(WHTM) — If you are looking to buy a car or a home, you know FICO scores are extremely important. But what exactly are they and can you improve them?

“A FICO score summarizes your credit report into a three-digit number,” said Sally Taylor, VP and General Manager of scores at FICO. She says those scores are so important and more people need to understand what they are and what they do for you.

“FICO scores help millions of people gain access to credit they need for getting an education or purchasing a car or buying a first home or covering for emergencies. Millions of customers rely on FICO scores for their financial future,” Taylor said.

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Those scores help lenders determine how likely you are to repay a loan, which affects how much you can borrow and factors into the interest rate.

“The FICO score looks at things like how long you had credit, how much credit you have, how much of your available credit has been used, and if you’ve paid on time,” Taylor explained.

To improve FICO scores, Taylor says the good news is that your score is dynamic.

“It changes with your credit behavior. your FICO score today isn’t going to be your FICO score tomorrow. There are several things a consumer can do to improve their FICO score including staying up to date on your bills and only applying for credit that you need,” Taylor explained.

For those who are just starting out or don’t have much of credit history, getting approved for things like a car loan, a mortgage or even a bank car can be difficult.

FICO is now looking at other factors to determine your score.

“We’ve introduced scores like the FCO score XD and the Ultra FICO score, which enhances the traditional credit bureau data with alternative data such as how you’ve paid your telco and utilities and information from your checking and savings accounts,” Taylor said. “In fact, we can score 90% of credit-eligible consumers in the U.S.”

When it comes to your actual score, Taylor says anything in the upper 700s is a food score, but you can still get credit if your score is in the 600s.

“For consumers, the most important thing for them to know is that if they use their debt responsibly they can keep a good credit score,” Taylor said.

Taylor adds that it is also a good idea to actively monitor your FICO score. She says that people who frequently check their scores are more likely to have a higher score.