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Who Made the Credit Score?

Hannah Locklear | August 14, 2023

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

Summary: The modern credit scoring system, invented by William R. Fair and Earl J Isaac in the 1950s and officially introduced by FICO in 1989, has become a standard metric that reflects an individual's financial habits, and it can have a lasting impact on your personal and financial opportunities.

Your credit score plays a crucial role in determining your financial health and eligibility for various lending opportunities. But have you ever wondered who created the credit score and how it became such an integral part of our society? In this blog post, we'll delve into the fascinating history of the credit score, tracing its origins, evolution, and significance.

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When was credit invented?

The concept of credit assessment dates back centuries, but it wasn't until the mid-20th century that the modern credit scoring system as we know it began to take shape. The pioneer behind this groundbreaking concept was a mathematician named William R. Fair. In collaboration with fellow mathematician Earl J. Isaac, Fair co-founded Fair, Isaac and Company, now known as FICO, in 1956. FICO revolutionized the credit industry by introducing a standardized method to assess an individual's creditworthiness.

This method was driven by a Credit Application Scoring Algorithm, which was officially introduced by FICO In 1989 in close collaboration with the national credit bureaus. It wasn’t until the mid 1990s, when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac started using FICO’s credit scoring system to evaluate mortgage applications, that the modern credit score became a truly integral part of American society.

Why was credit invented?

Fair and Isaac's innovative approach involved using statistical models to analyze credit-related data, enabling lenders to make more informed decisions. This marked a departure from the subjective and often biased methods of evaluating borrowers prevalent at the time.

FICO's credit scoring model considered various factors, such as payment history, credit utilization, length of credit history, types of credit used, and new credit inquiries. These factors helped lenders predict the likelihood of a borrower repaying their debt.

As technology advanced, the credit scoring system evolved to incorporate more sophisticated algorithms and data sources. Today, FICO scores remain one of the most widely used credit scoring models, with various versions tailored to specific industries like auto lending and mortgage lending. Additionally, other companies and credit bureaus have developed their own scoring models, contributing to a diverse landscape of credit assessment tools.

Why does my credit score matter?

The credit score's significance extends beyond lending decisions. Landlords, insurance companies, and even employers have started using credit scores as part of their evaluation processes. A good credit score can lead to lower interest rates on loans and better insurance premiums, while a poor score can limit access to credit and lead to higher costs.

The credit score has become a standard metric that reflects an individual's financial habits, and it can have a lasting impact on personal and financial opportunities. This has prompted individuals to become more conscious of their financial behavior and motivated them to improve their credit profiles.

How is my credit score calculated?

FICO’s creditworthiness algorithm utilizes a combination of data from your credit reports to generate a numerical score that represents your credit risk. Here's a breakdown of the key factors that contribute to the evaluation of your credit score:

  • Payment History (35%): This is one of the most significant factors. It considers your track record of making on-time payments for credit accounts such as loans, credit cards, and mortgages. Any missed payments, late payments, or delinquencies can have a negative impact on your score.
  • Credit Utilization (30%): This factor takes into account the ratio of your current credit card balances to your credit limits. A lower credit utilization rate indicates responsible credit management and can positively influence your score.
  • Length of Credit History (15%): The length of time your credit accounts have been active matters. A longer credit history demonstrates your experience in managing credit over time.
  • Types of Credit Used (10%): Having a mix of different types of credit, such as credit cards, installment loans, and mortgages, can reflect your ability to manage different financial obligations.
  • New Credit (10%): Opening multiple new credit accounts in a short period can be seen as a sign of financial instability. It's essential to manage new credit responsibly to avoid a negative impact on your score.

Credit bureaus collect data from lenders, banks, and other financial institutions to generate credit reports that include information on your credit accounts, payment history, credit limits, and more. Your credit score is then calculated based on the information in these reports using complex algorithms developed by organizations like FICO and VantageScore.

It's worth noting that while FICO scores are widely used, there are other credit scoring models as well, each with its own methodology and factors. Additionally, variations can exist between versions of the same scoring model.

To maintain a healthy credit score, it's crucial to consistently make on-time payments, keep credit card balances low, avoid opening too many new credit accounts at once, and maintain a mix of credit types. Regularly checking your credit reports for accuracy and addressing any errors is also important in ensuring an accurate representation of your credit history.

What is a good credit score?

The FICO credit score ranges from 300 to 850. Here's a breakdown of the general ranges and their implications:

  • 800-850: Exceptional. Individuals with scores in this range are likely to qualify for the best interest rates and terms on loans, credit cards, and other financial products.
  • 740-740: Very good. Borrowers falling into this category are still likely to receive favorable lending terms and interest rates.
  • 670-739: Good. While individuals in this category might not have access to the absolute best terms, they are still seen as relatively low-risk borrowers.
  • 580-669: Fair. Borrowers with scores in this category might face higher interest rates and more limited lending options.
  • 300-579: Poor. Borrowers with poor credit might struggle to obtain credit approval or may be offered credit at considerably higher interest rates.

These ranges can vary slightly depending on the credit scoring model being used. Plus, lenders might have their own criteria for evaluating credit scores and making lending decisions. Monitoring your credit score regularly and working towards improving it can help you access better financial opportunities and terms in the future.

How can I improve my credit?

Improving your credit score is a gradual process that requires consistent effort and responsible financial behavior. While there is no instant fix to improve your credit score overnight, there are several strategies you can employ to see positive changes over time. Here are ten steps you can take to work towards improving your credit score:

  1. Check your credit reports. Obtain free copies of your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) and review them for errors or inaccuracies. Dispute any incorrect information that could be negatively impacting your score.
  2. Pay your bills on time. Your payment history has a significant impact on your credit score. Make sure to pay all your bills, including credit card payments, loans, and utility bills, on time. Set up reminders or automatic payments to avoid missing due dates.
  3. Reduce credit card balances. Lowering your credit card balances can have a quick positive impact on your credit utilization ratio, which is a crucial factor in your credit score. Aim to keep your credit utilization below 30% of your credit limit.
  4. Avoid opening new accounts. While having a mix of credit types is beneficial, opening new accounts in a short period can lower the average age of your accounts and impact your score negatively. Focus on managing your existing accounts responsibly.
  5. Settle outstanding debts. If you have past due accounts or debts in collections, consider negotiating with creditors or collection agencies to settle the debts or set up a payment plan. Getting these accounts back on track can help improve your credit. SoloSettle can help you negotiate a debt settlement and resolve your debts fast.
  6. Become an authorized user. If someone you trust has a well-managed credit card, they might consider adding you as an authorized user. Their positive payment history can reflect on your credit report and boost your score.
  7. Diversify your credit mix. If you have only one type of credit account, such as credit cards, consider diversifying your credit mix by adding an installment loan (e.g., personal loan or auto loan) if appropriate for your financial situation.
  8. Don't close old accounts. Closing older accounts can shorten your credit history, which is a factor in your credit score. Even if you don't use an old account, keeping it open can have a positive impact.
  9. Use Experian boost. Some credit bureaus offer services like Experian Boost, which allows you to add on-time utility and telecom payments to your credit history, potentially giving your score a quick boost.
  10. Be patient and persistent. Remember that improving your credit score takes time and consistent effort. Continue practicing responsible financial habits, and you'll see gradual improvements over time.

Be cautious of any services promising a quick fix for your credit score. While there are legitimate credit repair services, there are also scams that can lead to more financial trouble. Focus on making positive changes to your financial behavior and following responsible credit practices to see sustainable improvements in your credit score over time.

Key takeaways on credit scores

In conclusion, the credit score is a product of the innovative efforts of William R. Fair and Earl J. Isaac, who established FICO with the aim of bringing objectivity and data-driven insights to the credit assessment process. Over the decades, the credit scoring system has evolved, incorporating advanced algorithms and diverse data sources to provide lenders and other stakeholders with a comprehensive view of an individual's creditworthiness.

Today, the credit score influences lending decisions, insurance premiums, rental opportunities, and more, making it a cornerstone of modern financial life. As we move forward, understanding the history and significance of the credit score can empower individuals to make informed financial choices and work towards a healthier financial future.

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