What’s in Your FICO Score?
FICO® scores are calculated from a lot of different credit data in your credit report. This data can be grouped into five categories as outlined below. The percentages in the chart reflect how important each of the categories are in determining your score. These percentages are based on the importance of the five categories for the general population. For particular groups – for example, people who have not been using credit long – the importance of these categories may be somewhat different.
Payment History 35%
- Account payment information on specific accounts (auto loans, mortgage, etc.)
- Presence of adverse public records (bankruptcy, past due items)
- Severity of delinquency (how long past due)
- Amount past due on delinquent accounts
- Time since (recency of) past due items (delinquency)
- Number of past due items on file
- Number of accounts paid as agreed
Amounts Owed 30%
- Amount owing on accounts
- Amount owing on specific types of accounts
- Lack of a specific type of balance, in some cases
- Number of accounts with balances
- Proportion of credit lines used (proportion of balances to total credit limits on certain types of revolving accounts)
- Proportion of installment loan amounts still owing (proportion of balance to original loan amount on certain types of installment loans)
Length of Credit History 15%
- Time since accounts opened
- Time since accounts opened, by specific type of account
- Time since account activity
New Credit 10%
- Number of recently opened accounts, and proportion of accounts that are recently opened, by type of account
- Number of recent credit inquiries
- Time since recent account opening(s), by type of account
- Time since credit inquiry(s)
- Re-establishment of positive credit history following past payment problems
Types of Credit Used 10%
- Number of (presence, prevalence, and recent information mortgage, consumer finance accounts, etc.)
What’s Not in Your Score FICO scores consider a wide range of information on your credit report. However, they do not consider:
- Your race, color, religion, national origin, sex and marital status: U.S. law prohibits credit scoring from considering these facts, as well as any receipt of public assistance, or the exercise of any consumer right under the consumer credit protection act.
- Your age: other types of scores may consider your age, but FICO scores don’t.
- Your salary, occupation, title, employer, date employed or employment history.
- Where you live.
- Any interest rate being charged on a particular credit card or other account.
- Certain types of inquiries (requests for your credit report): The score does not count “consumer-initiated” inquiries – requests you have made for your credit report, in order to check it. It also does not count “promotional inquiries” – requests made by lenders in order to make you a “pre-approved” credit offer-or “administrative inquiries” – requests made by lenders to review your account with them. Requests that are marked as coming from employers are not counted either.
- Any information that is not proven to be predictive of future credit performance.
- Whether or not you are participating in a credit counseling of any kind.
How Credit Scoring Helps You
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 most widely used credit bureau scores – 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
- 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.
Improving Your FICO® Credit Score
It’s important to note that raising your FICO credit score is a bit like losing weight: It takes time and there is no quick fix. In fact, quick-fix efforts can backfire. The best advice is to manage credit responsibly over time. See how much money you can save by just following these tips and raising your credit score.
Payment History Tips
- Pay your bills on time.
Delinquent payments and collections can have a major negative impact on your FICO score.
- If you have missed payments, get current and stay current.
The longer you pay your bills on time, the better your credit score.
- Be aware that paying off a collection account will not remove it from your credit report. It will stay on your report for seven years.
- If you are having trouble making ends meet, contact your creditors or see a legitimate credit counselor. This won’t improve your credit score immediately, but if you can begin to manage your credit and pay on time, your score will get better over time.
Amounts Owed Tips
- Keep balances low on credit cards and other “revolving credit”. High outstanding debt can affect a credit score.
- Pay off debt rather than moving it around. The most effective way to improve your credit score in this area is by paying down your revolving credit. In fact, owing the same amount but having fewer open accounts may lower your score.
Don’t close unused credit cards as a short-term strategy to raise your score. Don’t open a number of new credit cards that you don’t need, just to increase your available credit. This approach could backfire and actually lower your credit score.
Length of Credit History Tips
- If you have been managing credit for a short time, don’t open a lot of new accounts too rapidly. New accounts will lower your average account age, which will have a larger effect on your score if you don’t have a lot of other credit information. Also, rapid account buildup can look risky if you are a new credit user.
New Credit Tips
- Do your rate shopping for a given loan within a focused period of time. FICO scores distinguish between a search for a single loan and a search for many new credit lines, in part by the length of time over which inquiries occur.
- Re-establish your credit history if you have had problems. Opening new accounts responsibly and paying them off on time will raise your credit score in the long term.
- Note that it’s OK to request and check your own credit report. This won’t affect your score, as long as you order your credit report directly from the credit reporting agency or through an organization authorized to provide credit reports to consumers.
Types of Credit Use Tips
- Apply for and open new credit accounts only as needed. Don’t open accounts just to have a better credit mix – it probably won’t raise your credit score.
Have credit cards – but manage them responsibly. In general, having credit cards and installment loans (and paying timely payments) will raise your credit score. Someone with no credit cards, for example, tends to be higher risk than someone who has managed credit cards responsibly.
- Note that closing an account doesn’t make it go away. A closed account will still show up on your credit report, and may be considered by the score.
Credit Score Facts & Fallacies
- Fallacy: My score determines whether or not I get credit. Fact: Lenders use a number of facts to make credit decisions, including your FICO® score. Lenders look at information such as the amount of debt you can reasonably handle given your income, your employment history, and your credit history. Based on their perception of this information, as well as their specific underwriting policies, lenders may extend credit to you although your score is low, or decline your request for credit although your score is high.
- Fallacy: A poor score will haunt me forever. Fact: Just the opposite is true. A score is a “snapshot” of your risk at a particular point in time. It changes as new information is added to your bank and credit bureau files. Scores change gradually as you change the way you handle credit. For example, past credit problems impact your score less as time passes. Lenders request a current score when you submit a credit application, so they have the most recent information available. Therefore by taking the time to improve your score, you can qualify for more favorable interest rates.
- Fallacy: Credit scoring is unfair to minorities. Fact: Scoring considers only credit-related information. Factors like gender, race, nationality and marital status are not included. In fact, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) prohibits lenders from considering this type of information when issuing credit. Independent research has been done to make sure that credit scoring is not unfair to minorities or people with little credit history. Scoring has proven to be an accurate and consistent measure of repayment for all people who have some credit history. In other words, at a given score, non-minority and minority applicants are equally likely to pay as agreed.