FICO Credit Scores: What Do They Mean?

Since we live in a computer-driven society, it should come as no surprise that your ability to repay virtually any loan comes down to one number. The years of paying your various bills: your mortgage, car payments, and credit card bills are analyzed, sliced, spindled and mutilated into a single indicator of whether you're likely to meet your future obligations.

The three reporting agencies use slightly different formulas to build a credit score. Fair Isaac and Cooriginally developed this score. . Experian uses this model and calls its score FICO. Equifax's model, based on FICO, is called BEACON, while TransUnion, which also uses a slightly modified FICO, calls its score EMPIRICA. While these methods vary from one agency to another, all of the agencies use the following to build your credit score:

  • Your Credit History - How many years have you had credit?
  • Late Payments - Have you paid more than 30 days late?
  • Your Credit Card Balances - How many credit card accounts do you hold, and how much do you owe?
  • Inquiries on Your Credit - How many times have you had your credit checked for a loan?

Each of these factors is assigned a value and a weight. The results are added up and distilled into a single number. FICO scores range from 300 to 800. Higher is always better. Typical home buyers will likely find their credit scores between 620 and 800.

Credit scores make a difference in interest rates

Did you know? FICO scores affect more than your ability to get a loan. They also affect your interest rate. Higher scores indicate you are probably a better credit risk, and thus may qualify for a better mortgage rate.

Raising your credit score

How can you raise your FICO score? Despite what you hear from "credit repair" companies, the score is built on your lifetime credit history, so it's not possible to raise it significantly in the short term. You should remove any incorrect data on your credit report, which is the only "quick fix" for credit troubles.

How do I find out my credit score?

In order to raise your credit score, you've got to obtain the reports that the agencies use to build it. Of course, you need the score as well. Fair Isaac has created a web site (www.myFICO.com) that lets you do just that. It's inexpensive to quickly get your FICO from all three agencies, along with your credit report. Also available are information and online tools that help you improve your FICO score.

You can get a free credit report once a year from the three major agencies when you visit AnnualCreditReport.com. These reports do not include a free score, but it's very inexpensive to get one at the same time.

Now that you have all the facts, you will be a more informed consumer and you'll be better positioned to obtain the most favorable mortgage.

Curious about your credit score? Call us at 8327302000.

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