When people hear the word “FICO,” they think “FICO credit report” or “FICO score.” In fact, FICO is a company that develops analytics software that uses algorithms to predict consumer behavior. Its software assesses a prospective borrower’s ability to repay a loan and spits out the FICO Score. But, your credit score and your credit reports are intimately connected. And despite the popular credit myths you might have heard, you do have more than one credit score. Your FICO Score is one of them.
Confused? Let’s break down what you need to know about a FICO credit report or FICO Score.
What Is a FICO Credit Report or Score?
Consumers are most familiar with FICO, or Fair Isaac Corporation, not for the mythical FICO credit report but for its FICO Scores. And, yes FICO has more than one score. You have more than one FICO Score. There are at least seven versions of FICO Scores. Why so many?
FICO has one general credit score for each major credit reporting agency—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The most widely used version is FICO Score 8. It also has industry-specific scores for each bureau, meaning there’s a FICO credit card score, a FICO mortgage score, a FICO auto loan score and so on for Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
FICO Scores have evolved over time too. The latest version, FICO 9, was announced in 2014. Unlike its predecessors, FICO 9 ignores paid collections accounts and puts less weight on unpaid medical debts, since they’re an unplanned expense over which the debtor has little control.
And FICO Scores matter, because they’re the ones used in more than 90% if lending decisions made in the U.S.1
What you might think of as a FICO credit report, is really the credit reports from each credit reporting agency that are used to calculate your FICO Scores. The reports are based on the info in your credit file that each agency maintains.
What’s a Good FICO Score?
A good FICO Score is pretty much anything over 670. FICO Scores break down as follows:
Exceptional, very good, good, fair and very poor are essentially your credit rating. Where the numbers are your credit score. A literal rating of good credit per your FICO Score is 670 to 739. Anything less than 670 is fair or very poor—or not good.
What Are the Other Credit Scores?
Just like you have a different credit report at each of the three credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion—you have different FICO credit scores at each bureau. And you also have different credit scores altogether.
The other most common scoring model is VantageScore. And like FICO, VantageScore offers multiple scores. They aren’t the only two though, there are other scoring models, although FICO and VantageScore are the most commonly used.
How Do I Get My FICO Score?
You can get your FICO score for free from some credit unions, with some loans and with a variety of credit cards, assuming you apply for and get the cards. And you can get your credit reports from each of the major credit bureaus annually for free at AnnualCreditReport.com.
You can get your FICO score and your Experian credit report here on Credit.com for $1 too. And you can get your free Experian VantageScore credit score free on Credit.com.
How Do I Understand My FICO Score?
Most FICO credit scores follow the same FICO Score range of 300 to 850. The higher your number, the less risky lenders consider you to be. Scores are all generally calculated on the same key factors from your credit reports:
- Payment history, which accounts for 35% of your score
- Credit utilization ratio, or the amount of debt owed compared to your credit limit, which accounts for 30% of your score
- Credit age, or length of credit history, which accounts for 15% of your score
- Credit mix, which accounts for 10% of your score
- Credit inquiries, which makes up 10% of your score
These factors also affect the non-FICO credit scoring models, such as VantageScore, whose 3.0 model also follows a range of 300 to 850.
Whether you get your FICO Score or a VantageScore score, you can get an idea of whether you have a good credit score or not, even if you’re looking at a score from a model that’s not the same one your lender is looking at. In other words, you’re not going to have a good VantageScore and a poor FICO score.
Find more detail about what goes into calculating a FICO credit score.
Do I Have to Know My FICO Credit Score?
When it comes to monitoring your credit score, a good strategy is to pick a single consumer-facing credit score and check it regularly to see your progress. That way, you can use the one score to see any reduction in your score and then investigate way it is lower and work to repair any issues.
It’s a good idea to focus less on the three-digit number and more on the information that’s getting flagged on your credit report. For instance, if you have high credit card balances, you can want to pay them down to improve your credit scores across all providers. You want to avoid late payments. And if your credit report is full of credit inquiries, you want to hold off on applying for new loans and cards to protect all your scores from further decline.
You can view your free Experian credit score and credit report card on Credit.com. Your report card shows you your score and where you stand in the five areas that go into your score listed above. The report also gives you information on how to improve your score, if needed.
The History of the FICO Score
FICO introduced the original FICO Score with Equifax in 1989. By 1991, all three national consumer reporting agencies were selling the score to lenders. In the process, the score revolutionized the way lenders, and other businesses assessed consumer credit risk. Because it considered only credit histories, the score offered a fair and objective risk assessment that ignored subjective factors.
By assessing a person’s general likelihood of repayment, the score proved useful to lenders throughout their relationships with consumers, ranging from new loan decisions to account management decisions.
The score quickly proved useful to creditors in other industries too, such as retail goods and telecommunications services. By providing the first risk assessment consistently scaled across all three agencies, the FICO Score made it easier for lenders to tap more than one agency and accelerated the speed with which they could assess risk and make credit decisions.
As a result, more consumers gained faster and more convenient access to credit, including people who previously had been denied credit.
Since the initial debut of the FICO Score, more than 100 billion FICO credit scores have been sold. According to the FICO website, it services more than 90% of the leading lenders, more than half of the top 100 banks in the world, 95 of the 100 biggest financial institutions in the US, and all of the 100 largest U.S. credit card issuers.
FICO Score 9
FICO Score 9 is the newest FICO scoring model. It gives medical debts less weight than nonmedical debt than was done with the previous FICO Score.
The FICO Score 9 model also looks at paid collections differently. Consumers’ outstanding bills that have gone to collections don’t reduce FICO Score 9 credit scores as long as the debt is paid in full by the consumer.
The FICO Score 9 looks at rental history differently than the previous score versions too. A consumer’s rental history is factored into the FICO Score 9 model only when the landlord reports the payments directly to each of the credit bureaus. Landlords aren’t required to report rental payments and payment history. But, you can ask your landlord to do so as a means to improve your score. You can also consider asking for this action to be part of rental agreements.
With the changes made to the FICO 9 scoring system, consumers have more opportunity to repair credit and build a more positive credit score with each credit bureau.
FICO, the Company
FICO provides analytic, software and data management products and services. It specializes in the credit analysis market and is a pioneer in the credit score and credit account management fields. Its primary focus is on providing credit scoring models and results to banks, credit reporting agencies (credit bureaus), credit card processing agencies, insurers, retailers and healthcare organizations.
FICO was founded in 1956 as Fair, Isaac, and Co. by engineer Bill Fair and mathematician Earl Isaac. FICO sold its first credit scoring system in 1958. In 1987, the company introduced the first general-purpose FICO Score. It also went public in 1987 and is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol FICO. Quick FICO facts:
- Headquarters: San Jose, California
- CEO: William Lansing
- Size: More than 3,400 employees worldwide
- Website: fico.com
There really isn’t a FICO credit report. There are instead, multiple FICO Scores, which are credit scores. There are credit reports, but they come from credit reporting agencies and not from FICO. FICO, the company, simply provides software that creates credit scores based on a consumer’s credit file.
1 Mercator Advisory Group, Analysis, 2018 per https://ficoscore.com/where-to-get-fico-scores/