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On the surface, credit scores seem pretty simple.
They’re a numerical indicator of your reliability as a borrower, used by lenders to determine the terms of a loan.
A good score is high, and a bad score is low.
But when you start to learn how those scores are calculated – and how many companies are doing the calculating – things get a little more complicated.
There are multiple credit scoring models, each with its own algorithm for determining the score assigned to consumers.
The FICO score is the score most often used by lenders, but even FICO offers multiple scoring algorithms, and your FICO score from each credit bureau could be different!
Here’s what you need to know – how the scores are calculated, what constitutes a high score, and why your score matters.
What is a FICO Score?
A FICO score is a credit score calculated by the Fair Isaac Corporation. Bill Fair and Earl Isaac, the founders of FICO, wanted an impartial way to evaluate borrowers before lending them money.
Before the FICO score came about in 1989, there were several basic credit bureaus in operation. These companies tracked whether or not consumers paid their bills on time, but they weren’t as accurate or unbiased as today’s data-based systems.
At one point, your credit report could even include information about your political preferences and other intimate details.
What is a FICO Score? Range, Good Score, Highest Score
🤔 90% of lenders use FICO credit scores for underwriting decisions rather than the VantageScore you get from most free credit score providers.
Nowadays, the FICO score is a sophisticated piece of financial technology that lenders rely on to evaluate creditworthiness and assign interest rates. The FICO score is the most popular option for lenders.
When you check your credit score for free through a third-party service, you’re often seeing your VantageScore credit score and not your FICO score.There are still many ways to get a free credit score from FICO.
You have more than one FICO score. FICO provides general purpose scores, and also specialized scores like the FICO Auto Score, widely used by auto lenders, and the FICO Bancard Score, used by credit card companies. Each score has several versions, and lenders may continue to use older versions after the newer ones are released.
Not all lenders report to all credit bureaus, so there can also be differences in your FICO score depending on which credit report it was based on.
How FICO Scores Change
There are multiple iterations of FICO scores, with slight discrepancies between each of them. You can get your 28 FICO scores here.
Approximately every five years, FICO updates its scoring models to create an algorithm that more accurately reflects how responsible consumers are. Factors that may have seemed significant at one point may be disregarded, while others may be deemed more important.
When FICO creates a new general-purpose scoring algorithm, it can take several years before lenders start using it. For example, FICO 9 was released in 2014, but FICO 8 is still the version most commonly used by lenders. Many mortgage lenders use even older versions when approving borrowers.
Understanding FICO Scores
Did you know lenders pull different FICO scores when you apply for a car loan vs a home loan? And yet another for credit cards? And the scores can vary (a LOT!) Learn more about all types of credit scores in this guide.
FICO’s latest scoring model, FICO 10, was released in 2020, but has not been widely adopted by lenders. FICO 8 remains the most widely used credit score. However, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has selected the FICO 10T score as its preferred variant, which will increase the use of this score in Mortgage lending.
FICO score updates can have a small update on your credit score, depending on the update and what’s already on your report. For example, unpaid medical bills sent to collections have a lesser impact on credit scores using the FICO 9 model.
If you had an unpaid medical collection, then this update would benefit you.
What Makes Up the FICO Credit Score?
Even though there are slight differences between various FICO models, the main tenets remain the same. The FICO credit score is made up of the following factors:
- Payment history: 35%
- Credit utilization: 30%
- Length of credit history: 15%
- Recent applications: 10%
- Credit mix: 10%
If you want to improve your FICO score, pay your bills on time, watch how much available credit is left on your credit cards, and avoid opening new accounts unless you really need them.
Be aware that it can take time for your credit score to improve, especially if you have serious negative entries like a bankruptcy or collection accounts on your credit report.
What is the FICO Credit Score Range?
Most FICO credit scores range from 300 to 850. Some scores designed for auto lenders and credit card companies use a range between 250 to 900.
Here is the general FICO credit score range:
- Poor: Less than 580
- Fair: Between 581 and 669
- Good: Between 670 and 739
- Very Good: 740 and 799
- Excellent: 800 and more
People with better credit scores are offered better interest rates and terms on loans, credit cards, and even car insurance.
The range you fall into as a borrower can mean a difference between thousands of dollars in interest over the life of a loan. If you’re buying a house, a good credit score can save you tens of thousands.
Conventional mortgages usually require a score of 620 or higher. If you have a credit score below 580, you won’t even be able to qualify for an FHA mortgage unless you have a 10% down payment.
Many high-paying rewards or travel credit cards are only available to those with scores of 700 or higher.
Credit scores can also be used for non-lending purposes. In some cases, utility companies may require a deposit for account holders with a low score.
Some careers and specific positions require a credit check during the application process, especially those dealing with some level of financial responsibility.
The military can even use a low credit score as grounds for revoking security clearance.
Now let’s quickly discuss how Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion (the big 3 credit reporting companies) fit into your FICO scores.
In our food metaphor, FICO was our master chef.
The big 3 credit bureaus have the ingredients (all your credit history that makes up your credit file).
How do they get this info about you? Various entities may furnish credit information to the credit bureaus, such as banks, debt collectors, loan companies, and other creditors.
But here’s the thing.
Sometimes these entitiesonly report your credit activity to one or two of the credit bureaus, so the ingredients that make up your score could be different at Experian than it is at, say, TransUnion.
FICO then comes in and overlays its unique credit scoring model on top of the information at the credit bureaus (which, again, may be different). This results in… you guessed it… three separate credit scores, which often do not match.
Notice these real scores provided by my brother, Mark. In some scoring models (like the Auto Scores), they differ by more than 50 points.
TransUnion FICO Scores
Experian FICO Scores
Equifax FICO Scores
That’s why you hear people ask why their TransUnion score is different than their Experian score.
You see, the chef (FICO) prepared the scores like always, but it was the ingredients that were different!
Types of FICO® Scores
FICO offers scores for general use as well as industry-specific scores such as auto scores. Today there are more than 20 different FICO scores being used to asses people’s creditworthiness.
The most widely used general credit score today is FICO 8. If you are applying for a personal loan, a student loan, a credit card, or any type of retail credit, this is the credit score you need to know.
Industry-specific scores are particularly skewed towards helping lenders in a specific industry calculate the risk that a borrower will default on their particular loan product.
Auto lenders, credit card companies, and mortgage lenders mostly use FICO industry-specific scores. These are called:
- FICO Auto Scores
- FICO Bankcard Scores
- and FICO Mortgage Scores
FICO Auto Scores will give more weight to auto loan and lease payment history, while Bankcard scores weigh credit card and personal loan activity more heavily.
Types of FICO® Credit Scores
Here’s a list of the most important FICO scores you should know and monitor, along with their credit score ranges. They are the credit scores most lenders use.
🌐 Most Widely Used Version: FICO 8
Score Range: 300 – 850
🏠 Used in Mortgage Lending: Beacon 5.0 from Equifax, FICO-II from Experian, and FICO Classic 04 from TransUnion
Score Range: 300 – 850
🚗 Used in Auto Lending: FICO Auto Score 2, 4, 5, 8
Score Range: 250 – 900
💳 Used in Credit Card Decisions: FICO Bankcard Score 2, 3, 4, 5, 8
Score Range (2, 4, 5, 8): 250 – 900
Score Range (3): 300 – 850
📰 Newest Versions:FICO 9, 10, 10 T
Score Range: 300 – 850
Key: All scores above that contain a 5 are exclusive to Equifax. Scores with a 2 are exclusively from Experian. Scores with a 4 are exclusively from Transunion.
Please note: Many people have three separate scores for FICO 8, 9, 10, 10 T, along with FICO Bankcard Score 8 and FICO Auto Score 8. FICO derives one score from each of the big three credit bureaus, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. FICO Bankcard Score 3 is exclusive to Experian.
Click here to learn more about FICO Scores.
Remember how we said that your FICO score could vary depending on which credit bureau you get your credit report from? As you can see in the table below, not all credit bureaus use the same FICO scores.
Here is what credit scores are used by each of the 3 major credit bureaus:
|Most widely used version||FICO® Score 8||FICO® Score 8||FICO® Score 8|
|Versions used in auto lending||FICO® Auto Score 8|
FICO® Auto Score 2
|FICO® Auto Score 8|
FICO® Auto Score 5
|FICO® Auto Score 8|
FICO® Auto Score 4
|Versions used in credit card decisioning||FICO® Bankcard Score 8|
FICO® Score 3
FICO® Bankcard Score 2
|FICO® Bankcard Score 8|
FICO® Bankcard Score 5
|FICO® Bankcard Score 8|
FICO® Bankcard Score 4
|Versions used in mortgage lending||FICO® Score 2||FICO® Score 5||FICO® Score 4|
|Newly released version||FICO® Score 9|
FICO® Auto Score 9
FICO® Bankcard Score 9
|FICO® Score 9|
FICO® Auto Score 9
FICO® Bankcard Score 9
|FICO® Score 9|
FICO® Auto Score 9
FICO® Bankcard Score 9
Ranges for All FICO Scores
Many people assume the FICO score range is from 300 to 850 across the board, but the reality is that is the range for less than half of all FICO scores.
350 – 850: Mortgage & General Score Ranges (10 Scores)
Your FICO score will range between 300 to 850 for all of the general scores, such as FICO 8 and 9 as well as your mortgage scores (FICO 2, 4, and 5).
FICO 3 also has a range of 350 to 850, although it is mostly used for credit cards.
250 – 900: Auto & Bankcard Scores (18 Scores)
FICO assigns a different scoring range
Where Can I Find My FICO Credit Score?
Finding your FICO credit score is harder than finding a credit score from VantageScore. Most free sites, including Credit Karma and Credit Sesame, only show your VantageScore.
Discover Bank has a free credit score service that will show your FICO 8 score, even if you’re not a Discover customer. You just have to register for an account and provide some personal information, like your Social Security number and address.
You can also purchase your score directly from myFICO for $19.95 a month. This provides access to a monthly updated FICO credit score, as well as a credit report and basic credit monitoring.
Tracking your FICO score is useful for consumers looking to buy a house or take out another major loan. Once you have a FICO score in the “very good” or “excellent” range, you can confidently begin the lending process.
If you’re interested in viewing your credit score, click here to get all 28 credit scores with this tool and learn how to improve your score.
What Is a Good FICO® Score? The base FICO® Scores range from 300 to 850, and a good credit score is between 670 and 739 within that range. FICO creates different types of consumer credit scores.What is the top FICO score range? ›
If you've ever wondered what the highest credit score that you can have is, it's 850. That's at the top end of the most common FICO® and VantageScore® credit scores. And these two companies provide some of the most popular credit-scoring models in America.Does anyone have a 900 FICO score? ›
A 900 credit score may be the highest on some scoring models, but this number isn't always possible. Only 1% of the population can achieve a credit score of 850, so there's a certain point where trying to get the highest possible credit score isn't realistic at all.Is FICO score range 850 or 900? ›
Depending on the type of scoring model, a 900 credit score is possible. While the most common FICO and VantageScore models only go up to 850, the FICO Auto Score and FICO Bankcard Score models range from 250 to 900.Does anyone have an 850 FICO score? ›
While achieving a perfect 850 credit score is rare, it's not impossible. About 1.3% of consumers have one, according to Experian's latest data. FICO scores can range anywhere from 300 to 850. The average score was 714, as of 2021.How many people have a credit score over 800? ›
Your 800 FICO® Score falls in the range of scores, from 800 to 850, that is categorized as Exceptional. Your FICO® Score is well above the average credit score, and you are likely to receive easy approvals when applying for new credit. 21% of all consumers have FICO® Scores in the Exceptional range.How rare is an 850 FICO score? ›
Only about 1.6% of the 232 million U.S. consumers with a credit score have a perfect 850, according to FICO's most recent statistics.How much is a 850 credit score worth in money? ›
The average mortgage loan amount for consumers with Exceptional credit scores is $208,617. People with FICO® Scores of 850 have an average auto-loan debt of $17,030.How to increase credit score from 800 to 850? ›
- Pay all your bills on time. One of the easiest ways to boost your credit is to simply never miss a payment. ...
- Avoid excessive credit inquiries. ...
- Minimize how much debt you carry. ...
- Have a long credit history. ...
- Have a good mix of credit.
- Pay your credit card bills often. ...
- Keep a solid payment history. ...
- Consider your credit mix. ...
- Increase your credit limit. ...
- Don't close old accounts. ...
- Regularly monitor your credit report. ...
- Only apply for credit when you really need it.
The credit scores and credit reports you see on Credit Karma come directly from TransUnion and Equifax, two of the three major consumer credit bureaus. They should accurately reflect your credit information as reported by those bureaus — but they may not match other reports and scores out there.What is the difference between FICO score 8 and 9? ›
FICO 9 is similar to FICO 8 but differs when it comes to collections and rent payments. FICO 9 counts medical collections less harshly than other accounts in collections, so a surgery bill in collections will have less of an impact on your credit score than a credit card bill in collections.What is the highest FICO score 8? ›
FICO 8 scores range between 300 and 850.Why can't I get a credit score of 850? ›
According to FICO, about 98% of “FICO High Achievers” have zero missed payments. And for the small 2% who do, the missed payment happened, on average, approximately four years ago. So while missing a credit card payment can be easy to do, staying on top of your payments is the only way you will one day reach 850.How hard is it to get an 800 credit score? ›
But exceptional credit is largely based on how well you manage debt and for how long. Earning an 800-plus credit score isn't easy, he said, but “it's definitely attainable.”What is the average American credit score? ›
How do average credit scores compare state by state? The average credit score in the United States as of February 2021 is 698 based on the VantageScore 3.0 credit score model.What is a good credit score to buy a house? ›
It's recommended you have a credit score of 620 or higher when you apply for a conventional loan. If your score is below 620, lenders either won't be able to approve your loan or may be required to offer you a higher interest rate, which can result in higher monthly payments.What is a perfect credit score? ›
An 850 FICO® Score isn't as uncommon as you might think. Statistically, there's a good chance you've attended a wedding, conference, church service or other large gathering with someone who has a perfect score. As of the third quarter (Q3) of 2021, 1.31% of all FICO® Scores in the U.S. stood at 850.What does a 900 credit score give you? ›
A credit score of 900 is either not possible or not very relevant. The number you should really focus on is 800. On the standard 300-850 range used by FICO and VantageScore, a credit score of 800+ is considered “perfect.” That's because higher scores won't really save you any money.Is A 900 credit score good? ›
Although ranges vary depending on the credit scoring model, generally credit scores from 580 to 669 are considered fair; 670 to 739 are considered good; 740 to 799 are considered very good; and 800 and up are considered excellent.
With an 850 credit score, you are well-positioned to qualify for any financial product, from the best credit cards and personal loans to the best auto loans and mortgages. An 850 credit score doesn't guarantee you approval, however, because your income and existing debt obligations matter, too.How rare is an 800 credit score? ›
According to a report by FICO, only 23% of the scorable population has a credit score of 800 or above.How long does it take to go from 720 to 800 credit score? ›
Depending on where you're starting from, It can take several years or more to build an 800 credit score. You need to have a few years of only positive payment history and a good mix of credit accounts showing you have experience managing different types of credit cards and loans.How can I raise my credit score 100 points overnight? ›
- Get Your Free Credit Report. ...
- Know How Your Credit Score Is Calculated. ...
- Improve Your Debt-to-Income Ratio. ...
- Keep Your Credit Information Up to Date. ...
- Don't Close Old Credit Accounts. ...
- Make Payments on Time. ...
- Monitor Your Credit Report. ...
- Keep Your Credit Balances Low.
Why is my FICO® score different from my credit score? Your FICO Score is a credit score. But if your FICO score is different from another of your credit scores, it may be that the score you're viewing was calculated using one of the other scoring models that exist.What credit score is needed to buy a car? ›
In general, you'll need a credit score of at least 600 to qualify for a traditional auto loan, but the minimum credit score required to finance a car loan varies by lender. If your credit score falls into the subprime category, you may need to look for a bad credit car loan.Which credit bureau is most accurate? ›
Although Experian is the largest credit bureau in the U.S., TransUnion and Equifax are widely considered to be just as accurate and important. When it comes to credit scores, however, there is a clear winner: FICO® Score is used in 90% of lending decisions.What score do car lenders use? ›
What credit score do auto lenders look at? The three major credit bureaus are Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. The two big credit scoring models used by auto lenders are FICO® Auto Score and Vantage.Which FICO score do lenders use? ›
While most lenders use the FICO Score 8, mortgage lenders use the following scores: Experian: FICO Score 2, or Fair Isaac Risk Model v2. Equifax: FICO Score 5, or Equifax Beacon 5. TransUnion: FICO Score 4, or TransUnion FICO Risk Score 04.Which credit score do banks use? ›
They are Experian, Equifax and CIBIL. CIBIL is quite popular as it has been in the business for a long time. Non-Banking Financial Companies and banks use the credit score provided by CIBIL, Experian and Equifax to determine the potential risk of lending to a customer.
Though the FICO® Score 9 is an updated version of FICO® Score 8, the FICO® Score 8 is still the most widely used base score by lenders, meaning that, while you may have a better credit score from the FICO® Score 9 model, lenders are more likely to still use the previous version.Is there a difference between the FICO score and FICO score 8? ›
FICO Score 5 is an older version that is commonly used in the mortgage and auto loan industries. FICO Score 8 was introduced in 2009 and is mainly used by credit card issuers. FICO 5 uses information from Equifax, while FICO 8 takes information from all three major credit reporting agencies.How common is FICO score 8? ›
FICO 8 is still the most widely used credit score today. If you apply for a credit card or personal loan, odds are that the lender will check your FICO 8 score. FICO 8 is unique in its treatment of factors such as credit utilization, late payments, and small-balance collection accounts.Is there a difference between 800 and 850 credit score? ›
What is a perfect credit score? If you have an 850 credit score, your credit is perfect—but any credit score over 800 is considered exceptional, and that's just as good.How to increase credit score from 780 to 800? ›
- Pay Your Bills on Time – All of Them. Paying your bills on time can improve your credit score and get you closer to an 800+ credit score. ...
- Don't Hit Your Credit Limit. ...
- Only Spend What You Can Afford. ...
- Don't Apply for Every Credit Card. ...
- Have a Credit History. ...
- What an 800+ Credit Score Can Mean.
- Check for errors on your credit report. ...
- Remove a late payment. ...
- Reduce your credit card debt. ...
- Become an authorized user on someone else's account. ...
- Pay twice a month. ...
- Build credit with a credit card.
An 800-plus credit score shows lenders you are an exceptional borrower. You may qualify for better mortgage and auto loan terms with a high credit score. You may also qualify for credit cards with better rewards and perks, such as access to airport lounges and free hotel breakfasts.Why can't I get my credit score over 800? ›
Since the length of your credit history accounts for 15% of your credit score, negative, minimal or no credit history can stop you from reaching an 800 credit score. To solve this problem, focus on building your credit. You can do this by taking out a credit-builder loan or applying for your first credit card.What are the 5 type of FICO score ranges? ›
Credit scores typically range from 300 to 850. Within that range, scores can usually be placed into one of five categories: poor, fair, good, very good and excellent.What is the range of a 750 FICO score? ›
Your FICO® Score falls within a range, from 740 to 799, that may be considered Very Good. A 750 FICO® Score is above the average credit score. Borrowers with scores in the Very Good range typically qualify for lenders' better interest rates and product offers.
Since the length of your credit history accounts for 15% of your credit score, negative, minimal or no credit history can stop you from reaching an 800 credit score. To solve this problem, focus on building your credit. You can do this by taking out a credit-builder loan or applying for your first credit card.Why is it so hard to get a credit score of 850? ›
According to FICO, about 98% of “FICO High Achievers” have zero missed payments. And for the small 2% who do, the missed payment happened, on average, approximately four years ago. So while missing a credit card payment can be easy to do, staying on top of your payments is the only way you will one day reach 850.How accurate is Credit Karma? ›
Here's the short answer: The credit scores and reports you see on Credit Karma come directly from TransUnion and Equifax, two of the three major consumer credit bureaus. The credit scores and reports you see on Credit Karma should accurately reflect your credit information as reported by those bureaus.How many points is Credit Karma off? ›
In some cases, as seen in an example below, Credit Karma may be off by 20 to 25 points.How accurate is Experian FICO score? ›
Credit scores from the three main bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) are considered accurate. The accuracy of the scores depends on the accuracy of the information provided to them by lenders and creditors. You can check your credit report to ensure the information is accurate.Can I buy a car with a 750 FICO score? ›
750 is a good credit score that can get you car loans with equally as good rates. They aren't the best, but they are still in the top five. More specifically, you would be able to qualify for apr rates of anywhere from 3% to 6% for a new car loan and 5% to 9% for a used car loan.How many people have credit score over 700? ›
6 in 10 Americans have a FICO score above 700. [Source: Experian] A good credit score can potentially help you save money on your mortgage, car insurance, credit cards and many other things.How many Americans have a credit score over 780? ›
A 780 FICO® Score is above the average credit score. Borrowers with scores in the Very Good range typically qualify for lenders' better interest rates and product offers. 25% of all consumers have FICO® Scores in the Very Good range.