FICO Credit Scores: What Do They Mean?

Since our society is so automated, it should come as no surprise that your creditworthiness comes down to one number. This score is compiled by credit reporting agencies. These agencies use the payment history from all of your loans: credit cards, mortgages, car loans and others.

Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, the three major credit agencies, each have a proprietary formula for building a credit 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, each agency uses the following to build your credit score:

  • Your Credit History - How long have you had credit?
  • History of Payments - Do you have any payments later than 30 days?
  • Your Credit Card Balances - How many accounts do you have? How much do you owe on your accounts?
  • Requests for Credit - How many times have lenders pulled your credit for the purpose of giving you a loan?

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

Not just for qualifying

Did you know? FICO 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 to improve your FICO score? Unfortunately, not much. Some companies promise quick fixes, but they can't do anything different than what you can do — for free. You must remove any incorrect data on your credit report, which is the only way to quickly improve your credit score.

Know your FICO

To raise your FICO score, you've got to obtain the reports that the agencies use to build it, and of course, you need the score itself. Fair Isaac, the corporation that offered the original FICO credit score, sells scores on its website: myFICO.com. It's inexpensive to quickly get your FICO from all three reporting agencies, along with your credit report. They also provide information and tools that can help you understand how to improve your FICO score.

You can get a free credit report once a year from all three credit reporting agencies at AnnualCreditReport.com. You won't get a free credit score from AnnualCreditReport.com, but getting one is quick and very inexpensive.

Now that you have all the facts, 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? Call us: (310) 373-7406.

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