How's your FICO Score?

Because we live in an automated, it's probably not that surprising that your creditworthiness boils down to one number. The years of paying your various bills: your mortgage, vehicle payments, and credit card bills can be analyzed, spindled and mutilated into a single indicator of whether you're likely to meet your future obligations.

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 calculate your score:

  • Credit History - Have you had credit for many years, or for a short time?
  • Payment History - Do you pay your bills on time?
  • Credit Card Balances - How many accounts? How much do you owe?
  • Credit Inquiries - How many times have you had your credit checked for a loan?

Each of these is assigned a value and a weight. The result is a single number: your FICO score. Credit scores range from 300 to 800. Higher scores are better. Most people getting a mortgage loan these days score 620 or above.

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.

Raising your credit score

Is there any way to improve your FICO score? Despite what you hear from "credit repair" companies, the FICO score is calculated from your lifetime credit history, so you can't turn it around right away. (Of course you can and should remove incorrect data on your credit report.)

Getting your credit score

In order to improve your credit score, you must obtain the credit reports that the agencies use to build it, and of course, you need the score itself. Fair Isaac, the corporation that invented the first FICO score, sells FICO scores on myFICO.com. For a reasonable fee, you can get your FICO from all three agencies, along with your credit report. They also provide helpful information and online 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 per year from all three agencies when you visit AnnualCreditReport.com. While this report does not include a free credit score, the cost to "upgrade" your report to include a credit score is very reasonable.

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

Curious about credit scores? Give us a call: (718) 477-4405.

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