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Understanding Your Credit Score  

by Kevin Rutherford of Driving Force

You may have heard a new term lately referring to your credit score; in fact you may have heard a few new terms. It used to be that credit scores were only known by the creditors and the credit bureaus, but now your individual score is available to you. It can be referred to by a couple of different terms such as FICO or BEACON score.

FICO Scores are calculated from a lot of different credit data in your credit report. This data can be grouped into five categories as outlined below.

These percentages are based on the importance of the five categories for the general population. For particular groups - for example, people who have not been using credit long - the importance of these categories may be somewhat different.

Lenders look at many things when making a decision about your credit.

Payment History

  • Account payment information on specific types of accounts (credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, finance company accounts, mortgage, etc.)
  • Presence of adverse public records (bankruptcy, judgements, suits, liens, wage attachments, etc.), collection items, and/or delinquency (past due items)
  • Severity of delinquency (how long past due)
  • Amount past due on delinquent accounts or collection items
  • Time since (recency of) past due items (delinquency), adverse public records (if any), or collection items (if any)
  • Number of past due items on file
  • Number of accounts paid as agreedAmounts Owed
  • Amount owing on accounts
  • Amount owing on specific types of accounts
  • Lack of a specific type of balance, in some cases
  • Number of accounts with balances
  • Proportion of credit lines used (proportion of balances to total credit limits on certain types of revolving accounts)
  • Proportion of installment loan amounts still owing (proportion of balance to original loan amount on certain types of installment loans)

Length of Credit History

  • Time since accounts opened
  • Time since accounts opened, by specific type of account
  • Time since account activity

New Credit

  • Number of recently opened accounts, and proportion of accounts that are recently opened, by type of account
  • Number of recent credit inquiries
  • Time since recent account opening(s), by type of account
  • Time since credit inquiry(s)
  • Re-establishment of positive credit history following past payment problems


Types of Credit Used

Number of (presence, prevalence, and recent information on) various types of accounts (credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, mortgage, consumer finance accounts, etc.)

Please note that:

  • A score takes into consideration all these categories of information, not just one or two.
  • No one piece of information or factor alone will determine your score.
  • The importance of any factor depends on the overall information in your credit report.


For some people, a given factor may be more important than for someone else with a different credit history. In addition, as the information in your credit report changes, so does the importance of any factor in determining your score. Thus, it’s impossible to say exactly how important any single factor is in determining your score - even the levels of importance shown here are for the general population, and will be different for different credit profiles. What’s important is the mix of information, which varies from person to person, and for any one person over time.

Your FICO score only looks at information in your credit report. However, lenders look at many things when making a credit decision including your income, how long you have worked at your present job and the kind of credit you are requesting.

Your score considers both positive and negative information in your credit report. Late payments will lower your score, but establishing or re-establishing a good track record of making payments on time will raise your score.

Who uses credit scores and how are they used?

Banks, credit card companies, auto dealers, retail stores and most other lenders that issue credit or loans use credit scores to quickly summarize a consumer’s credit history, saving the need to manually review an applicant’s credit report and provide a better, faster risk decision. Although many additional factors are used in determining risk, such as an applicant’s income vs. the size of the loan, a credit score is a leading indicator of one’s basic creditworthiness.


This data was last updated on Jul 23, 2019. The data is subject to change or updating at any time without prior notice. The data is deemed to be reliable but no warranties of any kind, express or implied, are given. The information being provided is for consumers' personal, non-commercial use and may not be used for any purpose other than to identify prospective properties consumers may be interested in purchasing. This data is provided in part by the Internet Data Exchange (IDX) program of the Tri-County Board of Realtors┬«, Inc. The listing firm is identified in the detailed listing information. Copyright © 2019 Tri-County Board of Realtors ®, Inc.
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