FICO Credit Scores: What Do They Mean?

Since we live in an computer-driven society, it should come as no surprise that your ability to repay your mortgage loan boils down to a single number. Credit reporting agencies use your history of paying loans in order to compile this score.

Each of the three credit reporting agencies has its own formula for building your credit score. The original FICO was developed by Fair Isaac and Company. While Experian still calls its score "FICO", TransUnion calls its score "Beacon" and Equifax uses "Empirica." While each of the models considers a range of data available in your credit report, all of the agencies use the following to determine a credit score:

  • Credit History - Have you had credit for years, or for just a short time?
  • Payment History - Do you have a history of late payments?
  • Credit Card Balances - How many accounts? How much do you owe on your accounts?
  • 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. The results are added up and distilled into a single number. Credit scores range from 300 to 800. Higher is better. Most home buyers have a score above 620.

Your score greatly affects your interest rate

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 probably a better credit risk, and thus may qualify for a better mortgage rate.

Improving your score

Is it possible to improve your FICO score? So called "credit repair" companies advertise quick fixes, but the score is built on your lifetime credit history, so you can't turn it around right away. (Of course you must appeal incorrect items on your credit report.)

Getting your credit score

To raise your score, you must have the credit reports that the agencies use to build it, and of course, you need the score itself. Fair Isaac, the company that offered the original FICO credit score, sells scores on its website: myFICO.com. For a reasonable fee, you can get your FICO score from all three agencies, along with your credit report. Also available are information and tools that help you analyze what actions might have the greatest impact on your FICO score.

You can get a federally-mandated free credit report once a year from all three agencies when you visit AnnualCreditReport.com. You won't get a free credit score from AnnualCreditReport.com, but getting one is quick 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.

Curious about your credit score? Give us a call at 866-584-4650.

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