About FICO® Scores

What is a credit score?

A credit score is a number that summarizes your credit risk. The score is based on a snapshot of your credit file(s) at one of the three major consumer reporting agencies (CRAs)—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion—at a particular point in time, and helps lenders evaluate your credit risk. Your credit score influences the credit that’s available to you and the terms, such as interest rate, that lenders offer you.

What are FICO® Scores?

The credit scores most widely used in lending decisions are FICO® Scores, the credit scores created by Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO). Lenders can request FICO® Scores from all three major consumer reporting agencies (CRAs). Lenders use FICO® Scores to help them make billions of credit decisions every year. FICO develops FICO® Scores based solely on information in consumer credit files maintained at the CRAs. Understanding your FICO® Scores can help you better understand your credit risk. A good FICO® Score means better financial options for you.

What is a good FICO® Score?

The score above which a lender would accept a new application for credit, but below which the credit application would be denied, is known as the “score cutoff”. Since the score cutoff varies by lender, it’s hard to say what a good FICO® Score is outside the context of a particular lending decision. For example, one auto lender may offer lower interest rates to people with FICO® Scores above, say, 680; another lender may use 720, and so on. Your lender may be able to give you guidance on their criteria for a given credit product.

The chart below provides a breakdown of ranges for FICO® Scores found across the U.S. consumer population. It provides general guidance on what a particular FICO® Score represents. Again, each lender has its own credit risk standards.

Ranges of FICO® Scores

Rating

What FICO® Scores in this range mean

800 or Higher

Exceptional

  • These FICO® Scores are in the top 20% of U.S. consumers
  • Demonstrate to lenders that the consumer is an exceptional borrower

740 to 799

Very Good

  • These FICO® Scores are in the top 40% of U.S. consumers
  • Demonstrate to lenders that the consumer is a very dependable borrower

670 to 739

Good

  • These FICO® Scores are near the average for U.S. consumers
  • Considered by most lenders to be good scores

580 to 669

Fair

  • These FICO® Scores are in the lowest 40% of U.S. consumers
  • Some lenders will approve credit applications within this score range

Lower than 580

Poor

  • These FICO® Scores are in the lowest 20% of U.S. consumers
  • Demonstrate to lenders that the consumer is a very risky borrower

What is the lowest and highest possible FICO® Score?

The FICO® Scores which are in use today by the vast majority of lenders fall within the 300-850 score range. This score range was introduced to establish an easy-to-understand, common frame of reference for lenders and consumers. Industry-specific FICO® Scores, such as those for auto lending or credit card lending, were developed to accommodate the unique characteristics of their respective industry and range from 250-900. Some lenders also use FICO® Scores NG, which range from 150-950.

Are FICO® Scores the only risk scores?

No. While FICO® Scores are the most commonly used credit risk scores by lenders in the US, lenders may use other scores to evaluate your credit risk. These include:

  • FICO Application risk scores. Many lenders use scoring systems that include a FICO® Score but also consider information from your credit application.
  • FICO Customer risk scores. A lender may use these scores to make credit decisions on its current customers. Also called “behavior scores,” these scores generally consider a FICO® Score along with information on how you have paid that lender in the past.
  • Other credit scores. These scores may evaluate your credit file(s) differently than FICO® Scores, and in some cases a higher score may mean more risk, not less risk as with FICO® Scores. FICO® Scores are the scores most lenders use when making credit decisions.

Why are my scores at each of the three CRAs different?

In general, when people talk about “your credit score,” they’re talking about your FICO® Scores. But in fact, your FICO® Scores are calculated separately by each of the three consumer reporting agencies (CRAs)—using a formula that FICO has developed. It’s normal for your FICO® Scores from each CRA to be different for any of the following reasons:

  • Your FICO® Scores are based on the credit information in your credit file at a particular CRA at the time your score is calculated. The information in your credit files is supplied by lenders, collection agencies and court records. Some of these sources may provide your information to just one or two of the CRAs, not all three. Differences in the underlying credit data will often result in differences in your FICO® Scores.

You may have applied for credit under different names (for example, Robert Jones versus Bob Jones) or a maiden name, which may cause fragmented or incomplete files at the CRAs. In rare situations, this can result in your credit files not having certain account information, or including information that should be on someone else’s credit files. This is one reason why it is important for you to review your credit files at least annually.

  • Lenders may report your credit information to one credit reporting agency today, and to another credit reporting agency tomorrow. This can result in one agency having more up-to-date information which in turn can cause differences in your FICO® Scores from both agencies.
  • The CRAs may record the same information in slightly different ways which can affect your FICO® Scores.

Why is this FICO® Score different than other scores I’ve seen?

There are different credit scores available to consumers and lenders. FICO® Scores are the credit scores used by most lenders, but different lenders (such as auto lenders and credit card lenders) may use different versions of FICO® Scores. In addition, your FICO® Score is based on credit file data from a particular consumer reporting agency, so differences in your credit files may create differences in your FICO® Scores. When reviewing a score, take note of the date, bureau credit file source, score type, and range for that particular score.

Why do FICO® Scores fluctuate/ change?

 

There are many reasons why your score may change. FICO® Scores are calculated each time they are requested, taking into consideration the information that is in your credit file from a particular consumer reporting agency at that time. So, as the information in your credit file at that bureau changes, your FICO® Scores can also change. Review your key score factors, which explain what factors from your credit report most affected a score. Comparing key score factors from the two different time periods can help identify causes for changes in FICO® Scores. Keep in mind that certain events such as late payments or bankruptcy can lower your FICO® Scores quickly.

What are the minimum require-ments to produce a FICO® Score?

There’s really not much to it; in order for a FICO® Score to be calculated, a credit file must contain these minimum requirements:

  • At least one account that has been open for six months or more
  • At least one account that has been reported to the credit reporting agency within the past six months
  • No indication of deceased on the credit file (Please note: if you share an account with another person and the other account holder is reported deceased, it is important to check your credit file to make sure you are not impacted).

Note: These minimum requirements vary slightly for FICO® Scores NG.

What are key kcore factors?

When a lender receives your FICO® Score, "key score factors" are also delivered, which are the top factors that affected the score.

My lender recently changed the version of FICO® Score they use.  Why do lenders change?

To keep up with consumer trends and the evolving needs of lenders, FICO periodically updates its scoring models.  As a result, there are multiple FICO® Score versions—based FICO® Scores (and their updates) and industry-specific FICO® Scores (and their updates). Just as you may update your computer or mobile phone applications, lenders update the software they use, including their version of FICO® Scores, to keep current.   

Who or what is FICO?

Founded in 1956, Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) uses advanced math and analytics to help businesses make smarter decisions. One of FICO’s inventions is FICO® Scores, which are the most widely used credit scores in lending decisions. It is important to note that while FICO works with the consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) to provide your FICO® Scores, it does not have access to or store any of your personal data or determine the accuracy of the information in your credit file.

FICO® is a registered trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation in the United States and other countries.

Redwood Credit Union and Fair Isaac are not credit repair organizations as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. Redwood Credit Union and Fair Isaac do not provide "credit repair" services or advice or assistance regarding "rebuilding" or "improving" your credit record, credit history or credit rating.

FICO® Score and associated educational content are provided solely for your own non-commercial personal review, use and benefit.