FICO Credit Scores: What Do They Mean?

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Since we live in an computer-driven 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 can be analyzed, sliced, spindled and mutilated into a single indicator of whether you're likely to meet your future obligations.

Each of the three credit reporting agencies has its own 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, each agency uses the following to determine your credit score:

  • Credit History - Have you had credit for many years, or for a short time?
  • History of Payments - Do you have any payments later than 30 days?
  • Your Credit Card Balances - How many accounts? How much do you owe?
  • Requests for Credit - How many times have you had your credit checked for a loan?

These factors are weighted differently depending on the formula being used. The result is one number. FICO scores can be as low as 300 and as high as 850. Higher is better. Most folks who want to get a mortgage loan in the current environment have a score above 620.

Your FICO score greatly affects your interest rate

Did you know? Credit scores are used for more than just determining whether or not you qualify for a mortgage. Lenders give lower interest rates to individuals with higher scores.

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. You must appeal for the credit agency to remove any incorrect data from your credit report; this is the only "quick fix" for credit problems.

Getting your credit score

To improve your score, you've got to get the credit reports that the agencies use to build it. Of course, you need the score as well. Fair Isaac, the corporation that offered the first FICO credit score, sells FICO scores on myFICO.com. It's inexpensive to quickly get your FICO from all three agencies, along with your credit report. They also provide information and tools that can help you improve your credit 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 one is fast and inexpensive.

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

Want to know more about credit scores? Call us at 5627733870.

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