How FICO Credit Scores Are Calculated

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, 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.

Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian, the three major credit reporting agencies, each have a proprietary formula for building your credit score. The original FICO model 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 from one agency to another, all of the agencies use the following to build your credit score:

  • Your Credit History - How long have you had credit?
  • Payment History - Do you have any payments later than 30 days?
  • Credit Card Balances - How many accounts do you hold? How much do you owe on your accounts?
  • Inquiries on Your Credit - How many times have lenders pulled your credit for the purpose of lending you money?

These factors are assigned weights based on the formula being used. The result is a single number: your credit score. Credit scores range from 300 to 800. Higher is better. Typical home buyers likely find their FICO scores falling above 620.

Credit scores make a huge difference in interest rates

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. Despite what you hear from "credit repair" companies, the FICO score is built on your lifelong credit history, so you can't turn it around right away. You should, of course, appeal for the credit agency to remove any incorrect data from your credit report, which is the only "quick fix" for credit problems.

Getting your FICO score

In order to raise your score, you must have the 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 along with credit reports from all three reporting agencies. Also available are helpful information and online tools that can help you analyze what actions might have the greatest impact on your FICO score.

You can get a free credit report every 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 one is quick and inexpensive.

Armed with this information, you'll be a more informed consumer and you'll be better positioned to get the right mortgage for you.

Curious about your FICO score? Call us at 703.255-5810.

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