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Credit Scoring 101 - START HERE!

Moderator Emeritus

Credit Scoring 101 - START HERE!

Welcome to the FICO Forums! We are glad you are here!


Please check our new credit scoring thread The Son Of Credit Scoring 101



These are the three major credit bureaus (aka credit reporting agencies): Equifax (EQ), Experian (EX), and TransUnion (TU). You’ll need to find out all three of your FICO scores to properly grasp your overall credit picture.

What is the range of FICO scores?

FICO (aka Classic or BEACON) scores can range from 300 to 850, but the majority of scores usually fall within the 600s and 700s.


FICO, FAKO, Credit Score, PlusScore, ScoreX, Vantage are all the same right? WRONG!

FICO = The score lenders use and the only score you care about.

FAKO = Any score that isn't a FICO. Most people like to buy the ScoreWatch product because you can quite often get updates as to your current EQ FICO score. myFICO Identity Theft Security Deluxe is similar to Score Watch except that is monitors TU. There is no FICO monitoring service for all three credit reporting agencies.








myFICO Identity Theft Security Deluxe: sells FICO scores for EQ and TU.

**Update** July 2013, EX FICO scores are now available too. or sells FAKO scores only. used to sell FICO (TU score only) but no more.

There are generally two reasons why you might not be able to get a score from MyFICO. Your score does not contain enough positive data to calculate a score, or there is a fraud alert on your file.

Classic or BEACON FICO scores are generally the best indicator of credit-worthiness and a good overall indicator of where your credit (mortgage, credit card, auto,etc.) stands.

Credit card enhanced (or bankcard enhanced scores) are specific indicators of credit worthiness with regards to credit cards only (not mortgages, auto, loans, etc.).

Auto-enhanced scores are specific indicators of credit worthiness with regards to an auto loan. Consumers cannot purchase auto-enhanced scores.


Your actual FICO score ranges from 300-850, remember you have three separate FICO scores for each credit reporting agency EQ, EX, and TU.

Scores higher than 720-750+ are ideal. Any higher really doesn't matter. Once you get this high, you have excellent scores regardless.

Also, just because you have your score today doesn’t mean you can walk into the car dealership tomorrow and say “I have an 800+ FICO please give me the APR I want on my loan”, the lender may calculate a completely different FICO score and if you were to pull your FICO score again that day it may be different for you.

Remember, a FICO score is a quick look at the overall status of your credit. It may mean getting a better APR on the credit card you want, but it likely won’t determine whether you get the card or not (your credit report(s) will!).

How is my score calculated?  (Author: Pammila)




-35% affects Payment History. Meaning any lates; collections; charge offs; bankruptcies; judgments; liens or the such will hurt the score. All is time based, the older the information the less it is contributing to the scores.

-30% affects Utilization. It is best to have several accounts with low balances distributed then it is to have fewer accounts maxed out. To figure utilization: Balance (divided) by Credit Limit = percentage. Lower than 10% recommended per account, this is one of the fastest means for increasing the over all credit score.

-15% affects Established History. The longer you maintain open accounts with creditors the better. When first starting out of course this is not easy; but this is where getting added as an Authorized User to another persons established credit comes in best. Remember that the contributor must have an account that has long history; clean payment record; high credit limit; and low balance. Also need to check with the creditor to insure that they have a policy to report authorized user accounts to all three major credit reporting agencies.

Note: Authorized user accounts are the best way to go; since you are not legally responsible for the debt rather than Joint or Co-Signer accounts. Also, if this account starts to report negatively; these accounts are usually easier to remove from the credit reports by either contacting the creditor and requesting termination of the relationship; or disputing through the CRAs.

Update: In its original form, FICO 08 would not use AU accounts in scoring. It has been modified: FICO 08 now WILL continue to count legitimate AU accounts. As of the end of 2008, the EX version of FICO 08 is only being used by a few lenders.

10% affects Inquiries. Don't apply for credit unless you know you can get it or that you need to get it; unnecessary credit inquiries are going to hurt the scores - especially if your over all credit file is small to begin with.

Tip: When applying for credit pull your own credit report first (this is a soft hit and won't drop your scores). With credit report in hand go visit your local banks or credit unions. Show them the reports; and don't allow them to pull a credit report of their own unless they can say for sure that you will be approved, this way you save your self unnecessary pulls on your credit report if they decline you. If they say yes, you are approved, then they will need to pull credit report to seal the deal.

Mortgage & Auto industry has special rules for inquiries: all applications for credit resulting in pulled credit reports within a 14 day period of time will only count as one inquiry & will be suppressed from affecting credit scores for 30 days. So if you plan to go shopping for a mortgage or a car, do your research first picking what companies you want to apply with and do this all within a 2 week period of time so that the scores are not affected too much.

-10% affects Mix of Credit. Use different types of credit (revolving; installment; auto; mortgage...) evenly.

Also remember the advice which a lender gives you is productive for getting a loan; but not always good for the credit scores. If they tell you to consolidate and close accounts be careful how you go about this, most people's compliance usually results in dropped credit scores. You are shrinking your overall available credit limit verses your balances... so remember you don't want to hurt the utilization by consolidating and closing accounts behind you.

What types of information are NOT used in calculating my FICO score?

1. Your race, color, religion, national origin, sex or marital status

2. Your age

3. Your salary, occupation, title, employer, date employed or employment history

4. Where you live

5. Certain types of inquiries such as promotional, account review, insurance or employment related inquiries

6. Any information not found in your credit file

7. Any information that is not proven to be a predictive of future credit performance

How often does my score change?

Your credit file is continually updated with new information from your creditors. The FICO score is calculated based on the latest "snapshot" of information contained in your file at the time the score is requested. Therefore, your FICO score from a month ago is probably not the same score a lender would get from the credit reporting agency today. Fluctuations are quite common.

Why are my scores different?

Your scores may be different at each of the three main credit reporting agencies as the FICO score only considers the data in your credit file from that agency. If your score from the three credit reporting agencies is different, it is probably because the information those agencies have on you differs. Also keep in mind that there is a different FICO formula for each credit reporting agency.

How can I improve my score?


It takes time and there is no quick fix. In fact, quick fix efforts can backfire. Scores reflect credit payment patterns over time with more emphasis on recent information. The best advice is to manage your credit responsibly over time.

Scores automatically improve, as one's overall credit picture gets better. That means showing a historical pattern of paying your bills on time and using credit conservatively.

Here are some suggested tips to follow:


1. Pay your bills on time. Delinquent payments and collections can have a major negative impact on your score.

2. If you have missed payments, get current and stay current. The longer you pay your bills on time, the better your score.

3. If you are having trouble making ends meet, contact your creditors or see a legitimate credit counselor. This will not improve your score immediately, but if you can begin to manage your credit and pay on time, your score will get better over time.

4. Keep balances low (1-9% util) on credit cards and other revolving credit. High outstanding debt can affect a score. All revolving accounts reporting a 0 balance results in a Fico score decrease.

5. Pay off debt rather than move it around.

6. Re-establish your credit history if you have had problems.

7. Opening new accounts responsibly and paying them off on time will raise your score in the long term.

8. Note that it is OK to request and check your own credit file. This will not affect your score, as long as you order your credit file directly from the credit reporting agency or through an organization authorized to provide credit files to consumers (such as myFICO).

9. Apply for and open new credit accounts only as needed.

10. Have credit cards but manage them responsibly. In general, having credit cards and installment loans (and paying timely payments) will raise your score. Someone with no credit cards, for example, tends to be higher risk than someone who has managed credit cards responsibly.


1. Close unused credit cards as a short-term strategy to raise your score. NEVER close an open account unless it is costing you money!

2. Open a number of new credit cards that you do not need, just to increase your available credit. This approach could backfire and actually lower your score.

3. If you have been managing credit for a short time, do not open a lot of new accounts too rapidly. New accounts will lower your average account age, which will have a larger effect on your score if you do not have a lot of other credit information. Also, rapid account build-up can look risky if you are a new credit user. Do your rate shopping for a given loan within a focused period of time. FICO scores distinguish between a search for a single loan and a search for many new credit lines, in part by the length of time over which inquiries occur.




- Tusc

Message 1 of 272
271 REPLIES 271
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Re: Credit Scoring 101

Nice job Tusc thanks.
Message 2 of 272
Moderator Emeritus

Re: Credit Scoring 101

Nice VERY Nice!!!
Message 3 of 272
Moderator Emeritus

Re: Credit Scoring 101

Thanks guys! Maybe this can be stickied. Smiley Happy
Message 4 of 272
Regular Contributor

Re: Credit Scoring 101

Excellent Post !! I actually learned a few NEW things !! Great detail for each and simple that anyone can understand !!
Message 5 of 272
Not applicable

Re: Credit Scoring 101

This is a one stop shop for newbies and rebuilders and anyone who wants to just know more.
Message 6 of 272
Frequent Contributor

Re: Credit Scoring 101

I'm going to sticky it smack dab in the middle of my forehead (it will sure beat that old brown paper bag I've been using) so everytime I go to brush my teeth ...  I'll see it!
Great job, Tusc.  We who are so hardpressed to re-establish, sure do need this to refer to, every now and then.

Message Edited by MercyMe on 05-19-2007 03:46 PM
Message 7 of 272
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Re: Credit Scoring 101

Tuscani your words of wisdom brightens beyond the horizon! :-) Thanks.

Message Edited by ilovepizza on 05-22-2007 03:24 PM
Message 8 of 272
Not applicable

Re: Credit Scoring 101

     Excellent information. Thank you. Willow
Message 9 of 272
Not applicable

Re: Credit Scoring 101

Please make this a sticky!!  Answers all the main questions! 
WTG Tuscani!  Smiley Happy
Message 10 of 272
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