About the FICO Credit Score
Because we live in an automated, you're probably not surprised to hear that your creditworthiness boils down to one number. The FICO score is compiled by credit agencies. They use the payment history of all of your loans: credit cards, mortgages, car/boat loans and others.
Each of the three credit reporting agencies has its own formula for building your credit score. The original FICO was developed by Fair Isaac and Company. 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 the formulas vary from one agency to another, each agency uses the following to calculate your credit score:
- Credit History - Have you had credit for many years, or for just a short time?
- History of Payments - Do you pay your bills on time?
- Balances on your Credit Cards - How many credit card accounts do you have, and how much do you owe on them?
- Credit Inquiries - How many times have lenders pulled your credit for the purpose of lending you money?
Each of these is assigned a value and a weight. Each formula produces a single number which may vary a a little by agency. FICO scores range from 300 to 800. Higher is better. Most home buyers will likely find their credit scores falling above 620.
FICO makes a difference in your interest rate
Did you know? Credit scores are used for more than just determining whether or not you qualify for a mortgage. Lenders give lower interest rates to individuals with higher scores.
Raising your FICO score
Unfortunately, there isn't a lot you can do to immediately improve your credit score. Since the FICO score is based on a lifetime of credit history, it is difficult to make a significant change in the number with quick fixes. You must appeal for the credit agency to remove any incorrect reporting on your credit report, which is the only "quick fix" for credit problems.
How do I find out my FICO score?
To improve your FICO score, you must get the credit reports that the agencies use to build it, and of course, you need the score itself. Fair Isaac, the company that invented the original FICO score, sells scores on myFICO.com. It's inexpensive, fast, and easy to get your credit score as well as credit reports from all three agencies. Also available are information and tools that help you understand how to improve your credit score.
You can get a free credit report once per year from the three major credit reporting agencies at 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'll be a more informed consumer and you'll be better positioned to obtain the right mortgage for you.