How lenders use FICO® Scores in credit checks


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90% of top U.S. lenders use FICO® Scores when making lending decisions

When you apply for credit - whether it's for a credit card, car loan, mortgage or other type of credit - lenders will want to know your credit risk. That is, they'll want to do a credit check to know how likely you are to pay back your credit obligations as agreed. To help them understand your credit risk, lenders use FICO Scores.

FICO Scores help lenders quickly, consistently and objectively evaluate potential borrowers' credit risk. So when you apply for credit or a loan, there's a very good chance your lender will use your FICO Scores to help them decide whether to approve you, and what terms and rates you qualify for.

Different lenders use different versions of FICO® Scores

You have more than one FICO Score - depending on what type of credit you're seeking, your lenders may evaluate your credit risk using different FICO Score versions. Auto lenders, for instance, often use FICO® Auto Scores, an industry-specific FICO Score version that's been tailored to their needs. Most credit card issuers, on the other hand, use FICO® Bankcard Scores or FICO® Score 8.

It's also important to note that for most credit evaluations - such as a credit card application - lenders will use a FICO Score from just one of the three credit bureaus. For a mortgage or home equity loan application, however, lenders usually take into account a FICO Score from each of the three credit bureaus.

Learn more about the different FICO Score versions lenders use when evaluating your credit risk.

How credit scoring helps me

Credit scores give lenders a fast, objective measurement of your credit risk. Before the use of scoring, the credit granting process could be slow, inconsistent and unfairly biased.

Credit scores - especially FICO® Scores, the credit scores used by 90% of top US lenders - have made big improvements in the credit process. Because of credit scores:

  • People can get loans faster.
    Scores can be delivered almost instantaneously, helping lenders speed up loan approvals. Today many credit decisions can be made within minutes. Even a mortgage application can be approved in hours instead of weeks for borrowers who score above a lender's "score cutoff". Scoring also allows retail stores, Internet sites and other lenders to make "instant credit" decisions.

  • Credit decisions are fairer.
    Using credit scoring, lenders can focus only on the facts related to credit risk, rather than their personal feelings. Factors like your gender, race, religion, nationality and marital status are not considered by credit scoring.

  • Credit "mistakes" count for less.
    If you have had poor credit performance in the past, credit scoring doesn't let that haunt you forever. Past credit problems fade as time passes and as recent good payment patterns show up on your credit report. Unlike so-called "knock out rules" that turn down borrowers based solely on a past problem in their file, credit scoring weighs all of the credit-related information, both good and bad, in your credit report.

  • More credit is available.
    Lenders who use credit scoring can approve more loans, because credit scoring gives them more precise information on which to base credit decisions. It allows lenders to identify individuals who are likely to perform well in the future, even though their credit report shows past problems. Even people whose scores are lower than a lender's cutoff for "automatic approval" benefit from scoring. Many lenders offer a choice of credit products geared to different risk levels. Most have their own separate guidelines, so if you are turned down by one lender, another may approve your loan. The use of credit scores gives lenders the confidence to offer credit to more people, since they have a better understanding of the risk they are taking on.

  • Credit rates are lower overall.
    With more credit available, the cost of credit for borrowers decreases. Automated credit processes, including credit scoring, make the credit granting process more efficient and less costly for lenders, who in turn have passed savings on to their customers. And by controlling credit losses using scoring, lenders can make rates lower overall. Mortgage rates are lower in the United States than in Europe, for example, in part because of the information - including credit scores - available to lenders here. Knowing and improving your score can also lead to more favorable interest rates.

Check out an example of the national averages of interest rates and see exactly how much money you might be able to save.

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