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About Credit Scores

About Credit Scores

Along with the credit report, lenders can also buy a credit score based on the information in the report. That score is calculated by a mathematical equation that evaluates many types of information that are on your credit report at that agency. By comparing this information to the patterns in hundreds of thousands of past credit reports, the score identifies your level of future credit risk.

In order for a FICO® score to be calculated on your credit report, the report must contain at least one account which has been open for six months or greater. In addition, the report must contain at least one account that has been updated in the past six months. This ensures that there is enough information – and enough recent information in your report on which to base a score.

About FICO® scores

Credit bureau scores are often called “FICO scores” because most credit bureau scores used in the US are produced from software developed by Fair Isaac and Company. FICO scores are provided to lenders by the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

National distribution of FICO scores

FICO scores provide the best guide to future risk based solely on credit report data. The higher the score, the lower the risk. But no score says whether a specific individual will be a “good” or “bad” customer. And while many lenders use FICO scores to help them make lending decisions, each lender has its own strategy, including the level of risk it finds acceptable for a given credit product. There is no single “cutoff score” used by all lenders and there are many additional factors that lenders use to determine your actual interest rates.

Other Names for FICO Scores

FICO scores have different names at each of the three credit reporting agencies. All of these scores, however, are developed using the same methods by Fair Isaac, and have been rigorously tested to ensure they provide the most accurate picture of credit risk possible using credit report data.

Credit Reporting Agency FICO® Score
Equifax BEACON®
Experian Experian/Fair Isaac Risk Model
TransUnion EMPIRICA®

More Than One Score

In general, when people talk about “your score”, they’re talking about your current FICO score. However, there is no one score used to make decisions about you. This is true because:

  • Credit bureau scores are not the only scores used.
    Many lenders use their own scores, which often will include the FICO score as well as other information about you.
  • FICO scores are not the only credit bureau scores.
    There are other credit bureau scores, although FICO scores are by far the most commonly used. Other credit bureau scores may evaluate your credit report differently than FICO scores, and in some cases a higher score may mean more risk, not less risk as with FICO scores.
  • Your score may be different at each of the three main credit reporting agencies.
    The FICO score from each credit reporting agency considers only the data in your credit report at that agency. If your current scores from the three credit reporting agencies are different, it’s probably because the information those agencies have on you differs.
  • Your FICO score changes over time.
    As your data changes at the credit reporting agency, so will any new score based on your credit report. So your FICO score from a month ago is probably not the same score a lender would get from the credit reporting agency today.

What’s In Your Credit Report / What’s Not in Your Score