FICO® Score 9 is the second-latest version of the credit scoring model created by the Fair Isaac Corporation. While the score ranges are identical to older versions, FICO® designed this version to be more predictive of lending risk than previous versions.
Though the FICO® Score 9 is an updated version of FICO® Score 8, the FICO® Score 8 is still the most widely used base score by lenders, meaning that, while you may have a better credit score from the FICO® Score 9 model, lenders are more likely to still use the previous version.
In this article, we explain the details of FICO® Score 9, FICO® credit scoring factors, the differences between FICO® Score 8 and 9 and credit-building tips.
While FICO® uses the same general factors to calculate FICO® Scores, a FICO® Score 8 may differ from a FICO® Score 9 because various details of your credit report, like paid versus unpaid collections accounts, are weighted differently.
As an update to the FICO® Score 8, the FICO® Score 9 differs in several ways to reflect current trends in consumer credit habits. Checking out the following key differences between these credit scoring models can help you understand why one of your scores may be different from the other.
Medical collections are weighted differently than other collection accounts for FICO® Score 9. FICO® and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that unpaid medical debt was less indicative of creditworthiness — your likelihood of paying back what you owe or credit risk. So unpaid medical debt now has less of a negative impact on credit score calculations than it did in previous versions.
While this is good news for borrowers who have had their unpaid medical bills accumulate into unpaid medical debt, this change only affects lending decisions or credit evaluations based on FICO® Score 9. If the lender uses a previous FICO® score version, like the FICO® Score 8, medical collections will be treated like any other type of collections accounts., 
Previous FICO® versions didn’t include rental history, or payment history for rent payments, in credit score calculations, although it was sometimes reflected on credit reports. FICO® Score 9 now takes rental payment history into account, which helps borrowers with little to no credit history as well as those who make on-time rent payments.
Making on-time payments through a third-party rental reporting company, like LevelCredit, or through a landlord who reports them to the major credit bureaus, may have a positive impact on your FICO® score as determined by the FICO® Score 9.
If you’ve dealt with a collection agency, you may be encouraged to know that FICO® Score 9, does not factor paid collections into the credit score. So with FICO® Score 9, your score no longer feels the negative impact once your debt is paid in full.
On the other hand, FICO® Score 8 includes unpaid and paid collections accounts in credit score calculations, which can have a negative impact on your credit score after the collection debt has been paid off unless the amount is less than $100.
You can check both your FICO® Score 8 and 9 and see the differences in your FICO® scores through FICO® Open Access. Then you can get your free credit report to see what items may be making a difference between your scores.
You’re entitled to a free credit report once per year from each of the major credit bureaus, which you can access at AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also check your credit report for a fee any time you like with any of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion).
Understanding the differences between the newer and older versions helps you understand why your scores may differ. With your credit report, you can see what items FICO® is factoring into your scores and determine what you might adjust in your personal finances and credit habits to give your scores a positive impact.
Lenders can choose which credit score they use when assessing applications. Not only might lenders use base credit scoring models, but they can also use industry-specific credit models. Lenders determine which score to use based on the credit product type and whether they want a more detailed credit risk prediction tailored to that specific type of credit.
Some industry-specific FICO® scores include:
Base credit scoring models like FICO® Score 8 and FICO® Score 9 can be used by lenders for these credit products and a range of others. Lenders may check your FICO® score if you apply for a mortgage, personal loan, student loan, credit card or other credit accounts.
You can check your FICO® scores for free or through some credit card providers and FICO® Score Open Access, which works with credit card issuers and other financial institutions to give you free access to your credit scores.
If you’re struggling to improve your credit score, try these strategies:
Whether you’re starting from scratch or are on the road to recovery, it takes time to build credit. With the information in this article, you have some insight into how FICO® scores are calculated and how to work on yours.
If you need more help along the way, check out some of Self’s credit products for support at any stage of your credit-building journey.
Disclaimer: FICO is a registered trademark of Fair Issac Corporation in the United States and other countries.
Ana Gonzalez-Ribeiro, MBA, AFC® is an Accredited Financial Counselor® and a Bilingual Personal Finance Writer and Educator dedicated to helping populations that need financial literacy and counseling. Her informative articles have been published in various news outlets and websites including Huffington Post, Fidelity, Fox Business News, MSN and Yahoo Finance. She also founded the personal financial and motivational site www.AcetheJourney.com and translated into Spanish the book, Financial Advice for Blue Collar America by Kathryn B. Hauer, CFP. Ana teaches Spanish or English personal finance courses on behalf of the W!SE (Working In Support of Education) program has taught workshops for nonprofits in NYC.
Our goal at Self is to provide readers with current and unbiased information on credit, financial health, and related topics. This content is based on research and other related articles from trusted sources. All content at Self is written by experienced contributors in the finance industry and reviewed by an accredited person(s).
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