About your credit score

Your credit score influences the credit that’s available to you and the terms (interest rate, etc.) that lenders offer you. It’s a vital part of your credit health.

When you apply for credit – whether for a credit card, a car loan, or a mortgage – lenders want to know what risk they'd take by loaning money to you. When lenders order your credit report, they can also buy a credit score that’s based on the information in the report. A credit score helps lenders evaluate your credit report because it is a number that summarizes your credit risk, based on a snapshot of your credit report at a particular point in time.

Credit scores are often called “FICO Scores” because most credit bureau scores used in the U.S. are produced from software developed by FICO (Fair Isaac and Company). But it’s important to understand that not every credit score you can buy online is a true FICO Score.

How scoring helps me

About FICO Scores

The most widely used credit scores are FICO Scores, the credit score created by Fair Isaac Corporation. Lenders use FICO Scores to help them make billions of credit decisions every year. Fair Isaac calculates FICO Scores based solely on information in consumer credit reports maintained at the credit reporting agencies.

FICO Scores range from 300 to 850. FICO Scores are calculated by a mathematical equation that evaluates many types of information from your credit report, at that agency. By comparing this information to the patterns in hundreds of thousands of past credit reports, FICO Scores estimate your level of future credit risk.

Understanding Your FICO Scores booklet (PDF)

Other names for FICO Scores

FICO Scores have a different name at each of the credit reporting agencies. All of these scores, however, are developed using the same methods by Fair Isaac, and have been rigorously tested to ensure they provide the most accurate picture of credit risk possible using credit report data.

Credit Reporting Agency FICO Score
Equifax FICO® Risk Score, Classic
Experian FICO® Risk Score, Classic
TransUnion FICO® Risk Score, Classic

What makes a “good” FICO Score

FICO Scores have a 300–850 score range. The higher the score, the lower the risk. But no score says whether a specific individual will be a “good” or “bad” customer.

While many lenders use FICO Scores to help them make lending decisions, each lender has its own strategy, including the level of risk it finds acceptable for a given credit product. There is no single “cutoff score” used by all lenders and there are many additional factors that lenders use to determine your actual interest rates.

What’s in my FICO Scores

How to improve my FICO Scores

Reasons for your credit score

When a FICO Score is calculated from your credit report, the credit reporting agency will also provide up to five reasons for that particular score. While these reasons are usually negative, because it is the reasons why the credit score isn’t higher. For a very high score, it can include those positive reasons contributing to that score.

The minimum required to calculate a FICO Score

For your FICO Score to be calculated, your credit report with the bureau from which you want your score must contain enough information—and enough recent information—on which to base your credit score. Generally, that means you must have at least one account that has been open for six months or longer, and at least one account that has been reported to the credit reporting agency within the last six months.

What are the minimum requirements to have a FICO Score?

3 different FICO Scores

You have FICO Scores for each of the three credit bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Each FICO Score is based on information the credit bureau keeps on file about you.

FICO Scores from each credit reporting agency consider only the data in your credit reports at that agency. Your credit scores may be different at each of the main credit reporting agencies. If your current scores from the credit reporting agencies are different, it’s probably because the information those agencies have on you differs. If your information is identical at all three credit reporting agencies, your FICO Scores from each bureau should be close.

Why are my scores different for the 3 credit bureaus?

Your FICO Scores will change over time

As the information in your credit report changes, so will any new credit score based on your credit report. So your FICO Scores from a month ago are probably not the same score a lender would get from the credit reporting agency today.

Do FICO Scores change that much over time?

More than one credit score

In general, when people talk about "your score" they're talking about your current FICO Scores. While FICO Scores are the most commonly used credit risk scores in the US, there is no one credit score used to make decisions about you.

Lender’s own credit scores

Lenders will often evaluate FICO Scores as well as other information that they have about you. This includes information gathered if you are a previous or current customer of theirs.

Other credit bureau scores

There are other credit bureau scores, although FICO Scores are by far the most commonly used. Other credit bureau scores may evaluate your credit report differently than FICO Scores, and in some cases a higher score may mean more risk, not less risk as with FICO Scores.

Application risk scores

Many lenders use scoring systems that include FICO Scores but also consider information from your credit application.

Customer risk scores (aka “behavior scores”)

A lender may use customer risk scores to make credit decisions on its current customers. Also called “behavior scores,” these scores generally consider FICO Scores along with information on how you have paid that lender in the past.

Other credit scores

These scores may evaluate your credit report differently than FICO Scores, and in some cases a higher score may mean more risk, not less risk as with FICO Scores. When purchasing a credit score for yourself, most experts recommend getting your FICO Scores, as these are the scores most lenders use when making credit decisions.

What’s not in my FICO Scores?

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myFICO is the consumer division of FICO. Since its introduction 20 years ago, FICO® Scores have become a global standard for measuring credit risk in the banking, mortgage, credit card, auto and retail industries. 90 of the top 100 largest U.S. financial institutions use FICO Scores to make consumer credit decisions.

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