Scoring your Credit - How's your FICO?
Since our world is so automated, it's probably not that surprising that your ability to repay your mortgage boils down to one number. Credit reporting agencies use your payment history in order to compile this score.
The three 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 each of the models considers a range of data available in your credit report, each agency uses the following to calculate your score:
- Your Credit History - How long have you had credit?
- Late Payments - Do you have any payments later than 30 days?
- Your Credit Card Balances - How many credit card accounts do you have, and how much do you owe?
- Inquiries on Your Credit - How many times have you had your credit checked for a loan?
These factors are assigned weights based on the formula being used. Each formula produces a single number which may vary slightly by agency. Credit scores range from 300 to 800. Higher scores are better. Most people getting a mortgage these days score 620 or above.
Credit scores make a huge difference in interest rates
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
What can you do about your FICO score? Very little in the short term. Since the FICO score is entirely based on your lifelong credit history, it is hard to change it quickly. (Of course you can and should remove incorrect data on your credit report.)
Know your FICO
Before you can improve your score, you must know your score and make certain that the credit reports from each agency are correct. Fair Isaac, the company that offered the first FICO score, offers scores on myFICO.com. For a reasonable fee, you can quickly get your FICO score from all three reporting agencies, along with your credit report. Also available are helpful information and online tools that can 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 when you visit AnnualCreditReport.com. You won't get a free credit score from AnnualCreditReport.com, but getting one is fast and very inexpensive.
Now that you have all the facts, you will be a more informed consumer and you'll be better positioned to obtain the right mortgage for you.