How's your FICO Score?

Because we live in a computer-driven world, you're probably not surprised to hear that your creditworthiness boils down to one number. This score is created by credit agencies. They use the payment history from all of your loans: credit cards, mortgages, car/boat loans and the like.

All three credit agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) use a slightly different system to arrive at a 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, all of the agencies use the following to build your credit score:

  • Credit History - How long have you had credit?
  • Payment History - Do you pay your bills on time?
  • Your Credit Card Balances - How many accounts do you have, and how much do you owe?
  • Requests for Credit - How many times have lenders pulled your credit report for the purpose of giving you a loan?

Each of these factors is assigned a value and a weight. The results are added up and distilled into a single number. FICO scores can be as low as 300 and as high as 800. Higher scores are better. Most home buyers in the current environment have a score above 620.

Not just for qualifying

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.

Raising your FICO score

What can you do about 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. (Of course you must appeal incorrect items on your credit report.)

Know your FICO

In order to raise your credit score, you've got to obtain the credit reports that the agencies use to build it. Of course, you need the score as well. Fair Isaac has created a web site (www.myFICO.com) that lets you do just that. It's inexpensive to quickly get your FICO from all three agencies, along with your credit report. They also provide helpful information and tools that help you understand how to improve your FICO score.

You can get a free credit report every year from the three major credit reporting 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.

Armed with this info, you'll be a more informed consumer and you'll be better positioned to obtain the right mortgage for you.

Curious about credit scores? Call us at 610-565-3600.