How's your FICO Score?

Because we live in a computer-driven world, you're probably not surprised to hear that your ability to repay virtually any loan boils down to one number. Credit reporting agencies use your payment history to compile a FICO score.

TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian, the three major credit agencies, each have a proprietary formula for building your credit 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 these methods vary from one agency to another, the differences aren't huge; all of the agencies use the following in calculating your score:

  • Your Credit History - Have you had credit for many years, or for just a short time?
  • Late Payments - Do you pay your bills on time?
  • Your Credit Card Balances - How many accounts do you hold? How much do you owe?
  • Requests for Credit - How many times have you had your credit checked for a loan?

These factors are assigned weights based on the formula being used. The results are added up and distilled into a single number. Credit scores can be as low as 300 and as high as 800. Higher is always better. Most home buyers have a score above 620.

Not just for qualifying

FICO scores are used for more than just determining whether or not you qualify for a mortgage. Higher scores indicate you are a better credit risk, and thus may qualify for a better mortgage rate.

Improving your score

What can you do about your FICO score? Very little in the short term. So called "credit repair" companies advertise quick fixes, but the score is based on your lifelong credit history, so you can't turn it around right away. (Of course you can and should appeal incorrect items on your credit report.)

How do I find out my FICO score?

Before you can improve your credit score, you have to get your score and make certain that the credit reports from each agency are correct. Fair Isaac, the company that invented the first FICO score, offers FICO scores on myFICO.com. It's inexpensive, fast, and easy to get your credit score as well as reports from all three reporting agencies. They also provide information and tools that help you understand how to improve your FICO score.

You can get a free credit report every year from the three major credit reporting agencies when you visit AnnualCreditReport.com. While this report does not include a free credit score, the cost to "upgrade" your report to include a credit score is very reasonable.

Now that you have all the facts, you'll be a more informed consumer and you'll be better positioned to obtain the most favorable mortgage.

Want to know more about your credit score? Call us: (707) 252-2700.

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