FICO Credit Scores: What Do They Mean?
Since we live in an automated, you're probably not surprised to hear that your creditworthiness comes down to one number. This score is created by credit reporting agencies. They use the payment history from all of your loans: credit cards, mortgages, car/boat loans and others.
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 credit score:
- Your Credit History - Have you had credit for many years, or for a short time?
- Late Payments - Have you paid more than 30 days late, and how often?
- Balances on your Credit Cards - How many accounts? How much do you owe?
- Credit Inquiries - How many times have lenders pulled your credit report for the purpose of lending you money?
These factors are weighted slightly differently depending on the formula being used. Each formula produces a single number which varies slightly from one agency to another. Credit scores range from 300 to 800. Higher is better. Most borrowers getting a mortgage in the current environment score 620 or above.
FICO makes a huge 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. Higher scores indicate you are a better credit risk, and thus may qualify for a better mortgage rate.
Improving your score
What can you do to improve your FICO score? Very little in the short term. Some companies promise quick fixes, but they can't do anything different than what you can do — for free. You must, of course, remove any incorrect data on your credit report, which is the only "quick fix" for credit problems.
Know your FICO
In order to raise your credit score, you've got to have the reports that are used to build it. Of course, you need the score as well. Fair Isaac, the company that invented the first FICO credit score, sells credit scores on myFICO.com. It's inexpensive, fast, and easy to get your credit score along with credit reports from all three agencies. Also available are helpful information and online tools that help you analyze what actions might have the greatest impact on your FICO score.
You can get a federally-mandated free credit report once per year from the three major agencies by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. You won't get a free credit score from AnnualCreditReport.com, but getting it is quick and very inexpensive.
Now that you have all the facts, you'll be a more informed consumer and you'll be better positioned to get the right mortgage for you.