FICO Credit Scores: What Do They Mean?

Since we live in an automated society, it's not surprising that your ability to repay your mortgage boils down to just one number. The years of paying your various bills: your mortgage, vehicle payments, and credit card bills are analyzed, diced, spindled and mutilated into a single indicator of whether you're likely to meet your future obligations.

Each of the three credit 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 each of the models considers a range of data available in your credit report, all of the agencies use the following to calculate a credit score:

  • Credit History - Have you had credit for many years, or for a short time?
  • Late Payments - Do you have any payments later than 30 days?
  • Balances on your Credit Cards - How many accounts do you hold, and how much do you owe?
  • Requests for 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 from one agency to another. FICO scores range from 300 to 800. Higher is better. Typical home buyers will probably find their scores between 620 and 800.

Your score affects your interest rate

Credit scores are used for more than just determining whether or not you qualify for a mortgage. Higher scores indicate you are a better credit risk, and thus may qualify for a better mortgage rate.

Raising your FICO 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 calculated from your lifetime credit history, so it's not possible to raise it significantly in the short term. You should, of course, remove any incorrect data on your credit report, which is the only "quick fix" for credit problems.

Know your FICO score

To raise your FICO score, you must have the credit reports that are used to build it, and of course, you need the score itself. Fair Isaac, the company that invented the original FICO score, sells credit scores on its website: myFICO.com. It's inexpensive to get your FICO score from all three reporting agencies, along with your credit report. They also provide information and online tools that help you analyze what actions might have the greatest impact on your FICO score.

You can get a free credit report every year from the three major credit reporting agencies at AnnualCreditReport.com. You won't get a free credit score from AnnualCreditReport.com, but getting it is fast and inexpensive.

Armed with this information, you will be a more informed consumer and you'll be better positioned to get the most favorable mortgage.

Want to know more about credit scores? Give us a call at (773) 774-9040 Ext 121.

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