How FICO Credit Scores Are Calculated
Because our society is so automated, it's probably not that surprising that your ability to repay virtually any loan boils down to a single number. The years of paying your various bills: your mortgage, vehicle payments, and credit card bills are analyzed, diced, spindled and mutilated into a single indicator of whether you're likely to meet your future obligations.
The three credit reporting agencies use slightly different formulas to build a credit score. The original FICO score was developed by Fair Isaac and Company. 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 these methods vary, the differences aren't huge; each agency uses the following factors to build your score:
- Credit History - Have you had credit for years, or for a short time?
- Late Payments - Do you have any payments later than 30 days?
- Balances on your Credit Cards - How many credit card accounts do you hold, and how much do you owe on them?
- Inquiries on Your Credit - How many times have lenders pulled your credit report for the purpose of lending you money?
These factors are weighted differently depending on the formula being used. 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.
Your credit score affects your interest rate
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.
Can I raise my credit score?
Is it possible to raise your credit score? Some companies promise quick fixes, but they can't do anything different than what you can do — for free. (Of course you can and should have incorrect items removed from your credit report.)
How do I find out my FICO score?
Before you can improve your FICO score, you must know your score and be sure that the credit 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, fast, and easy to get your credit score along with reports from all three credit reporting agencies. Also available are information and tools that help you improve your FICO score.
You can get a free credit report every 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 fast and very inexpensive.
Armed with this information, you will be a more informed consumer and you'll be better positioned to get the right mortgage for you.