Learn About The FICO® Score and its Long History

The FICO® Score is celebrating more than 25 years of helping people get access to credit quickly and fairly. Introduced in 1989, the FICO® Score changed the lending landscape for good. In the days before credit scoring, people were often denied credit because there was no unbiased structure for evaluating them objectively. The system was not fair, fact-based or consistent.

Enter the FICO® Score. The FICO® Score replaced hunches with calculations, and took prejudice out of the equation, literally. The score’s criteria for evaluating potential borrowers are focused solely on factors related to a person’s ability to repay a loan, rather than one’s ZIP code or social status. This democratization of credit opened the door to an unprecedented period of growth in the U.S. economy.

By removing bias from the lending process, FICO has helped millions of people get the credit they deserve. We celebrate the last 25 years of credit scoring and look ahead to the next 25.

Enjoy our site!

What makes a good credit score?

Why has the FICO® Score endured? What data is critical when devising a fair, equitable, unbiased and truly predictive score? The infographic below highlights the key components of a reliable and predictive credit score.

FICO® Score by the numbers

We sell 10 billion FICO® Scores to lenders each year. That’s a lot of credit scores. How does that stack up to McDonald’s hamburgers? See the infographic below for answers.

Are you a Score Star? Test your knowledge of the FICO® Score with this .

The FICO® Score is a three digit number – ranging from 300-850 – that summarizes your credit risk, based on a snapshot of your credit report at a particular point in time. It helps lenders predict how likely you are to repay your debts on time. It’s important to know and manage your FICO® Score because it affects whether you can get credit and what kind of interest rate you will pay for credit cards, auto loans, mortgages and other kinds of credit. The video quiz below will test your knowledge of the FICO® Score. After viewing the quiz, you can go to www.myfico.com to learn more facts and fallacies about the FICO® Score as well as tips and tricks for maintaining and improving your FICO® Score.

FICO® Score Evolution, from 1989 - 2016

1989

FICO® Score is invented, providing a universal and impartial tool for evaluating consumer credit risk.

1991

FICO® Score is available from all three major U.S. credit reporting agencies

1993

FICO introduces specialized FICO® Scores for auto, credit card, mortgage, and small business lending

1995

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac endorse the use of FICO® Scores for evaluating residential mortgages

2001

FICO launches myFICO.com, giving consumers access to their FICO® Scores

2004

FICO® Scores are in more than 25 countries around the world with more added every year.

2007

100 billionth FICO® Score is sold

2009

FICO® Score 8 is introduced– the 8th generation FICO® Score is the most widely used credit score today

2010

FICO launches FICO Economic Impact Index to measure effects of economic conditions on FICO® Scores

2012

FICO launches myFICO en Espanol providing consumer with FICO credit education, reports and tools in Spanish.

2013

FICO launches FICO® Score Open Access, giving millions of consumers free access to the FICO® Score their lenders are using

2014

FICO® Score 9 is launched, easing the impact of medical debt on FICO® Scores and expanding consumer access to credit

2015

FICO Milestone: 150 Million Consumer Accounts Now Get Access to FICO® Scores for Free

2016

FICO launches FICO® Score XD enabling lenders to safely and responsibly offer credit to millions of consumers who do not have standard FICO® Scores

FICO® Score: Myth versus Reality

You can get free, detailed information about the FICO® Score, as well as free tips and advice for improving your FICO® Scores, at myFICO.com.

Quite simply, the FICO® Score has five main components:

  • Loan repayment history
  • Amounts owed
  • Length of credit history
  • New credit accounts
  • Credit applications
  • Types of credit used

This data is pulled from your credit report and plugged into the FICO® Score formula. Your FICO® Score moves up and down as this data changes. Your precise FICO® Score at any given moment is a snapshot in time because new data is constantly added to your credit report. You alone have the power to improve your score by consistently paying all your bills on time and managing your credit wisely.

The FICO® Score is actually the best tool available to lenders for ensuring that all people are evaluated objectively, fairly and equally when they apply for credit. The FICO® Score doesn’t know your age, ethnicity, gender, name, race, religion or ZIP code. In fact, the FICO® Score doesn’t even know if you have a job or own a house. The FICO® Score is based solely on factors that have been scientifically proven to predict your creditworthiness, such as your history or replaying loans.

Extensive research found the FICO® Score to be highly predictive of consumer credit risk before, during and after the financial crisis. That is why the FICO® Score is used to help make 90 percent of all consumer lending decisions in the U.S.

But as any lender will tell you, lending decisions are based on a number of factors, not just the FICO® Score. In the run-up to the great recession, many lenders overlooked important underwriting criteria, such as collateral and proof of employment, and as a result made riskier loans.

Perhaps the greatest thing about your FICO® Score is that you can change it — in fact, only you can change it. Each person is solely and completely responsible for his or her FICO® Score. Consumers who manage their credit wisely can have nearly perfect FICO® Scores regardless of where they came from, who they know, what they do for a living, or where they live. Smart consumers manage their credit wisely and utilize the FICO® Score to their advantage.

Before the FICO® Score was invented, there was no widely available and objective tool for evaluating borrowers. Securing credit was a lengthy, onerous and highly subjective process. Consumers today can often get lending decisions in seconds, and those decisions are made without any bias or prejudice.

If you never use credit cards or borrow money, FICO® Scores may not be important to you. FICO® Scores only matter to people who want to borrow money. FICO’s scientific research has found that a person’s past credit history is highly predictive of their future creditworthiness. As people build up a long, positive credit history, their FICO® Scores go up. If you decide you want to build a credit history at some point in the future, you will need to begin applying for and using credit.

There is one great way to maximize your FICO® Score – manage your credit wisely. Each version of the FICO® Score is based on the same basic formula. They each just have a few tweaks. If you pay all your bills on time every time, keep revolving balances low, and only open new credit when necessary, you will have a good FICO® Score. It really is that simple.

You can see your FICO® Score whenever you want to see it. Millions of Discover Card, Barclaycard, and First Bankcard customers see their FICO® Scores for free on their monthly statements or online. These are the exact same FICO® Scores those lenders are using to manage their customer accounts.

All other consumers are welcome to purchase their FICO® Scores at www.myFICO.com. The scores sold at myFICO.com are the same scores that lenders use to make billions of lending decisions each year.

FICO has launched FICO® Score XD which applies alternative data, including pay TV, mobile, landline phone, and utilities. The FICO® Score XD offers lenders the opportunity to extend credit to millions of U.S. consumers who otherwise cannot be scored, either due to insufficient or stale data in traditional credit bureau files.

FICO® Score In The News

The Wall Street Journal logo

Millions of Consumers to Gain Access to Credit Scores

Millions of consumers are about to gain access to their credit scores.

Citigroup, the fourth-largest credit-card lender by purchase volume in the U.S., is partnering with Fair Isaac Co., the provider of the credit score most widely used by lenders, to provide its customers with their FICO score beginning in January. Continue Reading

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How to Get a Free FICO® Score

By now, you may tune out TV commercials touting offers for free credit scores -- which often have expensive strings attached. But there’s a new way to get a free score that is truly free. Through the FICO® Score Open Access program, lenders can provide FICO scores at no charge to their customers, who see the same scores that the lenders are using to evaluate their accounts. Continue Reading

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Credit Issuers Making It Easier to Know Your Score

It is fairly simple to get a free copy of your annual credit report. But you usually must pay to see your credit score — the three-digit number that summarizes your credit report for lenders, to help them decide if you’re likely to repay a loan.

Now several credit-card issuers are providing certain types of free FICO credit... Continue Reading

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How to improve credit score where better credit is due

Having trouble paying your bills on time? Millions of Americans are woefully behind on credit card payments, utility or medical bills, even parking tickets and may not understand the devastating effect on late payments or not paying at all can have on their credit. A study released in late July by the Urban Institute found that 35% of Americans have debt that has gone into collection... Continue Reading

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Why your credit score might soon get a boost

Worried about your credit score? Well, good news is on the way. Fair Isaac, which is in charge of tabulating the popular FICO credit scores, is about to recalibrate the way it calculates credit scores. That may mean it’s easier for millions of Americans to get loans.

The company said Thursday it plans to dismiss late bill payments as a negative... Continue Reading

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Banks weigh free FICO scores as Discover expands offering

More U.S. banks may soon give free FICO credit scores to millions of card customers along with their monthly bills as Discover Financial Services extends the offering to all of its cardholders.

FICO, formerly known as Fair Isaac Corp., is negotiating with some of the largest credit-card issuers, Anthony Sprauve, the San Jose, Calif-based... Continue Reading

Forbes logo

FICO 9: What You Need To Know About The Latest Credit Score

A Discover credit card now gets you free access to your latest FICO credit score. It's a new service Discover Financial Services is offering to all of its cardholders.

A Discover Financial Services credit card © Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images Barclaycard US and First Bankcard began providing FICO scores to their customers in November... Continue Reading

The Wall Street Journal logo

FICO Gives Millions a Path Toward a Decent Credit Score

There is already evidence that a new credit-scoring approach by Fair Isaac Corp. will provide a pathway to decent FICO scores for some consumers who currently don’t have traditional scores.

Fair Isaac, also known as FICO for its trademark credit scores, is expected to announce a new approach as soon as this week that uses alternative data, including payment history with cable bills, cellphone bills, utility payments and other factors… Continue Reading

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Here’s Why Your Credit Score Is About To Improve

Unpaid medical bills will carry less weight on FICO scores -- and late bills that get paid off won't count at all.

A change in the way credit scores are calculated means consumers may soon have an easier time getting a loan and could begin paying lower interest rates on their credit cards... Continue Reading