What Is FICO 09
FICO 09 is a credit scoring model introduced by the Fair Isaac Corporation in 2016. A key differentiator of FICO 09 from previous versions of the FICO credit score is its treatment of medical and other collection accounts. FICO 09 credit scores are accessible to both lenders and consumers, though it isn’t as widely used as FICO 08.
- FICO 09 is a new and updated FICO credit scoring model.
- Key changes with FICO 09 center on how collection accounts, paid and unpaid, factor into your credit score calculations.
- Renters can now use rent payments to build credit history under the FICO 09 model.
- FICO 09 doesn’t replace other credit score models, such as FICO 08, which lenders can still use to make credit approval decisions.
Breaking Down FICO 09
FICO 09, also known as FICO 9 or FICO Score 9, was first released in 2016. The updated credit scoring model included a number of changes related to the handling of collection accounts in credit score calculations.
Specifically, FICO 09 included these changes:
- Collection accounts that are marked as Paid In Full on a consumer’s credit report are disregarded in credit score calculations.
- Unpaid medical collection accounts are weighted differently for credit score calculations versus unpaid non-medical collections.
Those changes were made in part due to FICO research which found that unpaid medical bills were a less likely indicator of credit risk compared to other types of unpaid bills. FICO opted to make changes to its credit scoring model with FICO 09 in an attempt to make scoring more accurate and predictive. Source: L1
There’s also a third change to credit scoring with FICO 09. Rental history can now be factored into these credit scores. But there’s a catch. Landlords have to report rental payment history to one or all of the credit bureaus for them to be included in FICO 09 credit scores.
Prior to this change, rental history wasn’t factored into FICO credit scores at all. This change with FICO 09 could be helpful to people with thin credit files who are just beginning to establish and build credit. Having positive rental payment history reported to the credit bureaus could work in their favor, since payment history accounts for 35% of FICO credit scores.
Landlords aren’t required to report rental payment history. If you’re a renter, as your landlord if they can and do report rent payments to at least one of the credit bureaus so it can be factored into FICO 09 credit score calculations.
How to Access FICO 09 Credit Scores
FICO 09 credit scores are available to lenders and consumers. On the consumer side, these scores can be purchased directly from FICO. Alternatively, it may be possible to get free access to a FICO 09 credit score if it’s offered by your credit card company. Many credit card companies now offer free FICO credit scores to customers, though you’ll need to check to determine if it’s the FICO 09 score or a different version.
It’s also important to keep in mind that FICO 09 scores may not be used by every lender if you’re applying for credit cards, loans or other lines of credit. Many lenders still rely on the previous FICO 08 credit scoring model for credit approvals. With mortgage loans, mortgage lenders may use entirely different versions, such as FICO 2, FICO 4 or FICO 5. Car loan issuers can use the same versions or FICO 08. Source: L2
What FICO 09 Credit Scores Tell Lenders
In general, credit scores tell lenders and banks how much of a credit risk someone is based on their financial history. Specifically, FICO scores look at five different factors:
- Payment history (35% of your score)
- Credit utilization (30% of your score)
- Credit age (15% of your score)
- Credit mix (10% of your score)
- Inquiries for credit (10% of your score)
Of the five, payment history carries the most weight. Making payments on time each month for credit cards, loans and other bills can help establish a positive history and lead to a better FICO credit score. Paying late, on the other hand, can be damaging to your score. Source: L3
FICO scores also view collection accounts in a negative light. A collection account means that your account has gone unpaid for an extended period of time and the original creditor has either assigned or sold the debt to a collection agency.
Before FICO 09 was introduced, collection accounts were treated equally for credit scoring purposes. Under FICO 09, the impacts of collection accounts have changed. If you have collection accounts that are marked as paid, those will not carry the same negative weight for credit scoring with FICO 09 as they do with FICO 08 or other credit score versions.
Similarly, unpaid doctor bills won’t count against you as much as other types of unpaid bills, such as credit cards, student loans, car loans or mortgage payments. That’s a good thing, since approximately one-third of Americans have some type of medical debt, according to a survey from Salary Finance. Of those people, 54% said they had defaulted on a medical debt at least once. Source: L4
Under the FICO 09 credit scoring rules, people who find themselves with mounting medical bills they’re unable to pay may be at less of a disadvantage in terms of credit score impacts. That may be a good thing for the near- and long-term for people who may have been financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic either due to job loss, illness or both.
How to Improve FICO 09 Credit Scores
Improving FICO credit scores begins with understanding how those scores are calculated and what things help or hurt your credit rating.
With FICO 09 credit scores, the basic rules still apply:
- Pay bills on time each month
- Keep credit card balances as low as possible
- Refrain from applying for new credit accounts unless it’s truly necessary
- Keep older credit accounts open
- Use different types of credit (i.e. credit cards, lines of credit, loans)
But there are a couple of additional best practices to keep in mind to promote a healthy FICO 09 score. First, if you have outstanding collection accounts on your credit reports, consider paying them in full. Having those accounts show up as paid can remove them from your credit score calculation altogether under the FICO 09 rules.
If you pay a collection account in full, get something in writing from the debt collector showing its paid status. Then review your credit reports to make sure the account is being correctly reported as paid in full.
Next, if you’re finding it difficult to pay all of your bills, you may need to prioritize the ones that are going to have the most negative impact on your credit score. Having a credit card go into collections, for example, trumps having a medical bill in collections for FICO 09. So if you’re trying to juggle which bills to pay, consider first paying the ones that are most likely to hurt your score if left unpaid.
Remember that unpaid collection accounts can remain on your credit score for up to seven years. Paying those accounts in full if possible could help to avoid long-term damage to your credit score.