Why Do the Credit Scores My Lender Pulled Look Different Than My Online Credit Scores?

“Help! I’m really confused! I got all three of my credit scores online last week and they looked really good. Today I applied for a mortgage and the scores the lender pulled are totally different. All three scores are about 50 points lower than the scores I saw online. Thankfully, my scores were still high enough to get a mortgage loan, but why are the scores so much lower today?”

You know that your credit scores are important, so the fact that they are often difficult to understand can be a source of extreme irritation. In the credit world there are few things which frustrate and upset consumers more than discovering the sometimes vast difference between credit scores pulled online and the credit scores used by lenders.

When you see a discrepancy between two set of credit scores which were pulled within a short time frame, the difference is probably not happening because your credit changed (though it’s always a possibility you should check for). Rather, the more likely culprit is that a different scoring model is being used to grade your credit.

Contrary to what you may have believed before today, there are actually hundreds of different types of credit scores. Yes, hundreds. No, that’s not a typo.

The idea that you have one "official" credit scores or even just three official credit scores is a complete myth.

Consumer Scores

While there are hundreds of credit scores commercially available, most of these scores can be boiled down into one of two categories—consumer scores (or online scores) and lender scores. (Insurance companies often use credit-based insurance risk scores as well, but for the purpose of this article those scores will fall into the "lender" category.)

Consumer scores are scores that are accessible to you individually. You can purchase these scores from the credit bureaus directly, from FICO directly, or from a host of consumer credit monitoring websites.

Some websites will offer you free credit scores in exchange for signing up for a trial offer of their credit monitoring services. Other websites will offer you a free score from one of the three major credit bureaus in exchange for your email address and the right to advertise financial services to you.

Although these consumer scores can sometimes be used by lenders when you apply for financing, that is not the most popular use of these online scores. Even if you purchase your FICO Scores online, there is no guarantee that you will be viewing the same version of your FICO Score which a lender would pull if you were to apply for financing.

The credit scores you pull online and the scores your lender sees are almost never the same.

Lender Scores

There are so many different types of lender credit scores that it is extremely difficult to track. Even if a lender gives you a copy of your credit scores (or if you receive your credit scores as part of an adverse action notice), you still might not have enough information to accurately compare them to another credit score you received elsewhere.

Remember, there are hundreds of different credit scores.

Most lenders purchase some version of a FICO credit score to review whenever you apply for new financing. Some lenders also use VantageScore credit scores (a scoring model created by the three credit bureaus themselves). Four versions of the VantageScore model have been introduced since 2006 with VantageScore 4.0 being the most current.

FICO Scores come in different varieties as well (FICO Mortgage Score, FICO Auto Score, FICO Personal Finance Score, FICO Installment Loan Score, etc.). Each different FICO Score variety has different versions in use (think 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, etc.).

If you went out today and (1) pulled a copy of your consumer credit scores online, (2) had a mortgage loan officer pull your credit scores, and (3) had an auto lender pull your credit score, you have almost a 100% chance of getting a different set of numbers every single time.

Credit scores can vary wildly depending upon where they are pulled and which scoring model is being used to calculate them.

Focus On Healthy Credit

It would be practically impossible to keep track of hundreds of different credit scores individually. Honestly, you shouldn't even try.  

Instead of spending time and energy focusing on the numbers, it is much better to focus on the health of your credit as a whole.

The fact of the matter is that all credit scores come from the same place. Your credit scores are calculated based upon the information which is contained in your credit reports—nothing more, nothing less.

If your credit reports show that you routinely make late payments on your accounts, your scores will suffer regardless of who pulls them. If you have clean credit reports with no collections, no late payments, and low credit card balances then your scores will likely be in great shape regardless of who pulls them.

You may have hundreds of scores, but you only have three little credit reports. Focus on controlling those reports and you can most likely unlock healthy credit scores on any scoring model.


Michelle Black, Founder of CreditWriter.com and HerCreditMatters.com, is a leading credit expert, author, writer, and speaker with over a decade and a half of experience in the credit industry. She is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring, identity theft, budgeting, and debt eradication. She is featured monthly at credit seminars, podcasts, and in print. You can connect with Michelle on Twitter (@MichelleLBlack) and Instagram (@CreditWriter).