Experian PLUS Score vs FICO Score: The Truth About Accuracy

What is Experian PLUS Score and how accurate is it? You may be surprised who offers what …

Q1 2016 update: Experian announced it would begin providing monthly subscribers their Experian FICO score beginning last year, rather than the PLUS score. The information below will remain for historical purposes.

Contrary to popular belief, when you check your credit score you may not be getting your FICO. Instead, chances are you receive a competing model. The PLUS Score from Experian is one such example.
PLUS Score not used by lenders
And guess what? It’s not even used by creditors!

If you want your real FICO score there are four sources to get it:

1. Pay $19.95 to MyFICO (you pay this each time you check it!)
2. Pay $19.95 to Equifax (the only other website who is licensed to sell FICO scores)
3. Pay $21.95 to Experian to get your FICO score as part of its credit-monitoring service.
4. Pay nothing and get regular access to your FICO score with a credit card from Discover, Citi (as of January 2015) or Barclaycard (it’s a benefit included at no additional cost):

The heavily advertised FreeCreditScore.com actually uses the PLUS Score (not FICO) but you might have to look in the fine print to realize that:

PLUS Score in fine print

Before we talk about its accuracy and usefulness, here’s a lowdown on the basics:

Scale: The Experian PLUS Score range is 330 to 830. This is close – but different – than FICO’s range of 300 to 850.

FICO score breakdown

Source: MyFICO.com

Formula: Fair Isaac (creators of FICO) gives us quite a few clues as to the components which go into their formula and how much each (as a group) will impact your score.

Unfortunately, Experian doesn’t provide a neat breakdown like this for their PLUS Score formula. On their website they do say it uses a “similar formula to those used by lenders” but it’s really anyone’s guess as to how their model weighs the pieces of information.

Distribution: The PLUS Score vs. FICO score is not an apples to apples comparison since each is a different model and scale. But to give you an idea of how their distributions compare, I created this bar graph:

FICO score distribution

That’s based on the most recently released distribution information from FICO as of the start of 2012.

Experian doesn’t give us the distribution in such a convenient manner, but by deciphering their percentile statistics, I was able to come up with the data to create this bar graph for the PLUS Score:

PLUS Score distribution

Good vs. Bad: So that brings us to the question, what is a good Experian Plus Score? And what is a bad one?

Well the median is exactly half way in the middle (50% higher and 50% lower). They say that 50% of the US popular is below a 724 PLUS Score.

I’m sure it’s no coincidence they structured it that was, being that the median for FICO is almost exactly the same at 723 (or at least, that’s what it was when FICO last reported the median publicly).

So in the simplest terms, you could say that 724 and above is “good” on the PLUS Score by Experian. For “great” or “excellent” I would probably peg that at around the top 30% which is 757 and above.

Contrast that to FICO, in which I consider 780 and above to be excellent (have explained my reasoning for that number in previous posts).

Accuracy: Is PLUS Score accurate? Well, if you are trying to use this number interchangeably with your FICO… forget about it!

Unfortunately most of the forum reviews haven’t been positive because the two different scores can be wildly divergent. One person even stated their PLUS was 711 and their FICO was 658. However, others who have reported much closer score value, like 542 and 536. So as with many things, your mileage may vary.

Conclusion? Don’t try and convert an Experian PLUS Score to FICO. Conversion is not going to work and anyone who tells you they have a formula to do so is lying.

But at the end of the day, should you even care?

Going back to the FreeCreditScore.com example shown at the top, remember what it said about the PLUS… that it was for “educational purposes” and not used by lenders.

It will probably give an approximation of the general type of credit you have (like good vs. great) but beyond that, this scoring model is of very little use. I wouldn’t care too much about it and even if you know your PLUS, you definitely still want to know your actual FICO score, as that’s still the score most lenders reference in their underwriting decisions.

Types of credit scores

Score typeMaximum score
FICO850
PLUS830
Vantage Score (current version)850
Vantage Score (old version)990

Updated March 2017

 
Comments
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Just found out FreeCreditReport.com / Experian was using the plus score and not my FICO score this whole time. Went from last month 679, 718, 734 to today with 631, 552, 602. Nothing on my credit has changed. Devastated and confused to say the least.

Ridiculous that Experia.comn site itself sells you only the PLUS score and not the FICO so don’t go to Experian if you want your Experian FICO

SteveNewMilford

It’s a game of percentages with PLUS and FICO – neither one is BS, they are slightly different models. PLUS is a good indicator, as is FICO, for different reasons. Pay your bills on time. Don’t owe your ass (+50% credit-to-debt) and for God’s sake, don’t get sued and have a judgement handed down. If an account goes to collections, go to the original creditor and pay it off in full – and ask them to notify the collections company. If bankruptcy is your only way out, you better have a damned good reason – like astronomical medical bills for illnesses and diseases over which you had no control.

Just to confuse you even more, there are also different FICO models that lenders use. This means if a finance company lends for car loans they can use a FICO designed to weigh your auto payment history a little heavier than other accounts. When you go shopping for a car, the dealers can also be using different models. So what one dealer tells you your score is may be totally different at a dealer just down the street.

The walmart card also offers FICO, if you feel you are not above owning one. Also, the FICO score you see in those cards are TransUnion only.

I was STUNNED to find out that my Experian credit score via the credit monitoring system was DIFFERENT than the score that lenders pull!!! REALLY??!!!
I was under the belief that my credit score was 748 and had been for months. I went to get a car loan and they pulled my Experian report and said my score was 651!!!! WTF!!!! What purpose does paying for a credit monitoring service serve, unless it’s giving you an accurate representation of what’s being reported and HOW MUCH it’s affecting the score. To believe that my credit was ‘excellent’ w/everything on it — only to be told that my credit is only ‘FAIR’ by a lender, defeats the purpose of the credit monitoring sites. CANCEL YOU SUBSCRIPTIONS FOLKS!

Exactly…If they are going to sell us something, make it the same reports the lenders use.

That’s ok. I bought a FICO score from Equifax. It was 672. I went to my credit union and applied for a credit card. They pulled Equifax and showed a 603????? They approved the card, but go figure!!

Plus score and FICO scores are jokes, don’t worry about any of them, if you pay you debts on time, Have 4 credit cards with each a $500.00 available credit and charge $100.00 on each one of them, that will show that you have 80% of your available credit unused, and will boost your score 100 points, no matter what your score is. Creditors and lenders only want to know what your risk is on paying them back. NUFF SAID, been doing it for years.

Same boat as Sharon. I am going to get a car loan and we use Experian for credit monitoring. My Experian plus is 787 my fico is 686 (99 point difference) The score is useless but the credit monitoring is still decent as it has helped in the past for fraud alerts and mis-billings.

My PLUS score is 108 points higher than my FICO. One indicates really good credit an one indicates a below average but good score….In my opinion the PLUS credit monitoring is a ruse to get people to sign up for their membership program but holds no value when bargaining for better interest rates.

My PLUS score keeps going down regardless of how on time my payments are. I took my son to buy a car and they asked me to consign, I told them I can’t because my PLUS score had me in the 530 range. He said let’s try it. We got approved and my FICO score was 623. It has since moved up to a 646 and my plus has dropped to 509. PLUS is a joke.

I regularly monitor my PLUS score via freecreditreport.com. I went to purchase a new car and my FICO score that the lender pulled was within 5 points of the PLUS score. So far, my PLUS score has been within 10 points of my scores reported from all three bureaus. Maybe I’ve just gotten lucky?

U Gotta Be Kidding

Go back to the previous system, it’s much better and much more accurate. This FICO and Plus score rating is a pathetic joke.

The PLUS model showed my score from Equifax at 743 vs FICO being at 694 also from Equifax. That is a 49 point difference. I’m sorry, but that is just too far apart. Both reports were pulled the same day.

I seem to be the opposite. My FICO scores are SIGNIFICANTLY higher than my PLUS scores (587 PLUS compared to 677 FICO). Glad lenders use FICO!

Patrick, just curious which lender you went through. PNC did a credit pull for mortgage and it was 30+ points less than Freecreditreport.com Experian Plus report 🙁 from some articles / comments Ive read it sounds like some lenders will have different results?

The Plus Score percentage breakdown is listed on the Amex Credit Secure service which uses Plus Scores. Here it is:

31% Payment History and Bankruptcy
30% Credit Card Debt
15% Length of Credit History
14% Type and Number of Credit Cards
10% Credit Applications and Inquiries

I got my FICO from my bank who is processing my mortgage yesterday. 100 points less then the PLUS score Experian just provided me. So, not helpful to see my PLUS score at all.