Credit Scores 101: Part 1 – FICO Score

FICO Scores

Let’s face it – credit scores are confusing. It’s taken me a long time to get the scores figured out. So, here’s a 2-part primer on everything you wanted to know about credit scores.

What is a FICO Score?

The FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) Score is your credit report distilled down to a single number. The intent is to predict your credit worthiness based solely on the information contained in your credit reports. FICO takes your credit report from each of the 3 credit reporting agencies, runs it through their proprietary formula, and generates a credit score with a range from 300 to 850.

Since there are 3 different credit reporting agencies, there are 3 different FICO Scores.

FICO Score Names for Each Credit Reporting Agency

  • TransUnion – FICO Risk Score / Empirica (name of the lender version)
  • Equifax – BEACON
  • Experian – Experian/FICO Risk Model

To make the story more complicated, on February 13, 2009 Experian ended their 6 year agreement with Fair Issac that allowed Fair Isaac to sell the Experian FICO Score to consumers. FICO still creates a score for Experian, but Experian only sells it directly to lenders, not consumers.

Prior to 2011, the only way you could see your Experian FICO Score was to get it from your lender, if they agreed to share it with you.

How do I see my FICO Score?

1. Your lender will send it to you.

On January 1, 2011, the Fed and the FTC enacted a ruling about credit decisions and notices that required lenders to share your credit score with you if any one of these 3 situations occurred:

  • If you have been denied or declined credit based on your credit score
  • If you are offered credit on less favorable terms because of your credit score.
  • If the APR on an existing credit account is increased because the lender has reviewed your credit report or score.

2. Buy it directly from FICO.

If you aren’t affected by any of the 3 situations above, then you’ll have to pay to see your Equifax and TransUnion FICO Credit Scores. You can get them directly from FICO. Sign-up for the free trial on Just make sure you cancel your free trial within the first 10 days if you don’t want to pay the $14.95 monthly fee.

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