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7/18/07

What are the Components of a FICO Score?

The Fair Isaac Corporation is the company the created the FICO score for credit. A credit score can range between 300-850. All three of the credit reporting bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian) use a FICO score system, except each bureau calls their respective systems by a different name. TransUnion has EMPIRICA, Experian has the Experian/Fair Isaac Risk Model, and Equifax has BEACON. Do not be confused by these names. Although different by name, these credit bureaus’ systems differ only slightly in calculation.

Although the exact formula used to calculate a FICO score is unknown to the general public, the Fair Isaac Corporation has released the components used to calculate a score and their respective weight in the calculation.

35% of your score is based upon your Payment History. Late payments of all types are reported in your credit report. People are sometimes under the misconception that as long as they pay their credit cards on time, it does not matter if anything else (like your car payment, your cell phone, doctor bills, etc.) is late. This is far from true. Any late payment to a creditor can be reported in your credit report by way of collections, lawsuit, wage garnishment, attachments, lien, and judgments, to name a few.

30% of your score is based upon your Amounts Owed. This is called a debt to available credit ratio. Basically, if you have two credit cards with a $2,500 limit on each, your total available credit is $5,000. If these accounts are “maxed out” then this will lower your score. As a good rule of thumb, you generally want to have a total of only 30% of your total credit in use. Therefore, in this example, if you owe $1,500, you should be okay. Anything more, and you may be at risk of lowering your score.

15% of your score is based upon the Length of Your Credit History. This makes sense if you think about it. If you just got a credit card, there is no accurate way to gauge your creditworthiness. The longer you have credit, the more accurately lenders can determine the risk of lending you money. This equates into a higher score for you.

10% of your score is based upon New Credit. This does not mean that you should not open up any new credit cards. If you want more credit, do so sparingly. If you try to open and/or apply for a lot of credit at one time, it looks like you are in financial trouble or that you are going to be amassing a large amount of debt. Either way, it does not look good to lenders and can negatively affect your score.

10% of your score is based upon the Type of Credit in Use. Also referred to as a “mix,” this component looks to all the types of credit you have. Whether it is revolving, installment, mortgages, etc., a healthy mix will raise you score, although by very little. This component really only comes into play if you do not have many revolving accounts.


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