For more than 25 years, credit scores have been practically synonymous with FICO, the shortened name of the Fair Isaac Corporation. However, a new company, VantageScore Solutions, has emerged in recent years and is chipping away at FICO’s dominance in the credit score business. “VantageScore Solutions is an effort to provide more choice in the marketplace,” says Ezra Becker, vice president of research and consulting for the credit bureau TransUnion. The credit scoring company is the result of a combined effort of all three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.The company was founded in 2006 and has gained traction. From 2014 to 2015, VantageScore credit scores were used more than 6 billion times, double the amount used from 2013 to 2014. Just as with FICO scores, VantageScore credit scores are used to determine the likelihood someone will pay back a debt. “Credit scores are a scaled representation of the probability of default,” Becker explains. Last December, House Resolution 4211 was introduced in Congress to allow Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to use alternate credit scoring methods when making mortgage decisions. Jill Gonzalez, analyst for WalletHub.com, says if the bill is passed, it might result in the programs adopting VantageScore, a move that could be a major coup for the company.“What Fannie and Freddie do now is use outdated models,” Gonzalez says. A switch to VantageScore would change the way applications are evaluated and make it easier for borrowers who have low credit scores under the FICO model to purchase a home. Plus, it could further dent FICO’s hold on the credit score industry. Navigating the Sea of Credit ScoresBecker is quick to note Americans use the word FICO to describe credit scores in the same way they may use the word Kleenex to describe facial tissue. The word has turned into a generic term for how lenders evaluate creditworthiness, but Becker says there is actually a variety of credit scores that can be used.Each of the major credit bureaus has, at one time, created its own score. Other companies, like CreditXpert, are in the business as well. Even within FICO, there are numerous scores. While FICO Score 8 may be most widely used for credit card applications, student loans and other credit decisions, there are FICO Auto Scores, FICO Bankcard Scores and older versions of FICO’s main scoring model that may be used for mortgages.VantageScore seems to be making in-roads in the industry, in part, because it offers a simplified scoring method. “VantageScore has three scoring models,” says Bethy Hardeman, chief consumer advocate at Credit Karma. “For comparison, FICO has over 50 different scoring models.” While each credit bureau may use a different version of the FICO score for various lending scenarios – for example, for mortgage lending, Experian uses FICO Score 2, while Equifax uses FICO Score 5 – VantageScore is uniform across all three companies. The only reason a VantageScore could vary from one bureau to another is if a lender chooses not to report an account to all three companies, according to Becker.What It Means for YouA move to VantageScore could be good news for consumers, particularly those with a weak credit history. VantageScore 3.0 is the most current version and looks back 24 months at a person’s credit history, a feature that allows it to score more people who have little or no recent credit history. “[The company’s] latest scoring model can score up to 35 million more consumers compared to other models due to its broader consideration of credit data,” says Hardeman, adding that the free scores offered on Credit Karma come from VantageScore. The wider consumer net is also because the model can score people with as little as one month of credit history compared to six months for FICO scores, Gonzalez explains. Score models are created using anonymous sample consumer demographics and credit data. While VantageScore 3.0 is a relatively new model, older FICO scores may be based on decades old data. “A score created in 2002 may not be appropriate for the lending environment and consumers today,” Becker points out.The bottom line for borrowers is that VantageScore may make it easier for some people to get access to credit, but it won’t wipe away all financial sins. “If someone is undeserving of credit due to a history of not paying [bills], that won’t change [with VantageScore],” Gonzalez says.Rather than hope a change in score will make credit available, consumers should stick with the tried-and-true methods of paying on time and limiting the debt they carry. .