FICO’s new UltraFICO model factors in your day-to-day financial habits, as reflected by activity in your checking, savings or money market accounts, in addition to information in your credit report. Here’s how it works.
As you’re probably aware, you don’t have just one credit score. For instance, there are various versions of the widely used FICO score. In 2018, FICO added a new wrinkle to its scoring system – the UltraFICO score.
The UltraFICO score takes your financial behavior into account with the goal of lifting your credit standing. UltraFICO is designed for consumers who can’t gain access to credit or may be able to qualify for better credit terms, such as lower interest rates.
In 2018, FICO teamed up with the Experian credit bureau and Mastercard-owned data collector Finicity to introduce UltraFICO. They launched UltraFICO in 2019.
As of February 2021, UltraFICO was available only to a small group of lenders as part of a test. Once FICO wraps up the pilot phase, UltraFICO will be offered to more lenders and, thus, more consumers.
See related: What to do if you have no credit score
How does UltraFICO work?
A FICO score assesses your creditworthiness based on information in your credit report, such as your payment history and credit balances. UltraFICO considers that information but also factors in your day-to-day financial habits, as reflected by activity in your checking, savings or money market accounts.
The UltraFICO scoring model relies on this banking information:
- Length of time your accounts have been open
- Frequency of transactions
- Evidence of consistently having cash
- History of positive account balances
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling says UltraFICO “is not meant to make risky borrowers more creditworthy than they actually are. It is meant to help those who are in a good place financially, able to make on-time payments and are managing their finances well.”
Any lender can look at your FICO score when making a decision about your application for a credit card or another lending product. However, a lender can use your UltraFICO score only if you give permission to share information about your checking, savings or money market accounts. FICO says a consumer allows access to that information through a secure online portal. You’re able to pick which bank accounts are checked by UltraFICO.
The UltraFICO system spits out the score instantly, and then the lender may tweak its credit offer based on your updated FICO credit score.
By the way, an UltraFICO score doesn’t replace your traditional FICO score, and it doesn’t show up on your credit report.
See related: Which credit score matters most?
Who should use UltraFICO?
FICO says UltraFICO may benefit the:
- 79 million people in the U.S. with credit scores below 680, a common threshold for acceptable credit.
- 53 million people in the U.S. who do not have enough data in their credit files to generate a FICO score.
In other words, UltraFICO is geared toward people who have a shaky credit history or no credit history at all. Many of these consumers “are still locked out of mainstream credit,” according to Experian.
Finicity says the information that goes into calculating the UltraFICO score “wasn’t previously available to be used for scoring, and its inclusion now allows consumers to provide reliable, historical data for a better informed credit score.”
If you already have good credit and qualify for attractive lending terms, you won’t need to authorize creation of an UltraFICO score.
“The only time UltraFICO would be triggered is if you have a poor credit rating and lenders are willing to consider your banking information to show you have a handle on your money. This does not open up the floor for lenders to request your banking information if you otherwise have a good credit score,” according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
How does UltraFICO differ from regular FICO scores?
There are two key differences between UltraFICO and traditional FICO scores.
First, the UltraFICO score incorporates information from your credit report and your bank accounts. Traditional FICO scores rely only on data from your credit report.
Secondly, an UltraFICO Score is generated only if you give permission to supply information from your checking, savings or money market accounts. That information then is coupled with information from your credit report to produce an UltraFICO score.
On the other hand, when you submit an application for, say, a credit card or a loan, you automatically give permission for a check of your credit report. In this situation, a business may use a FICO credit score that’s based on information in the credit report to decide whether to accept or reject your application.
How does UltraFICO differ from other score-boosting features?
Experian is an UltraFICO partner, but it offers a separate score-enhancing tool called Experian Boost. UltraFICO and Experian Boost aren’t the same, though.
While both UltraFICO and Experian Boost “take a new approach to credit scores by including data not previously used to calculate scores,” they don’t take into account the same data.
UltraFICO solely taps into your banking information to potentially increase your FICO score. Meanwhile, Experian Boost lets you give access to your bank accounts so that your history of paying telecom and utility bills can be added to your Experian credit report. The bill payment information may help improve your FICO score within just a few minutes.
One of Experian’s competitors, TransUnion, provides an alternative to Experian Boost.
A partnership between TransUnion and a company called eCredable supplies the eCredable Lift credit-boosting feature. Through this setup, a consumer links phone and utility accounts to eCredable, which then reports payment information for those accounts to TransUnion. That information may help boost the consumer’s FICO score.
Experian Boost and eCredable Lift are similar in that they, unlike UltraFICO, do not judge your creditworthiness based on banking activity.