Depending on who you talk to and their knowledge level, you are going to get a different answer about some key credit data. In fact, after listening and reading, you might be downright confused. Here is a little clarification.

If someone told you a BEACON score is more important that a FICO score, do not listen.

According to Craig Watts, public affairs manager with FairIsaac International, the company considered the grand-daddy of credit scoring, a BEACON score is the same as a FICO score.

FICO stands for FairIsaac Company, and it is the name the firm gave to a family of credit scoring formulas it sells to credit reporting agencies such as Equifax, Experian and Transunion, explained Watts. Each of these three agencies has renamed the FICO products, and BEACON is the name that Equifax gave its product. However noted Watts, if you are a business talking to the company, BEACON is the term used whereas consumers will only hear FICO.

According to Watts, Transunion, now calls its product FICO Risk Score Classic (for 18 years it was Emperica); and Experian named their offering Experian FairIsaac Risk Model.

Transunion spokesman Clifton M. O’Neal said the company has also developed its own proprietary credit scoring model called Transrisk.

Each of the three largest national credit agencies has created their own in-house model, and the three credit scoring bureaus in 2006 announced a new generic scoring model jointly developed but being marketed separately by each company. Called VantageScore, it was created because of the demand for “a more consistent and objective approach to credit scoring methodology across all three national reporting companies.”

What this means, according to a VantageScore spokesperson, is that a consumer’s credit score will be more similar across all three agencies. This model also scores people who frequently can not be evaluated by other scoring models. This includes people whose credit history is less than six months old, or those who have paid off all credit debt and have not used it within a two-year span.

Additionally, the VantageScore representative said this product offers an annual revalidation of the credit score. This process reveals if the scoring model can still consistently predict whether or a not a consumer will go 90 days past due on an account within two years.
Other things to note are:

* If you are looking to bump up your credit score fast there is only one way to do it–Rapid Rescore. This is a program used only by lenders seeking to help people purchase a home, and this re-scoring can take place within 48 hours. But it is not cheap. Watts said it typically cost $100 per account upgrade, and while federal law prevents lenders from passing this cost directly on to consumers, the fee is typically buried somewhere in other fees.

Other than this method, changing a credit score can take up to six weeks depending on when payments post and how often credit bureaus update their records.

* When you obtain your annual free credit history, it will not contain your FICO score. This must be purchased separately.

* There are soft and hard credit inquiries, and they reduce your credit scores in varying degrees.

A soft inquiry is checking your own credit file, and according to an Equifax spokesperson, will have a very minimal impact on the credit score. If you are applying for a large amount of credit (particularly auto or home loans) in a short period of time, which is a hard inquiry, these will typically be counted as one inquiry, and will reduce your credit score a little more than the soft inquiry.

* Consumers can obtain a free credit report in the following instances: A person is unemployed and intends to apply for employment in the next 60 days; within the past 60 days, a consumer received notice of an adverse decision such as denial of credit, insurance or employment.

Additionally, an individual is also entitled to a free credit report if, during any 12-month period, the consumer is on public welfare assistance or believes their credit file contains errors due to fraud. When a consumer requests a fraud alert on their Equifax credit file, they can also request a free copy of their Equifax credit report.