How is Your FICO Score Determined?

Credit Repair

How is Your FICO Score Determined?

By: Jeanette Joy Fisher

Perhaps you're familiar with the FICO scoring system used by credit companies to determine a potential client's creditworthiness. But do you know how that score is determined?

First, let's define the acronym FICO. It is used to describe a system developed by the Fair Isaac Company for one of the Big Three credit reporting companies, Experian. Since its inception, FICO has gone on to become the standard within the credit industry for determining the creditworthiness of potential borrowers. It consists of a series of questions, and answers are given a certain number of points. When they're all added up, that number represents your FICO score. (All the information in your credit report is considered, of course, but FICO also examines more than twenty factors, divided into five main categories.)

The first category considers your payment history, and represents 35 percent of your score. The factor carrying the most weight is the timeliness of your payments, with emphasis placed on your most recent bills. Paying all your bills on time will raise your FICO score. The more late payments you've made, the lower your score will be. If your accounts have been turned over to collection agencies, that hurts even more, and if you've declared bankruptcy, that will earn you the lowest FICO score.

FICO places a 30 percent emphasis on the amount of money you owe and your available credit. It also asks about your outstanding debt, such as your mortgage, credit cards, and auto loans. FICO also asks the total amount of credit you have at your disposal. For instance, if you have five credit cards, each with a $2,000 limit, that amounts to $10,000 of available credit. Consumers who have access to a significant amount of credit have a tendency to use it, which can make them a greater credit risk overall. If your cards are close to the maximum already, that makes you an even less attractive risk. The people who obtain the highest FICO score in this category are those who use their credit prudently and maintain relatively low balances.

Some 15 percent of your FICO score comes from the length of your credit history. Simply put: the longer you've been using your credit, especially if it's been with the same companies, the higher your FICO score will be.

FICO puts a 10 percent value on the overall mix of your credit. The more types of loans you've had, the better, as far as your FICO score. If you've had car loans, credit card payments, various types of installment loans, and a mortgage, you'll receive a higher FICO score.

Your FICO score also gives you a 10 percent premium if you've sought new credit within the past year. FICO gives points for clients that are savvy enough to shop around for better interest rates for home or car loans from time to time. However, you get deductions if you apply for credit too many times.

Your FICO score can determine the percentage rate of your car or home loan, and may even get you a lower rate on your credit cards. It's a number that's worth knowing. However, don't pay for your FICO score. The numbers you get from a paid service are NOT the same FICO scores your real estate lender gets. If you want to know your FICO, ask a loan officer.

Copyright Jeanette J. Fisher Jeanette Fisher teaches how to get out from under credit card debt, how to use credit to make money, and six ways to build strong credit to finance your first home and multiple investment properties. For free credit advice and free ebook "Credit Tips for Mortgage Financing," see

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