Scoring your Credit - How's your FICO?

Since we live in an computer-driven world, it should come as no surprise that your ability to repay your mortgage comes down to a single number. The FICO score is created by credit agencies. These agencies use the payment history from all of your loans: mortgages, car loans, credit cards, and the like.

The three credit reporting agencies use slightly different formulas to build a credit score. The original FICO model 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 each of the models considers a range of data available in your credit report, the differences aren't huge; they all use the following in calculating your credit score:

  • Your Credit History - How long have you had credit?
  • Payment History - Do you have a history of late payments?
  • Your Credit Card Balances - How many accounts? How much do you owe on your accounts?
  • Inquiries on Your 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 result is one number. FICO scores can be as low as 300 and as high as 800. Higher is better. Most borrowers getting a mortgage loan have a score above 620.

Your FICO score greatly affects how much you pay in interest every month

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

What can you do to raise your FICO score? Very little in the short term. So called "credit repair" companies advertise quick fixes, but the score is based on your lifetime credit history, so it's not possible to raise it significantly in the short term. You should, of course, remove any incorrect data from your credit report; this is the only "quick fix" for credit problems.

Know your FICO

Before you can improve your FICO score, you must know your score and ensure that the credit reports from each 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 as well as reports from all three agencies. They also provide helpful information and online tools that can help you understand how to improve your FICO score.

You can get a federally-mandated free credit report once per year from all three credit reporting agencies by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. You won't get a free credit score from AnnualCreditReport.com, but getting it is fast and very inexpensive.

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

Want to know more about credit scores? Call us: 718-441-7000.

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