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.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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 type||Maximum score|
|Vantage Score (current version)||850|
|Vantage Score (old version)||990|
Updated March 2017