Scoring your Credit - How's your FICO?
Since our society is so automated, you're probably not surprised to hear that your creditworthiness comes down to one number. This score is built by credit reporting agencies. These agencies use the payment history of your various loans: credit cards, mortgages, car loans etcetera.
Each of the three credit reporting agencies has its own formula for building your credit score. Fair Isaac and Cooriginally developed this score. . While Experian still calls its score "FICO", TransUnion calls its score "Beacon" and Equifax uses "Empirica." While each of the models considers a range of data available in your credit report, the differences aren't huge; each agency uses the following in calculating your score:
- Your Credit History - Have you had credit for years, or for a short time?
- Payment History - Have you paid more than 30 days late?
- Balances on your Credit Cards - How many accounts? How much do you owe on your accounts?
- Credit Inquiries - How many times have lenders pulled your credit report for the purpose of giving you a loan?
These factors are weighted a little bit differently depending on the formula being used. The results are added up and distilled into a single number. Credit scores can be as low as 300 and as high as 800. Higher is better. Most home buyers have a score above 620.
Credit scores make a big difference in your interest rate
Did you know? FICO scores affect more than your ability to get a loan. They also affect your interest rate. Lenders give lower interest rates to individuals with higher scores.
Can I raise my credit score?
Unfortunately, there isn't a lot you can do to immediately improve your credit score. Despite what you hear from "credit repair" companies, the FICO score is based on your lifetime credit history, so it's not possible to raise it significantly in the short term. You must remove any incorrect data on your credit report, which is the only "quick fix" for credit troubles.
Getting your FICO score
Before you can improve your credit score, you have to get your score and make sure that the credit reports from each credit reporting agency are correct. Fair Isaac has created a web site (www.myFICO.com) that lets you do just that. It's inexpensive, fast, and easy to get your credit score as well as credit reports from all three reporting agencies. Also available are information and online tools that help you improve your FICO score.
You can get a free credit report every year from all three agencies when you visit AnnualCreditReport.com. These reports do not include a free credit score, but it's very inexpensive to get one at the same time.
Armed with this information, you'll be a more informed consumer and you'll be better positioned to obtain the right mortgage for you.