credit invisible

Before the creation of VantageScore, achieving high credit scores was difficult for those considered to be “credit invisible.” Essentially if you hadn’t yet built credit, then there was nothing to score you on.

But the development of the VantageScore consisted of a strategy to include those who haven’t yet used much credit, or only use it lightly. This was done by increasing the years of credit history reviewed and adding more granular data from credit reports.

According to VantageScore, this has opened up credit scoring to an additional 30-35 million consumers.

U.S. News explains why this strategy works:

A move to VantageScore could be good news for consumers, particularly those with a weak credit history. VantageScore 3.0 is the most current version and looks back 24 months at a person’s credit history, a feature that allows it to score more people who have little or no recent credit history.

2. Emphasis on simplicity

Besides opening the gates of credit to more consumers, VantageScore also created a simplicity that didn’t yet exist in credit scoring.

With FICO credit scores, each of the three credit reporting agencies developed its own specific model. That, plus the addition of updated versions and industry-specific scores, led to the creation of multiple credit scores for each consumer.

Since VantageScore’s creation was a collaborative effort by all three credit reporting agencies, the same model is used by all three.

3. Fewer reason codes to decipher

Finally, VantageScore sought to make it easier for consumers to understand their credit scores. It uses fewer reason codes and simplifies the descriptions of these codes.

VantageScore also developed ReasonCode.org, a site where consumers can see a description of the reason codes behind their scores.

Who uses VantageScore?

As interesting as new credit scores may be, they don’t mean much unless lenders use them. That’s why it’s important to understand who uses VantageScore – and who doesn’t.

For now, FICO is still leading the pack when it comes to lender use. It’s the score your prospective creditors see when they review your credit application.

But VantageScore is the leader when it comes to a more predictive score. And that’s important to you if you have a very limited credit history. Creditors who use the score may be more likely to give you a chance.

VantageScore trailing behind FICO – for now

FICO still has the biggest hold on the market with 90 percent of “top lenders” using it. That’s why it’s important to stay on top of your FICO score.

That said, VantageScore has seen tremendous growth over the past few years.

According to VantageScore, more than eight billion of its scores were used between 2015 and 2016. Additionally, “2,400 lenders and other industry participants – including 20 of the top 25 financial institutions – used VantageScore credit scores from July 2015-2016.”

VantageScore might not have 90 percent of the market yet, but it’s growing quickly. And it’s next version is set to be even more competitive.

VantageScore version 4.0 on the horizon

To take the lead, VantageScore’s next version will consider the National Consumer Assistance Plan (NCAP).

Here’s an explanation of the plan:

NCAP provisions include the removal from consumer credit files of significant numbers of negative entries, including tax liens, certain other public records, and some collections accounts.

In short, negative entries that would typically damage your credit score for years might finally be going away. And VantageScore 4.0 will take that into consideration.

The new model, coming out late 2017, will also work to be even more predictive than today’s version by using what’s called trended credit data. According to VantageScore, this reflects changes in credit behaviors over time. It’s in contrast to the static, individual credit history records usually available in consumer credit files.

The VantageScore 4.0 model will use trended credit data to gain better insight into borrowing and payment patterns. This will be particularly beneficial to consumers in the prime and super prime credit score ranges.

From the looks of it, this new model will continue the VantageScore tradition of going outside of the box on credit scores. And this could help consumers gain more access to credit or better rates on credit.

VantageScore vs. FICO: Which one is better?

In the race to be the most popular credit score on the block, you might not be sure which credit score is better. Like the answer to most financial questions, “it depends.”

First, it’s important to understand what better means. Even if VantageScore did create the most intuitive, accurate, and simple credit score out there, it wouldn’t matter to you unless the lender you want to borrow from adopts it.

But if the work VantageScore is doing gets more lenders on board, that will be the game changer. Until then, the best thing you can do is know how you score with both credit scoring models.

As for how VantageScore vs. FICO represents your credit score, the credit score ranges aren’t very different from each other:

VantageScore vs. FICO

Image credit: Experian

Now let’s dive into how these credit scores do differ from each other.

What FICO measures and what VantageScore measures

For starters, FICO and VantageScore define measurement differently. FICO breaks down the factors that play into your score by percentage, whereas VantageScore does it by measuring their factors by influence.

Here’s a look at FICO’s factors.

VantageScore vs. FICO factors

Image credit: myFICO 

Now take a look at VantageScore’s factors.

VantageScore factors

Image credit: VantageScore

VantageScore vs. FICO credit score factors

As you compare, make sure you note one major difference.

While FICO and VantageScore both emphasize payment history as the top influencing factor, FICO puts your credit utilization in the number two spot. VantageScore puts your age and type of credit as the second most influential factor on your credit score.

VantageScore vs. FICO credit score factors

Image credit: Experian

Although both prefer consumers to have no more than a 30 percent credit utilization ratio, it’s interesting that VantageScore puts age above that. Especially when you consider the fact that VantageScore aims to open up scores to more consumers by going further back into their credit history.

Overall, both of these scores care about the same things. That certainly makes your life a lot easier as you work to get the best credit scores you can.

How to get your best VantageScore credit score

The things you can do to get the best VantageScore credit score aren’t much different from the things you would need to do to get your best FICO score.

What is different is how long negative items can influence your score. Let’s take a look.

How long do negative items affect your VantageScore credit score?

Negative items can stay on your credit report for years, according to this graph from VantageScore.

VantageScore negative credit events

Image credit: VantageScore

As long as some of these items can take to fall off your credit report, the actions you take now can help your score improve faster than it looks.

In fact, the first month after any negative item is when your score will take the biggest hit. VantageScore explains why:

The impact these items will have on your credit score may diminish over time. In other words, although a late payment stays in your credit files for seven years, it does not continue to drive down your credit score for the entire period.

This is possible because a negative item is, “weighted less by credit scoring models as it ages.” In fact, it only takes two years for most negative items to have little impact on your credit score.

Take a look at how lenders perceive each negative factor:

VantageScore negative factors

Image credit: VantageScore

VantageScore explains how to start improving your score:

The small drop caused by the activities in the yellow area can be made up very quickly. For example, your score might go down slightly because an inquiry was reported to the CRCs and you opened a new credit account, but if the CRCs are notified that your payments for the new account are on time and your balance is not excessive, your score begins to benefit from the positive information created as a result of the new credit account.”

Many consumers get so caught up on their score that they make financially detrimental decisions to get the best score they can. Don’t get caught up in that.

Follow these steps to get your best VantageScore credit score

There are a few basic practices you can follow to build or maintain a good VantageScore credit score:

  • Make all of your payments on time – to all of your bill collectors.
  • Keep your debt below 30 percent of the credit available to you.
  • Apply for credit only when you need it.

It’s that simple. But if you’re in a position in which you need to see an improvement fast, here are some specifics from VantageScore on what you can do:

The easiest way to quickly improve your credit score by 10 to 20 points may be to reduce credit card balances substantially and to maintain the behavior for a couple of months.

And a few more tips to keep in mind:

  • Reduce your credit card balances before your installment loan balances.
  • Know that missed payments on large, secured debt such as a home or car are weighted more than missed payments on a credit card.
  • Maintain positive credit behaviors (on-time payments, low credit utilization) indefinitely.

And finally, don’t stress over your credit score. Here are some words of caution from VantageScore:

Having good credit is extremely important, but worrying about whether it goes up and down slightly is much less important than paying attention to the information in your credit files, which is the result of how you manage your credit behavior.

In other words, if you manage your credit wisely, then your credit score will ultimately manage itself.

VantageScore is here to stay (for now)

Whether you consider this terrible or wonderful news, all signs point to VantageScore being here to stay. But that doesn’t mean you have to double down on your credit score tracking and improvement efforts.

Positive credit behaviors such as paying on time and keeping low debt amounts on your credit cards will help you achieve a good score. And you can receive the lowest interest rates best credit or loan products in the future.

Remember, the more you know about VantageScore, the better your credit opportunities and rates can be.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.97% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.30% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at hello@earnest.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.

© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.


2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

APR stands for “Annual Percentage Rate.” Rates listed include a 0.25% EFT discount, for automatic payments made from a checking or savings account. Interest rates as of 11/8/2018. Rates subject to change.

Variable rate options consist of a range from 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term, 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term, 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term, 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term, or 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rate will change on the first day of every month (“Change Date”) if the Current Index changes. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes. The variable interest rates are calculated by adding a margin ranging from 0.98% to 3.80% for the 5-year term loan, 2.35% to 3.85% for the 7-year term loan, 2.40% to 3.90% for the 10-year term loan, 2.65% to 4.15% for the 15-year term loan, and 2.90% to 4.40% for the 20-year term loan, respectively, to the 1-month LIBOR index published on the 25th day of each month immediately preceding each “Change Date,” as defined above, rounded to two decimal places, with no origination fees. If the 25th day of the month is not a business day or is a US federal holiday, the reference date will be the most recent date preceding the 25th day of the month that is a business day. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term would be from $180.89 to $193.75. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term would be from $139.65 to $146.76. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term would be from $104.56 to $111.98. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term would be from $78.77 to $86.78. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term would be from $67.05 to $75.68.

However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.


3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 3.899% APR to 7.979% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.470% APR to 6.990% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.470% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.30% plus 0.91% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score.
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.


5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.

All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.28% effective October 10, 2018.


6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of November 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.29%. Variable interest rates range from 2.79%-8.39% (2.79%-8.39% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.75%-8.69% (3.75%-8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled. Applicants with an Associate’s degree or with no degree must have made at least 12 qualifying payments after leaving school. Qualifying payments are the most recent on time and consecutive payments of principal and interest on the loans being refinanced. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The cosigner (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a cosigner will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.

2.47% – 6.99%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

2.47% – 6.30%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

2.51% – 8.09%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

3.02% – 6.44%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

2.69% – 7.21%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

2.79% – 8.39%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Citizens

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.