By the end of May 2020, more than 40 million people had filed unemployment claims due to COVID-19 and the resulting economic shutdowns. Governments, charities, and even creditors scrambled to put programs in place to support people during this time while also mitigating future economic fallout.
And this isn’t the first time creditors have found themselves working to support borrowers while worrying about their own bottom lines. It’s an issue that occurred during the 2008 recession and one that occurs regionally during national disasters. The new FICO Resilience Index is a tool that creditors might use to help better prepare for times of economic crisis. Find out more about this index and how it might impact you.
What is the FICO Resilience Index?
The FICO Resilience Index is a numeric score each person is given. The score is supposed to tell creditors how likely a person is to continue paying their bills as agreed during an economic downturn.
The Index, which is brought to you by the makers of the popular FICO
Score for creditworthiness, ranges from 1 to 99. In contrast to credit scores, where a higher number is better, a lower FICO Resilience Index score is better. Here’s how the range breaks down:
- 1–44: More resilient to changes in economic conditions
- 45–59: Moderately resilient to changes in economic conditions
- 60–69: Sensitive to changes in economic conditions
- 70–99: Very sensitive to changes in economic conditions
So, if you have a FICO Resilience Index of 10, it indicates that there’s a good chance that during economic upheaval such as a pandemic or recession, you’re still going to pay your bills on time. If you score a 90, that’s considered much less likely.
How is the Resilience Index different from a credit score?
A credit score is meant to indicate the likelihood that you will pay your bills on time and as agreed at any time. The Resilience Index rates how sensitive you might be to economic changes and the likelihood that you may be unable to pay bills during a downturn or crisis.
More: FICO just updated its credit scores — here’s how to improve yours
For example, the top factor in your credit score is whether or not you pay your bills in a timely manner. Your FICO Resilience Index score is more concerned by your total balance and number of open accounts. If you balance is high and you have a lot of open accounts, you may be less able to pay these off during times of crisis.
Here’s what the FICO Resilience Index looks for:
- Low total balance on revolving credit in comparison to limits
- A lower number of open, active credit accounts
- Fewer hard inquiries within the past 12 months
- A longer credit age, which indicates more experience managing credit
You can improve your FICO Resilience Index by reducing hard inquiries and not opening new credit accounts unless they’re necessary. But the index relies heaviest on credit utilization. Keeping your credit card and other revolving account balances as low as possible can improve your index score.
Does the FICO Resilience Index matter to you?
As of mid-2020, the FICO Resilience Index is new, and not a lot of organizations have integrated it into their lending processes yet. In the beginning, it might not be especially relevant to consumers. However, as organizations start to integrate it, there’s a good chance creditors may consider both your credit score and your resilience number when approving—or denying—your application.
Also see: Here’s what you need to do to boost your chances of getting another credit card
Where can you see your FICO Resilience Index?
To have a FICO Resilience Index score, you must have at least one account that was reported to the credit bureau in question in the past six months. You must also have at least one account that is at least six months old.
As of July 2020, the FICO Resilience Index is being provided in pilot testing to lenders. FICO is partnering with Equifax
to include the index alongside credit scores when lenders conduct a hard credit inquiry. As of July 2020, the index scores were not yet made available to consumers.
Does this new number make credit scores less important?
The FICO Resilience Index doesn’t reduce the importance of your credit score. Lenders are still concerned with whether or not someone is a “good risk.” Even with a strong resilience number, you may find yourself getting turned down for loans or credit cards if you have a poor credit score.
Read next: Why older Americans might be having trouble getting credit cards
You can’t check your FICO Resilience Index number at this time. But you can check your credit report and scores and make good financial decisions. In many cases, what’s good for your credit score is also good for your Resilience Index.