“There are different generations of this score, just like there’s different generations of operating systems for your computer,” Weston says. Because of that, credit scores change all the time — not to mention the fact that your FICO score will differ depending on the credit bureau the information is pulled from, as well as by industry.
Experian offers the FICO 8 at FreeCreditScore.com, and an increasing number of banks will give a FICO score to their customer. Discover will give the FICO 8 score for free to anyone that wants to see their, cardholder or not. Remember: In those cases, you’re only seeing one score from one bureau, but a free ballpark figure can be useful.
“If you just want to know where you stand, you can get a free score and monitor that so if it changes, you’ll have a general idea that maybe something’s gone wrong on your credit report and you need to pull it, or if you see it rising, you know you’re doing the right things,” Weston says. “But if you are going to be in the market for a mortgage, you probably want to see the FICO scores that the lenders are going to look at” — say, mortgage and auto scores, which usually can’t be obtained for free — “meaning you probably need to buy them.”
In general, however, Weston says that if your FICO score is above 750, “you’re pretty much golden.” Below 620? “You’re in a world of hurt. That’s subprime for most lenders,” she explains.
“Anything below 680, and you’re going to start to pay more and it’s going to be harder to get credit, while 680 is about where fair-to-good starts,” Weston adds. “In the 680-740 range, you’ll probably get credit, but you might pay a little bit more for it. There’s really no reason to have an 850, which is the top of the FICO Eight scale.”
Finally, Vantage Scores, which were created as a rival to FICO scores, are often issued by sites that offer free scores. The Vantage 3.0, which Weston says is typically used, falls on a scale from 300-850 scale. These can’t hurt to look at, but the FICO score is still the most commonly used.