FICO Credit Scores: What Do They Mean?

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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 FICO score is built by credit agencies. These agencies use the payment history of your various loans: mortgages, car/motorcycle loans, credit cards, and others.

Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian, the three major credit agencies, each have a proprietary formula for building your credit score. The original FICO model 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 the formulas vary from one agency to another, the differences aren't huge; each agency uses the following factors in building a credit score:

  • Your Credit History - Have you had credit for years, or for just a short time?
  • History of Payments - Do you have any payments later than 30 days?
  • Balances on your Credit Cards - How many accounts? How much do you owe?
  • Inquiries on Your 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 by agency. Credit scores can be as low as 300 and as high as 800. Higher is always better. Most home buyers these days 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. Lenders give lower interest rates to individuals with higher scores.

Can I raise my credit score?

What can you do to improve your FICO score? Unfortunately, not much. Despite what you hear from "credit repair" companies, the FICO score is formulated from your lifelong credit history, so you can't turn it around right away. You must, of course, remove any incorrect reporting on your credit report, which is the only "quick fix" for credit problems.

How do I find out my FICO score?

Before you can improve your credit score, you must know your score and make sure that the credit reports from each agency are correct. Fair Isaac has created a web site (www.myFICO.com) that lets you do just that. It's inexpensive to quickly get your FICO score from all three reporting agencies, along with your credit report. They also provide information and online tools that help you improve your credit score.

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

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

Want to know more about credit scores? Give us a call: 954-964-2220.

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