A FICO score, sometimes erroneously referred to as a FICA score, is a numerical score that determines how likely a consumer will pay his or her bills. The scores are compiled by a company called Fair Isaac & Co., which began developing credit scores in the latter part of the 1950s. Today, lenders and other agencies rely on FICO scores in order to decide if a consumer should be granted a loan.
FICO scores range from 300 to 900. The scores are listed on a credit report that provides details about credit cards and loans that a consumer has had in the past. It takes time to build a strong FICO score, but a good score can swiftly deteriorate if the consumer does not make wise financial choices.
Credit scores are developed by examining several factors. The FICO score takes into account whether the consumer has made any late payments, how long the consumer has lived at a certain address, if the consumer has ever filed for bankruptcy, and the length of the consumer's credit history. It also considers a consumer's employment history.
Three major credit bureaus -- TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian -- report the scores to FICO. Smaller credit bureau companies serve local areas as well. While some lenders use all three credit bureaus to determine creditworthiness, other lenders only use TransUnion.
Consumers can increase their credit scores by paying bills on time and avoiding applying for credit on a regular basis. Frequently applying for credit cards lowers credit scores, negatively affecting a consumer's credit. On the other hand, if a consumer does not have a large amount of credit, it is in his or her best interest to apply for more credit. This is because having insufficient credit can adversely affect a consumer's FICO score. Another way to improve a credit score is to avoid high balances on credit cards.
Low credit scores can make it difficult to rent apartments or receive low-interest rates on a mortgage. They can even influence an employer's decision not to hire a particular job applicant. For this reason, smart consumers order copies of their credit reports from the three credit bureaus in order to check their credit scores and the accuracy of the information listed on the credit report.
Any errors listed on the report should be corrected as quickly as possible. By law, consumers are allowed access to one free credit report every twelve months from the three major credit bureaus. The credit bureau companies can be contacted directly for this information.