You've heard of the FICO credit score. But what is the FICO Resilience Index? It switches up the normal FICO formula a bit, said analyst Ted Rossman.

While paying bills on time is usually the number one factor, the Resilience Index focuses more on keeping a person's credit utilization low, avoiding too many accounts and maintaining a long credit history.

"What it's supposed to do is predict the future in a way. Basically, to let lenders get a lot  more surgical about who is a risky borrower, who's at risk of falling behind," said Rossman.

The Resilience Index is used as a tie breaker of sorts, trying to distinguish between two borrowers. Rossman said, for example, if two people apply for a credit card and they each have a 680 credit score (which is on the margin of being approved or not), and one person fares a lot better on the Resilience Index because he or she has a lower credit utilization or a longer credit history, that's going to help them get approved.

Traditionally, lenders have a blunt instrument approach so when they get nervous, there's a recession or unemployment goes up, a lot of times they hunker down and deny most applicants or even cut a lot of people's credit limits.

Rossman said the main consumer action step is lowering the credit utilization. The best thing to do is pay down credit card debt. Make an extra mid-month payment before the statement even comes out. Using less of your credit utilization will reflect positively. It's one of the quickest, easiest ways to improve a credit score.

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