You Credit Score: How's Your FICO?

Since we live in an automated, you're probably not surprised to hear that your ability to repay virtually any loan boils down to one number. The FICO score is built by credit agencies. They use the payment history of your various loans: credit cards, mortgages, car loans and others.

TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian, the three major credit agencies, each have a proprietary formula for building 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 the formulas vary from one agency to another, the differences aren't huge; they all use the following to calculate your score:

  • Credit History - How long have you had credit?
  • History of Payments - Do you have a history of late payments?
  • Credit Card Balances - How many credit card accounts do you hold, and how much do you owe on them?
  • Credit Inquiries - How many times have lenders pulled your credit for the purpose of lending you money?

These factors are assigned weights based on the formula being used. The results are added up and distilled into a single number. Credit scores range from 300 to 800. Higher is better. Most people who want to get a mortgage these days score 620 or above.

Your credit score affects your interest rate

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.

Raising your credit score

Unfortunately, there isn't a lot you can do to immediately improve your credit score. So called "credit repair" companies advertise quick fixes, but the score is calculated from your lifetime credit history, so it's not possible to raise it significantly in the short term. (Of course you can and should remove incorrect data on your credit report.)

How do I find out my credit score?

To improve your FICO score, you must get the credit reports that are used to build it, and of course, you need the score itself. Fair Isaac, the company that offered the first FICO score, sells scores on its website: myFICO.com. It's inexpensive, fast, and easy to get your credit score as well as reports from all three agencies. Also available are helpful information and online tools that can 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 at AnnualCreditReport.com. These reports do not include a free credit score, but it's very inexpensive to get one at the same time.

Now that you have all the facts, you will be a more informed consumer and you'll be better positioned to get the right mortgage for you.

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

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