FICO Credit Scores: What Do They Mean?

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Since we live in an automated world, it should come as no surprise that your ability to repay your mortgage boils down to just one number. Credit reporting agencies use your loan payment history to compile a FICO 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 the formulas vary, the differences aren't huge; each agency uses the following factors in calculating your score:

  • Credit History - How long have you had credit?
  • Payment History - Do you have any payments later than 30 days?
  • Your Credit Card Balances - How many accounts do you hold? How much do you owe on your accounts?
  • Credit Inquiries - 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 can be as low as 300 and as high as 850. Higher scores are better. Most borrowers who want to get a mortgage loan 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.

Improving your score

Unfortunately, there isn't a lot you can do to immediately improve your credit score. Since the FICO score is based on your lifelong credit history, it is hard to make a significant improvement in the number with quick fixes. (Of course you can and should appeal incorrect items on your credit report.)

Know your FICO

Before you can improve your FICO score, you must know your score and ensure that the reports from each reporting agency are correct. Fair Isaac has created a web site (www.myFICO.com) that lets you do just that. It's inexpensive to get your FICO score from all three agencies, along with your credit report. They also provide information and online tools that can 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 the three major credit reporting agencies when you visit AnnualCreditReport.com. You won't get a free credit score from AnnualCreditReport.com, but getting it is quick 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.

Curious about your FICO score? Give us a call: (956) 622-4307.

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