Why Your Credit Score Could Suddenly Change on You

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If you notice an unexpected change to your credit score, don’t panic—it’s probably not because you’ve been accidentally neglecting to pay your cell phone bill or an anonymous benefactor paid off your mortgage. (Although that’d probably do it, too.)

It’s likely because the scoring method upgrade that FICO announced in March is starting to roll out to consumers.

“The major changes in the lending environment over the last few years demanded that we take a different approach to building a score that will continue to perform consistently well in various situations,” James Wehmann, executive vice president of scores at FICO, explained in the March press release.

In addition to addressing “changing market dynamics,” the update, called FICO Score 9, focuses on improved “predictive power” in assessing consumers’ credit risk—that is, how likely someone is to default or make late payments on a loan.

How does this news affect you? FICO credit scores—rated on a scale of 300 to 850—play a role in 90% of all consumer-lending decisions today. Next time you apply for a credit card, car loan, mortgage, new apartment or even a personal loan, your lender will likely take your score into consideration.

MainStreet reports that the majority of lenders are already making credit decisions based on updated scores, though only about half of consumers will notice a significant change to theirs in one direction or the other.

The good news, according to Frederic Huynh, a senior principal scientist for FICO, is that many people are likely to see a bump. “Most of the consumers out there are responsible,” Huynh told Credit.com. “Most consumers tend to score higher when we have new scores.”

But if you’re in the other camp and want to improve your score quickly, try these nine ways to help boost your number.