What is a FICO Credit Score?

Learn About Your FICO Credit Score

This credit score is based on information from your credit report.
Your credit score is calculated using the information in your credit report. Since information often differs among your three credit reports, your credit scores based on those reports will also vary.

The credit report range of scores is from 350 – 850.

About your credit score:

Credit scores are based on the information in your credit bureau record. The majority of Credit Scores are between 350 and 850. Higher scores are better. With a high score, you have a good chance of getting the credit and loan(s) you want. Keep in mind that when lenders consider a loan or credit application, they generally ask for more information because credit scores are not the only factor they use in making decisions. Typically, this includes personal data (such as income and monthly payments) used to determine your ability to pay.

What your credit score means:

High Credit Scores are likely to get the very best credit and loan offers available from lenders, such as those with the lowest rates and the lowest (if any) fees. While you may still be able to increase your credit score, it will probably not make much of a difference in the type of offers you will get. The distinction between offers will come from the additional information you provide as part of your application(s), such as income and monthly payments. These factors will determine whether you can get the extra special low-interest rate, high loan amount, and/or other great features.

What this means to you:

Both negative and positive factors influence your credit score. The most important factors of each are listed below, in order of importance. Remember that these factors vary in how strongly they impact your credit score. For example, if you have a very high credit score, the negative factors in your analysis are likely to have a small impact. The same is true for positive factors if you have a very low credit score.

What factors lower your credit score:

Length of Credit History: Having credit accounts for a long time is a positive factor because your history gives lenders information to evaluate how you typically use credit and repay your debts. Credit reports with approximately 30 years of history are considered optimal. Meanwhile, up to 7 years of credit history is considered short, and less than 3 years of history is considered too little. It is worth noting that your accounts may have been open longer than your report suggests if lenders were slow to report them to the bureaus. What matters is how long your accounts have been in your report.

Credit Accounts: Having a high amount of credit is a positive factor because it indicates to lenders that other lenders have trusted you by lending you money in the past. Meanwhile, having a low amount of credit is a negative factor because it indicates that either you are just starting to use credit or you have missed payments in the past. If you are just starting to use credit, lenders do not have information to evaluate how you typically use credit and repay your debts. If you have missed payments, you have demonstrated that you do not pay on time, and lenders may worry that you will not repay them.

What factors raise your credit score:

Payment History: Missing payments is a negative factor. Some cases are worse than others. For example, if you have not missed any payments recently, lenders may think you are (or have become) responsible and do not (or will no longer) miss payments. Also, missing payments on only a few accounts is not as harmful as missing payments on most or all of your accounts, because lenders realize that many people miss a payment (or pay late) once in a while. Also, missing a single payment is not as harmful as missing several consecutive payments because many lenders consider missing 3 or more consecutive payments as an indication that you may never repay them. Finally, it is not as harmful to miss payments on accounts with low balances as it is on accounts with high balances because lenders stand to lose less money on low balances if they remain unpaid.

Credit Usage: High balances are a negative factor (except for some types of installment loans such as mortgages and auto loans) because lenders worry that you are living beyond your means and may not be able to repay them. This is particularly true with credit card debts. Lenders do evaluate how much you owe (your debt) in relation to how much you earn (your income). However, changes in your employment and income, or certain life events (such as divorce or illness), may cause difficulty for you to pay your monthly bills. Meanwhile, low balances are a positive factor because lenders do not stand to lose too much if you become unable to repay them. However, never using your credit cards may be considered a negative factor. First, it does not provide lenders with information about how you typically use credit and repay your debts. Second, it also means that you have a lot of available credit, which you may decide to use if you experience financial trouble.

Credit Applications: When you apply for any type of credit (such as a mortgage, auto loan, credit card, department store card, etc.), your credit history is checked by the lender considering your application, and it is noted on your report as an “inquiry.” Although inquiries are a natural result of applying for credit, lenders dislike seeing many within a short period of time. This is because it is hard for them to determine whether you are applying with different lenders in a search for the best offer or if you are desperately trying to obtain credit because of financial trouble. Remember, making many applications in a short period of time could hurt your credit score. Therefore, try to limit your comparison to a small number of lenders when “shopping” for the best offer.