What Is UltraFICO and How Do I Use It?

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The UltraFICO™ Score is a service that makes it possible for consumers to leverage their money management skills to improve their credit score.

If your credit score is low, or you're unscoreable due to a thin credit file, linking your banking activity to the service may give you a leg up as a borrower. Here's everything you need to know.

How Does UltraFICO™ Work?

The UltraFICO™ Score began a pilot program in 2019 under a partnership between FICO®, Experian and Finicity. The credit scoring model adds a new dimension to the process of determining credit risk: how you manage your money.

With the UltraFICO™ Score, you grant permission for Finicity to review data from your checking, savings and money market accounts if you've applied for a loan and been denied.

Factors include:

  • How long your accounts have been open
  • The frequency and recency of your bank account transactions
  • Evidence of cash on hand
  • A history of positive account balances

FICO® then takes this information, along with your Experian credit file, to provide you with your UltraFICO™ Score.

In other words, the UltraFICO™ Score builds on the foundation of the base FICO® Score —including factors like your payment history, how much you owe, your length of credit history, credit mix and recent inquiries—then it adds data from your bank accounts to provide a more well-rounded view of your financial behavior.

Who Benefits the Most From the UltraFICO™ Score?

The UltraFICO™ Score model has the potential to help improve the credit score of the majority of Americans. However, the people who may benefit the most from this scoring model include those with credit scores in the upper 500s to the lower 600s.

Those with scores in this range fall short of many lenders' minimum credit score requirements, but the UltraFICO™ Score can make it less challenging to access credit with favorable terms if a borrower's overall financial habits are strong.

It can also benefit people who are relatively new to credit and have a limited credit history. These people often have to deal with the Catch-22 of not having access to good credit without a strong credit history, and having a tough time building their credit history without access to good credit.

Finally, the UltraFICO™ Score can be a lifeline for people who have experienced financial distress in the past but are working to get back on their feet. That includes anyone who has experienced financial hardship stemming from unemployment, divorce, bankruptcy, medical bills and more.

How to Sign Up for UltraFICO™

As of May 2020, the UltraFICO™ Score service is available only through a small group of lenders as part of the pilot program. Once this phase has been completed, it will become available more broadly for consumers to register and get a score of their own.

If you want to be notified when the service becomes more widely available, visit FICO.com/UltraFICO to submit a request. You'll need to provide your:

  • Full name
  • Email address
  • Employer and job title
  • Phone

You'll also list whether you're requesting information for yourself or your company.

Here's how the process works: If you've been denied or offered less-than-ideal terms by a participating lender, you may be able to opt in to the service and link your bank accounts. Your banking data will then be used to generate an UltraFICO™ Score in real time, which the lender can then use to revise its offer based on the new score.

Keep in mind that your UltraFICO™ Score and your FICO® Score are two different scores, and requesting the former won't impact the latter. You can opt out of providing permission to use your bank account activity at any time.

Other Ways You Can Boost Your Credit Score

While the UltraFICO™ Score isn't yet widely available, you don't have to wait for an opportunity to improve your credit score.

Experian Boost®ø is a tool that allows you to use positive payment history with your utility and telecom providers to increase your FICO® Score instantly. Simply register and link your bank accounts, then identify the payments you want to add to your Experian credit file. The FICO® Score that's based on your Experian credit file will be updated immediately to reflect your positive payment history.

You can also improve your credit score by continuing to build your record of good debt management. Doing the following can have a positive impact on your credit scores:

  • Always pay on time. Your payment history is the most important factor in your credit score, so make it a goal to pay your bills on time every month. If you're behind on any payments, try to get caught up as quickly as possible.
  • Keep credit card balances low. Even if you pay off your credit card in full every month, try to keep your balance relatively low. And if you carry a balance month to month, paying down your credit card debt can be the wise move.
  • Avoid unnecessary credit. Every time you apply for credit, a hard inquiry gets added to your credit reports. Hard inquiries can temporarily ding your score, so avoid applying for new loans or credit cards unless you legitimately need them. If you're denied, take time to find out why and address the problem before you apply again. Your lender must provide an "adverse action notice" if your application is declined or you do not receive the best terms available. The notice will give you a great start on determining what you need to do to improve your credit scores.
  • Get added as an authorized user. If you have a family member with a positive payment history on their credit card account, ask if you can be added as an authorized user. The account's full history will be added to your credit history even if you don't use the card to make purchases.

It can take time for these actions to have an impact on your credit score, but developing and maintaining positive credit habits can help you achieve those long-term goals like financing a car or buying a house.

Monitor Your Credit Regularly to Stay Financially Fit

Even if you don't plan to apply for credit anytime soon, having good credit is crucial. That's because many auto and homeowners insurance companies use your credit history to help determine your rates, and your credit can also impact your ability to rent an apartment or home, or even get a job (although employers will never receive a credit score).

Experian's credit monitoring service not only offers complimentary access to your FICO® Score powered by Experian data, but it also provides you with information about your spending and real-time alerts about new inquiries and accounts.

As you monitor your credit regularly, you'll be able to see better how your actions impact your credit score, and you can keep track of your progress. You'll also be better equipped to address potential inaccuracies and fraud quickly and effectively.