Scoring your Credit - How's your FICO?
Because we live in an automated, you're probably not surprised to hear that your ability to repay your mortgage comes down to one number. The years of paying your various bills: your mortgage, car payments, and credit card bills can be analyzed, sliced, diced, spindled and mutilated into a single indicator of whether you're likely to meet your future obligations.
Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, the three major credit reporting agencies, each have their own proprietary formula for building your credit score. The original FICO score 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 these methods vary from one agency to another, the differences aren't huge; all of the agencies use the following factors to build your credit score:
- Your Credit History - Have you had credit for years, or for just a short time?
- Late Payments - Do you pay your bills on time?
- Your Credit Card Balances - How many accounts do you hold? How much do you owe on your accounts?
- Credit Inquiries - How many times have you had your credit checked for a loan?
These factors are assigned weights based on the formula being used. The result is a single number: your FICO score. Credit scores can be as low as 300 and as high as 800. Higher scores are better. Most home buyers have a score above 620.
Your credit score affects your monthly payment
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?
Is it possible to improve your FICO score? Despite what you hear from "credit repair" companies, the FICO score is built on your lifelong credit history, so it's not possible to raise it significantly in the short term. (Of course you must appeal incorrect items on your credit report.)
Getting your credit score
To raise your score, you've got to have the reports that the agencies use to build it. Of course, you need the score as well. Fair Isaac, the company that offered the original FICO credit score, sells credit scores on its website: myFICO.com. It's inexpensive, fast, and easy to get your credit score along with reports from all three reporting agencies. They also provide helpful information and online tools that help you understand how to improve your FICO score.
You can get a free credit report once per year from the three major credit reporting agencies when you visit AnnualCreditReport.com. While this report does not include a free credit score, the cost to "upgrade" your report to include a credit score is very reasonable.
Armed with this info, you'll be a more informed consumer and you'll be better positioned to obtain the most favorable mortgage.