I recently took a closer look at the so-called “FICO Score Simulator” offered up by FICO, founder of the all-knowing and all-powerful Fico score.
The tool essentially allows consumers to determine which actions will improve their credit score the most, instead of simply guessing.
You can gain access to the FICO Score Simulator if you purchase your credit report from the company, to the tune of $19.95. But they offer a sample to give us some insight.
Their sample had a base FICO score of 707, which I consider the lower end of “good credit” in my credit score range.
But suppose you needed that score to be higher to qualify for a mortgage or obtain auto loan financing.
Well, the FICO Score Simulator says your best course of action would be to pay down delinquent credit card balances immediately to raise your credit score to between 727-747.
This action would help you in two ways – you’d have lower credit utilization and your account would be back to “paid as agreed,” which is surely better than being delinquent.
And if you continue to pay down balances and make on-time payments, your FICO score will increase even more over time. This will also bolster your credit history, as time is an important ingredient of “trust” as well.
The simulation said simply paying bills on time for just one month would push your score to between 707-727, not bad for just doing exactly what you should be doing.
The new credit card could drop your FICO score to between 697-717, while the balance transfer would leave you somewhere between 692-722. The impact isn’t sizable here, but you can see where opening multiple new accounts in a short period of time could take its toll on your credit score.
And you certainly wouldn’t want to execute a balance transfer or open a new credit card before applying for a more important line of credit, such as an auto loan or a mortgage because those few points might matter.
The takeaway here is to only apply for new credit if and when needed, not recklessly to snag rewards points and cash back. There are better ways to “make money” folks.
All of these simulations give us a window into the minds of the scientists at FICO, but still leave plenty of margin of error. No two credit profiles are alike (just like snowflakes and fingerprints), and thus the impact of one action will never be the same for two different consumers. This tool is merely a guide.
And it’s not a substitute for obtaining your actual score. If you’re looking for even more, check out the FICO score estimator, which is a free tool that offers a more robust report of what your FICO score would look like if certain characteristics are present.
Read more: How a FICO score is determined.