How FICO Credit Scores Are Calculated

Since we live in an automated, you're probably not surprised to hear that your creditworthiness comes down to one number. The FICO score is created by credit agencies. These agencies use the payment history from all of your loans: credit cards, mortgages, car/boat loans and the like.

The three agencies use slightly different formulas to build a credit score. Fair Isaac and Cooriginally developed this score. . 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 each of the models considers a range of data available in your credit report, the differences aren't huge; each agency uses the following factors in calculating your credit score:

  • Credit History - How long have you had credit?
  • History of Payments - Do you have a history of late payments?
  • Balances on your Credit Cards - How many accounts do you hold, and how much do you owe?
  • Credit Inquiries - How many times have lenders pulled your credit for the purpose of giving you a loan?

These factors are assigned weights based on the formula being used. The results are added up and distilled into a single number. FICO scores can be as low as 300 and as high as 800. Higher is always better. Most people who want to get a mortgage loan have a score above 620.

Credit scores make a big difference in interest rates

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

Is it possible to improve your FICO score? Despite what you hear from "credit repair" companies, the score is calculated from your lifetime credit history, so it's not possible to raise it significantly in the short term. You must, of course, appeal for the credit agency to remove any incorrect data from your credit report; this is really the only way to quickly improve your credit score.

Getting your FICO score

Before you can improve your score, you must get your score and make sure that the reports from each credit reporting agency are correct. Fair Isaac has created a web site (www.myFICO.com) that lets you do just that. For a reasonable fee, you can get your FICO from all three agencies, along with your credit report. They also provide 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 federally-mandated free credit report every year from all three agencies when you visit AnnualCreditReport.com. These reports do not include a free credit score, but it's very inexpensive to get one at the same time.

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

Want to know more about credit scores? Call us: (337) 453-0012.

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