The most commonly used FICO score, called a base FICO score, ranges from 300 at the lowest level to 850 for those with the best credit records. The Fair Isaac Corporation calculates separate base FICO scores for each of the three principal credit bureaus. Your score at each bureau is based on its record of your credit history, but each calculation is slightly different. Additionally, not all lenders, collection agencies and courts report to all three bureaus, so your scores could vary between them. Lenders use your FICO score levels to help determine your creditworthiness.
FICO scores provide a starting point for lenders. Depending on the type of credit extended, your score of 675 could fall into the "good" category for a bank credit card, but in the "fair" category for a mortgage loan. The Fair Isaac website divides FICO scores into four levels or tiers that give a general interpretation of score quality:
- The top tier of FICO scores is characterized as "excellent" and ranges from 750 to 850. People with scores at this level have the best chance of getting their loans approved and receiving low interest rates.
- "Good" scores range from 700 to 749. People with these scores probably will receive credit approval, although some may pay higher rates of interest. Bankrate.com reports that you need a score of at least 740 to get the best rate on a mortgage.
- "Fair" FICO scores fall between 650 and 699. People with these scores may get their loans or credit cards approved with a high rate of interest, or they may be refused credit entirely.
- "Poor" scores come between 300 and 649 and carry the highest possibility of not receiving loan or credit approval.
Improvers and Achievers
The Fair Isaac website also describes the typical characteristics of people with scores at the 650 level and the 800 level.
People with scores of 650 are "improvers." On average, about 5 percent of borrowers at this level always pay their bills on time, and 68 percent have at least one overdue bill. They tend to use all of their available credit and keep an average total credit card balance of $4,500. They typically opened their first credit account 12 years ago and have had their average account for about seven years.
People with credit scores of at least 800 are "high achievers." A total of 96 percent of them don't have a single late payment in their credit report, and 99 percent of them don't have any past-due accounts. On average, they use only 7 percent of their available credit and carry a balance of $3,500 on their credit cards. Their credit accounts have been open for 11 years on average, and their credit history dates back 25 years.
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Other FICO SCORES
In addition to base FICO scores, Fair Isaac has created specialized FICO scores for particular industries. These are derived from the base score and tailored to specific types of loans. Some examples are the FICO Bankcard Score for credit cards and the FICO Auto Score for auto loans. The industry-specific FICO scores vary from a low of 250 to a high of 900.