What Is the FICO Resilience Index?

The FICO Resilience Index is a credit scoring model that's designed to help lenders better understand how consumers respond to economic stress. This index—when used alongside the FICO credit score—can aid lenders when making credit decisions by allowing them to more accurately gauge financial risk and how resilient consumers are to changing economic conditions.

Key Takeaways

  • The FICO Resilience Index can help lenders estimate a consumer's personal risk profile during times of economic stress.
  • Unlike FICO credit scores, which range from 300 to 850, the index ranges from 1 to 99, with a lower score indicating lower levels of risk and a higher score indicating greater sensitivity to economic conditions.
  • The FICO Resilience Index is designed to be used along with other FICO credit scoring models to better gauge how well consumers may be able to keep up with their financial obligations during economic uncertainty.
  • Similar FICO credit score factors are used to determine a consumer's resilience index rating, although delinquencies tend to have less of a negative impact.

How the FICO Resilience Index Works

The FICO Resilience Index is an analytic tool that's intended to capture an accurate picture of a consumer's personal risk level during a recession or economic downturn. It's not meant to be a replacement for traditional credit scoring. Instead, it gives lenders deeper insight into credit risk during specific economic cycles to help them better manage lending decision-making.

The resilience index runs on a scale from 1 to 99, with a lower score being better. That's the reverse of FICO credit score ranges, where the higher a consumer's score is, the better. Having a resilience index score in the range of 1 to 44 suggests that a consumer's household is more financially resilient during widespread uncertainty, while a score of 70 or higher suggests that a consumer is more sensitive to the effects of a downturn.

In terms of what the resilience index measures, it takes into account many of the same factors that are used to generate FICO credit scores. Those include:

  • Payment history
  • Account balances
  • Available credit
  • Credit age
  • Inquiries for new credit

The resilience index also considers the number of accounts consumers have open and their overall experience using credit. In measuring those factors, the index can help lenders gauge how likely someone is to run into trouble paying their bills if the economy takes a turn for the worse. 

To qualify for a FICO Resilience Index score, you need to have at least one active credit account listed on your credit report for the past six months plus at least one credit account that's six months old or older, as reported to Equifax, Experian, and/or TransUnion.

Purpose of the FICO Resilience Index

The creation of the FICO Resilience Index is timely as Americans are increasingly under financial stress related to the coronavirus pandemic. In creating the index, one of the goals is to help consumers who may be adversely affected by traditional credit scoring models to continue to have access to credit in recessionary environments.

An individual may have a credit score of 650, for example, because of a past credit mistake, such as a late payment. However, if they have a good job with stable income and a sizable emergency savings cushion, they may be able to weather an economic downturn with minimal negative financial impacts.

All the same, because they have a score that would be considered "fair" versus "good" or "very good," they may have a harder time qualifying for loans during a recession, when banks and other financial institutions tend to be more cautious about whom they lend money to. That could make it more difficult for that individual to buy a car or get a mortgage and do so at favorable rates, even if they have the financial means to pay back those obligations in the near- and long-term.

The FICO Resilience Index may not help consumers in borrowing situations where lenders rely solely on alternative scores, such as VantageScores, for making credit decisions.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the FICO Resilience Index

The FICO Resilience Index would, in theory, help to minimize biases in lending that can happen when lenders only look at credit scores. While that sounds good, it's important to consider whom this new index could actually help—and whether it may do more harm than good for some consumers, specifically Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC).

Kevin Haney, founder of Growing Family Benefits and a former Experian executive, says the new index isn't designed to target specific demographic groups. "Credit scores do not consider any data relating to skin color, race, or ethnic background," he says. "Instead, they make predictions based on the previous behavior of each individual."

Regardless, studies have shown that BIPOC individuals tend to skew lower in credit scoring models compared to white individuals. This can potentially be attributed to lower levels of income and assets, translating to a reduced ability to repay debts resulting in lower credit scores. That could make the index another measurement that could end up being used against these communities.

"The FICO Resilience Index is more likely to widen the credit score gap for BIPOC than it is to level the playing field," he says. "Steady employment and stockpiles of cash and investment securities help people weather economic storms."

Alan Hansford, senior vice president, chief risk officer at Amplify Credit Union, has a different perspective. He says the resilience index is more likely to be harmful to consumers in general who have a poor history of credit and financial management. "If your finances look like a high-wire act without the net, you have a low FICO credit score, and your resilience turns out to be poor, that could really sting."

With regard to the diversity aspect of credit scoring, Hansford says it's possible the index could have a strong and positive effect for BIPOC individuals who take a conservative approach to financial management. "Lenders want to lend to low-risk borrowers and the new FICO Resilience Index can shine a light on those who earned a lower interest rate."

In other words, anyone who lacks sufficient emergency savings or job stability may find themselves locked out of borrowing opportunities or facing higher interest rates if they receive a higher FICO Resilience Index score. The opposite may be true, however, for people who have savings and consistent income, despite their actual FICO credit scores.

Becoming familiar with the factors that positively impact FICO credit scores—specifically, paying bills on time and reducing overall debt levels—could help to improve your resilience index score.

How to Access FICO Resilience Index Scores

At this time, the FICO Resilience Index is being made available to lenders through a pilot program. FICO has indicated that at some point in the future consumers would be able to check their index scores. In the meantime, consumers can still check their credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. Experian also allows consumers to check their FICO credit scores for free online.