Fair Isaac and Company is the developer of the FICO score, the credit score used by most lenders today. The exact formula is not published, but Fair Isaac offers a breakdown of the categories of influence, and the relative importance of each. The breakdown is a helpful starting point for anyone in credit repair mode who wishes to optimize his or her scores, but it is only a starting point…
Credit Repair and the Logic of FICO
If you are in a credit repair program and aspire to optimize your credit scores it is handy to understand the logic behind the scenes. Fair Isaac is in the business of providing lenders with a measure of the risk they will incur in lending you money. Fair Isaac has spent years analyzing the implications of every measurable behavior and developed a formula to communicate risk with a single number. Here is a breakdown of the components of the FICO score along with some powerful tips you can apply to your own credit repair efforts.
Your pay history makes up 35% of your score. Clear enough, but let’s take a moment to understand the implications. A late payment is an indication of financial stress. Financial stress translates into risk of default, and FICO communicates this risk to lenders by reducing your credit score. A lower credit score says, “don’t lend to this person.” But there is more involved. FICO weighs recent late payments more heavily than older late payments. A brand new late payment can send your credit score to a level that no lender will consider. On the other hand, anyone in credit repair mode should be happy to hear that the impact of a late payment fades quickly as time goes by.
Balances – Installment
Your account balances make up 30% of your score. Both installment and revolving accounts are considered. Let’s take a quick look at installment debt before discussing the far more important category of revolving debt. When installment debt, such as a car loan, appears on your credit report FICO sees it as an unknown and drops your score to warn lenders of the new risk. After a few months FICO acknowledges your ability to manage the payments and adjusts your score accordingly. Not a big credit repair concern.
Balances – Revolving
Revolving balances are tricky and may hinder or help your credit repair efforts more than you think. You can clean up your credit report, pay your bills on time, and still end up with a miserable credit score. FICO puts a huge emphasis on the relationship between your balance and your high credit limit. The latest FICO model acknowledges six balance-to-limit ratios: 20%, 40%, 60%, 80%, 100%, and the deadly over-100% category. The two lower tiers will increase your scores, the middle tier is neutral, 80% is bad, 100% is awful, and as for the deadly over-100% category – I think you get the message.
Credit Repair and Your Balances
People often get a credit card, and quickly use it to the limit. Sounds like fun! Unfortunately, a new account with a high balance is credit repair suicide. The new account warns FICO about unknown stress on your budget, and the high balance says that you are out of control. This may not be the case, but big brother is watching and he doesn’t like what he sees. But there is some good news too. If you take that same new account and keep the balance below 20% of your high credit limit for 6 months FICO will think you are fantastic and reward you accordingly. This is solid credit repair gold.
The Age of Accounts
This category makes up 15% of your score. There are a few credit repair angles here. There is nothing you can do about the age of installment debt; when it’s paid, it’s done. But revolving accounts are a different story. FICO loves old accounts as much as it worries about new ones. Many people start a credit repair effort and cut up their credit cards; a strategic error. Generally you would be advised to keep your accounts open. There are exceptions. If you have lots of established credit cards you should close the inactive ones. There is a bit of a balancing act; too many cards work against your score.
New Credit & Inquiries
This category weighs in at 10% of your score. If you are planning to apply for a mortgage or a car loan soon, or are in a credit repair program and watching your scores, you should minimize your credit activity. New accounts will reduce your score, and an inquiry is interpreted as the intent to open a new account, so FICO will downgrade you to warn prospective lenders that there may be trouble ahead.
Type and Mix of Credit
This is the final 10% of the calculation, and not much of a credit repair concern. FICO does not publish their idea of the optimal mix of credit, but if you really want to know what the perfect 850 credit score looks like, here you go! One mortgage over 5 years old, two car loans more than halfway through their life span, and five credit cards over five years old with balances under 20% of the high credit limit will take you to the summit!
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