If you don’t know what a FICO score is, it’s that little three-digit number that rules your credit life. The name FICO comes from Fair Isaac Corporation, the company that originated the FICO score. It changed its name to just FICO a few years ago, which I guess is a shade better than Fair Isaac.
Nobody knows except FICO
Nobody but FICO knows exactly how it computes its scores. This is a trade secret that’s guarded by the company as carefully as the crown jewels. However, it is known that it’s based at least loosely on the following.
35% on payment history (how well you’ve handled your credit)
30% on credit utilization
15% on length of credit history
10% on types of credit used
10% on recent searches for credit
Review this carefully
If you review these percentages carefully, you will see that 65% of your credit score is based on how you’ve handled your credit. If you’ve had a number of late payments or have skipped payments, this will be reflected in your payment history. Credit utilization is a bit trickier as it’s the ratio of your total revolving credit (how much revolving debt you have) to your total available revolving credit or credit limit. What this translates into is that it’s better to have available revolving credit of, say, $10,000 and just $2,000 in revolving debt (like credit card debt) than to have $20,000 of total revolving credit but revolving debt of $12,000 in revolving debt.
Where to get your FICO score free
There is only one place you can get your FICO score free and that is on the website www.myfico.com. Except it’s not exactly free. You can get the score without spending a dime but only if you’re willing to sign up for a trial subscription of the company’s Score Watch program. While the trial subscription is free, you need to make sure you cancel out before it ends or you’ll be on the hook for $14.95 a month for three months or a total out-of-pocket of $44.85.
Where else to get your credit score
There are other ways to get your credit score besides going to www.myfico.com but – spoiler alert – it won’t be your true FICO score. For example, you could go to the site www.creditkarma.com, jump through some hoops and then get your score free. However, it won’t be your FICO score. It will be based on a formula developed by the three credit reporting bureaus and will be similar to your true FICO score but not exactly the same. Of course, free is free and you may not care if it’s not exactly the same as your FICO score.
Experian, TransUnion and Equifax
It’s also possible to get credit scores from the three credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. However, each one will force you to jump through some hoops and may require you to sign up for a free trial of one of its services and, again, the scores won’t be the same as your FICO score. If you search Google on the term “credit score”, you’ll find many more options. Most will require you to do something before you get your “free” credit score. In other words, as the old adage goes, there is no such thing as a free lunch or a totally free credit score.