How FICO Credit Scores Are Calculated

Since our society is so computer-driven, it should come as no surprise that your ability to repay virtually any loan boils down to one number. The years of paying your various bills: your mortgage, car 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.

All three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) use a slightly different system to arrive at a score. Fair Isaac and Cooriginally developed this score. . While Experian still calls its score "FICO", TransUnion calls its score "Beacon" and Equifax uses "Empirica." While the formulas vary from one agency to another, each agency uses the following to build 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?
  • Your Credit Card Balances - How many accounts do you have? How much do you owe?
  • Inquiries on Your Credit - How many times have lenders pulled your credit report for the purpose of lending you money?

These factors are weighted a little bit differently depending on the formula being used. Each formula produces a single number which varies slightly by agency. FICO scores can be as low as 300 and as high as 800. Higher is better. Most home buyers have a score above 620.

FICO makes a huge difference in interest rates

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 credit score

Is there any way to improve your credit score? Since the FICO score is entirely based on your lifelong credit history, it's difficult to significantly improve the number with quick fixes. You should, of course, appeal for the credit agency to remove any incorrect data from your credit report, which is the only way to quickly improve your credit score.

How do I find out my credit score?

In order to improve your credit score, you've got to have the credit reports that are used to build it. Of course, you need the score as well. Fair Isaac has created a web site (www.myFICO.com) that lets you do just that. It's inexpensive, fast, and easy to get your credit score as well as credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies. Also available are information and tools that can help you understand how to improve your credit score.

You can get a free credit report once a year from all three agencies at AnnualCreditReport.com. These reports do not include a free credit score, but it's very inexpensive to get one at the same time.

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

Want to know more about your FICO score? Give us a call: (650) 689-5684.

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