Your score is essentially a 3-digit summary of your credit health. A lender or credit card provider who looks at your credit score will be able to determine right away if you’re a borrower who can be trusted to pay back the money they lend you. Credit scores are calculated from the information in your credit report, a file containing all of your credit and financial activity over the months and years. Lenders will want to know you credit report and score to determine your ability to hold a loan.
Some 200 million U.S. consumers have FICO credit scores, while just under 3 million, or about 1.4 percent, have perfect 850s. That’s according to Fair Isaac Corp., the company behind the 28-year-old scoring model used by lenders to predict whether you will pay back a loan. But over the years the number has become much more than that—it’s now an American totem of success or failure, hope or despair, security or risk. While there are competing models, almost anyone with a credit card knows that a number typically ranging between 300 and 850 holds huge sway over their financial life.