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The FICO® Score☉ , introduced in 1989, revolutionized the credit application process by enabling credit issuers to give qualified borrowers quick approval on loans, credit cards and in-store financing programs. As you'd expect for any decades-old system, the FICO® Score has seen many updates since its introduction. It has also spawned multiple specialized spinoff versions designed for specific industries. Today there are at least 16 versions, or models, of the FICO® Score, which is used by 90% of top lenders.
All versions of the FICO® Score, as well as competitors like the VantageScore®, perform statistical analysis on the contents of your credit report from one of the three national consumer credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax). The FICO® Score algorithm generates a three-digit score that predicts how likely you are to default on a loan—or go more than 90 days without making a payment—within two years.
A higher FICO® Score indicates a lower statistical likelihood of failing to repay a loan. In other words, lenders view a higher FICO® Score as an indicator of greater creditworthiness. Widely used versions of the standard FICO® Scores range from 300 to 850, though models tailored to specific borrowers or industries may differ.
How Many FICO® Score Versions Are There?
FICO® reports there are currently 16 distinct versions of the FICO® Score in use by creditors and other authorized users of personal credit data, such as landlords, utility companies and companies performing certain types of pre-employment background checks. These are just a portion of the dozens of FICO® Score versions issued since 1989.
Most Widely Used FICO® Score Versions
FICO® Score 8: The company says that FICO® Score 8, introduced in 2009, is currently the most widely used version of the FICO® Score.
FICO® Score 9: FICO® Score 9, which debuted in 2014, is also widely used by lenders, according to FICO®.
Newly Released FICO® Score Versions
The most recent versions of the FICO® Score were introduced in January 2020. It often takes new score versions several years to gain widespread usage, as lenders typically do extensive testing with them before integrating them into automated approval processes.
FICO® Score 10: FICO® reports that the FICO® Score 10, the company's latest version of its standard FICO® Score software, offers better predictive accuracy than earlier versions of the scoring model.
FICO® Score 10T: Also introduced in January 2020, this version of the scoring software uses the same analytical framework FICO® Score 10, but also makes use of trended data, an enhanced method of organizing credit report information. Implemented in recent years by all three national credit bureaus, trended data allows credit scoring software to make predictions based on behavior patterns that cannot be discerned using traditional credit report data. For example, traditional data distinguishes borrowers who pay bills on time each month from those who don't, but trended data can also enable comparisons between bill payers who habitually pay credit card balances in full and those who make only the minimum required payment each month.
FICO® Auto Score 10: Launched in 2020, this version of the FICO® Score model is specially designed to gauge the likelihood a borrower will repay an auto loan. It offers refined assessments of new credit users, who make up a large portion of the first-time car buyer segment. In contrast to the standard FICO® Score 10, which assigns scores on a scale of 300 to 850, Auto Score 10 uses a scale range of 250 to 900.
FICO® Bankcard Score 10: The latest version of the FICO® Bankcard Score 10 adapts the scoring framework of FICO® Score 10 to predict how borrowers may pay their credit card bills. Its refinements include greater accuracy among "subprime" borrowers targeted by some credit card issuers. (For purposes of FICO® Bankcard Score 10, the company defines a subprime borrower as one with at least one credit account that's delinquent by 90 days or more, with at least one account in collections, and/or with a bankruptcy in their credit history.) FICO® Bankcard Score 10 uses a scale range of 250 to 900.
FICO® Scores for Credit Card Decisions
Since 1993, FICO® has introduced multiple versions of its credit scoring software optimized for assessing the creditworthiness of credit card borrowers. All versions of the FICO® Bankcard Score assign scores using a scale range of 250 to 900.
FICO® Bankcard Score 9 and FICO® Bankcard Score 8: Released in 2014 and 2009, respectively, these versions are available from all three national credit bureaus.
FICO® Bankcard Score 2 and FICO® Score 3: Experian provides these versions of the FICO® Score to credit card issuers that prefer them for their approval processes.
FICO® Bankcard Score 4: Card issuers can get this version of the FICO® Bankcard Score from TransUnion.
FICO® Bankcard Score 5: Credit card issuers can obtain this version of the FICO® Bankcard Score from Equifax.
FICO® Scores for Mortgage Lending
Known as "classic" FICO® Scores, the following versions of the FICO® Score are widely used by mortgage lenders.
FICO® Score 2: Mortgage lenders get this version of the FICO® Score from Experian.
FICO® Score 4: Mortgage lenders get this version of the FICO® Score from TransUnion.
FICO® Score 5: Mortgage lenders obtain this version of the FICO® Score from Equifax.
For many years, lenders offering mortgages known as conforming loans—loans eligible for purchase by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—were required to use these classic FICO® Scores in their loan approval process. In late 2020, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA)—the regulating agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—announced that other credit scoring software, including newer versions of the FICO® Score and competing software from VantageScore, will be evaluated for future use with conforming loan applications.
FICO® Scores for Auto Lending
FICO® Auto Score 9 and FICO® Auto Score 8: Introduced in 2014 and 2009, respectively, these versions of the FICO® Auto Score are available from all three national credit bureaus.
FICO® Auto Score 2: Experian provides this version of the FICO® Auto Score to auto lenders.
FICO® Auto Score 5: Auto lenders can obtain this version of the FICO® Auto Score from TransUnion.
FICO® Auto Score 4: Auto lenders can secure this version of the FICO® Auto Score from Equifax.
How Are FICO® Scores Calculated?
Each FICO® Score version calculates scores somewhat differently, and the specific calculations each uses are trade secrets, but FICO® cites five behaviors that influence all FICO® Scores. Focusing on these score factors will tend to bring improvement to all credit scores:
- Payment history: Paying your bills on time each month—especially debts such as loans and credit cards—promotes credit score improvement more than any other single factor. On the other hand, payments made more than 30 days late can do major damage to your credit scores. Payment history accounts for about 35% of your FICO® Score.
- Amounts owed: Your total outstanding debt and your credit utilization—the percentage of your total credit card borrowing limit represented by the sum of your outstanding balances—contributes about 30% of your FICO® Score. Keeping your outstanding credit card balances well below 30% of your borrowing limit can help your FICO® Score.
- The age of your credit history: Lenders like to work with borrowers who have experience managing debt, as long as you avoid major missteps your credit scores tend to increase over time. This factor accounts for about 15% of your FICO® Score.
- Credit mix: Lenders appreciate borrowers who can responsibly manage multiple types of debt at once, so a blend of active accounts can increase your credit scores. The FICO® Score tends to reward combinations of installment debt (loans with fixed monthly payments and defined repayment terms) and revolving credit (accounts like credit cards, in which you borrow against a credit limit and make payments in variable amounts). Credit mix is responsible for about 10% of your FICO® Score.
- New credit: When you apply for a loan or credit card, the lender usually performs a credit check known as a hard inquiry, typically requesting a copy of your credit report and, often, a credit score based on that report. Hard inquiries can cause your credit score to drop a few points. And while scores tend to rebound quickly if you keep up with your bills, multiple credit applications for different types of credit over a short time can do cumulative harm to your credit scores.
Which FICO® Score Should I Check?
Because lenders use so many different versions of the FICO® Score, and because they can get many of them from any of the three national credit bureaus (whose versions of your credit reports typically differ somewhat at any given time), it's practically impossible to know exactly which score a lender will see when they process your credit application. Fortunately, knowing exactly which score a lender sees is less important than working to make all your scores as high as they can be before you apply for a loan or credit card.
In keeping with the status of FICO® Score 8 as the most widely used version of the score currently in use, many free credit scoring services provide access to that version of the FICO® Score. It is a good representation of the scores lenders will likely see when they check your credit.
Check Your FICO® Score With Experian
When you check your FICO® Score for free with Experian, the version you'll see is FICO® Score 8. Experian also offers a paid subscription service that gives you access to FICO® Score calculations based on your credit reports from Experian, TransUnion and Equifax, and to your credit reports from all three national credit bureaus.
Checking credit scores from all three credit bureaus on a regular basis can give you a good idea of your progress toward building up your credit. It's normal for scores to vary somewhat month to month, but large changes in score can be a sign of credit fraud. If you see a major change in your credit score that doesn't correspond with your credit activity, check your credit reports for signs of unauthorized activity.