A FICO® score is a numeric value assigned to your credit habits and history by a company called FICO (The Fair Isaac Corporation), which is a publicly listed company under the ticker symbol FICO. Every American who has ever used credit will have a FICO score, and this score is mainly used by banks and other providers of secured and unsecured credit when they make credit decisions. Your FICO score lets banks and other institutions evaluate your risk profile when it comes to applying for credit.
FICO scores range from 300 to 850. The higher the score, the better. Here are the six ranges as of December 2009:
If you have a FICO score above 700, it means you have a solid credit history. A score of 740 and higher is excellent.
Why Should I Know About FICO Score?
A FICO score is one of the main criteria for banks to evaluate you when you apply for credit.
If your FICO score is low, banks may deny credit, charge higher interest rates, demand more collateral, or require extensive income and asset verification. If your score is below 680, you are considered by the lender to be a huge financial risk.
If your FICO score is high, you may be offered better interest rates on credit cards, mortgages or automobile loans. To get offered the lowest interest rates, you need to have a FICO score that is in the upper range of 740-850.
Your FICO score may also be used by a potential employer who is vetting your application, or by a landlord, or any business that will rely on you making timely payments, such as your mobile phone provider and utility companies.
Where Can I Get My FICO Score?
myFICO offers several ways to access your FICO Score. If you need access to your basic score and tools to help you plan your credit, then myFICO Score Watch may be a good choice for you.
In the U.S., there are three credit rating bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. They collect data about consumers which they compile into credit reports. These credit agencies use FICO software to generate FICO scores, which are sold to lenders and consumers who want to know what's their credit score.
You will have three credit scores at any given time for any given scoring model since the three credit bureaus use their own databases, get information from different creditors, and receive information from creditors at different times.
A U.S. resident is permitted by law to view his or her credit report once a year at no charge by visiting the website Annualcreditreport.com. This free credit report does not include your credit score. If you want to find out what your credit score is and have a detailed explanation of it, click here to read our Credit Score guide.
Alternatively you can request a free copy of your credit report (with no credit score information) once every 12 months from each of the credit bureau.
Score Watch from myFICO lets you access your FICO® Score and alerts you every time your score changes. It also provides a FICO® Score Simulator that lets you see how a credit decision you make would affect your credit score. At $14.95 per month ($4.95 for the first month) myFICO Score Watch is an affordable way to keep track of your FICO Score.
Ivan Daniel is a writer at GET.com, a personal finance website. Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgEditorial Disclosure: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the companies mentioned, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.