How to Translate Your FICO Credit Score to Interest Rates

by Chris Brantley
Lower FICO scores raise car loan rates more than mortgage rates.

Interest rates vary based on your FICO score and loan type. Your FICO score, ranging from 300 to 850, shows lenders how well you handle your debts. Most home lenders don't lend to people with scores below 620, while car lenders may go all the way down to 500, but you'll pay for it. Home loan interest rates rise about 1.5 percent from the top to the bottom tier, while car loans can change more than 14 percent.

Find Your FICO

FICO, also known as the Fair Isaac Corporation, created the software that is used by credit bureaus to calculate credit scores. The three bureaus -- Equifax, Experian and Transunion -- use the software in their own way, which can cause some inconsistency in scoring from bureau to bureau. Also, not all creditors report to all three agencies, which can also affect your score. You can find your true FICO score at myFICO.com. Ninety out of the top 100 U.S. financial institutions base their credit decisions on the FICO score.

Buying a Home

Interest rates for home loans have a tighter range than most other types of loans, but not many, if any, loans are available once you get below a certain level. The top-level scores -- 760 to 850 -- earn the lowest rates -- around 4 percent as of publication, while rates for the lowest scores increase about 1.5 percent. You'll pay about 0.2 percent more from 700 to 760. After that your rate rises about 0.2 percent for every 20 points you lose on your score until you get below 660, when it declines by about 0.5 percent per 20 points.

Buy a Car

Interest rates for car loans have a wider gap between their highest and lowest rates, but car lenders lend money on much lower FICO scores. The top tier FICO range for auto buyers is 720 and above, as of publication. This tier earns you the lowest interest rate, about 3.2 percent, as of publication. The lowest range is 500 to 589, qualifying for a rate more than 14 percent higher, or more than 17 percent, causing the monthly payment on a $10,000 loan to leap from $292 to $358.

Mid-Range FICO Scores

When it comes to auto loans, there are four levels between the top and bottom FICO tiers. You can expect your score to increase about 1.3 percent from 690 to 719, and over another 2 percent once you drop to the 660 to 689 range. From 620 to 659, the rate rises an additional 4 percent, until leaping nearly 5 percent as your score falls below 620. You can go to myFICO.com for interactive car and home loan tools that help you figure out your exact interest rate and payment amount --based on your FICO score.

About the Author

Chris Brantley began writing professionally for a financial analysis firm in 1997. From 2000 to 2004, he worked as a financial advisor, specializing in retirement planning and earned his Series 7, Series 66 and insurance licenses. Brantley started his full-time writing career in 2012 and has written for a variety of financial websites, including insurance, real estate, loan and investment sites. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Georgia.

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