All You Need to Know About Credit Score
Credit Score Advice
What is a credit score?
A credit score is a number lenders use to help them decide: "If I give this person a loan or credit card, how likely is it that I will get paid back on time?" A score is a snapshot of your credit risk picture at a particular point in time. There are many types of credit scores, but the most commonly used are credit bureau scores. Credit bureau scores are based solely on information in consumer credit reports maintained at one of the credit reporting agencies. Other types of scores may also include information from credit applications or bank files. The most widely used credit bureau scores are developed by Fair, Isaac and Company. These are known as FICO scores.
How does credit scoring help me?
Credit scores give lenders a fast, objective measurement of your credit risk. Before the use of scoring, the credit granting process could be slow, inconsistent and unfairly biased. Credit scores have made big improvements in the credit process. Because of credit scores:
People can get loans faster
More credit is available
Credit decisions are fairer
Credit rates are lower overall
What is a good FICO score to get?
Since there's no one "score cutoff" used by all lenders, it's hard to say what a good score is outside the context of a particular lending decision. For example, a FICO score of 750 may qualify you for a platinum credit card, whereas a score of 675 may indicate you're a better match for a standard card. Your lender may be able to give you guidance on the criteria for a given credit product.
How can I find out my FICO score?
You can now purchase your own FICO score at two different sites on the Internet. Go to www.myFICO.com or www.equifax.com to access Score PowerTM, a service brought to you by Fair, Isaac and Equifax. You'll receive your current FICO score, your Equifax credit report, a full explanation of your score, and advice for improving your score over time.
Some lenders also may tell you your score, if they are using it to make a lending decision. In California, state law requires lenders to tell you your score if they use it in connection with your mortgage application. In all 50 states, if you are turned down for credit based primarily on your score, the lender does need to give you the reasons why your score wasn't high enough to qualify. This can help you understand your credit picture and how to improve it.
Note that FICO scores are also called BEACON (at Equifax), the Experian/Fair, Isaac Risk Model (at Experian) and EMPIRICA (at TransUnion). Any other score is not your FICO score.
Who can use the FICO Score Simulator and how often can they use it? Anyone who purchase a Score Power report after 5/9/02 may have unlimited access the FICO Score Simulator on their most recently purchase Score Power report for up to 30 days after the Score Power purchase date.
What if I'm turned down for credit?
If you have been turned down for credit, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) gives you the right to obtain the reasons why within 30 days. You are also entitled to a free copy of your credit bureau report within 60 days, which you can request from the credit reporting agencies.
If the score was a primary part of the lender's decision, the lender will use the score reason codes to explain why you didn't qualify for the credit. (They often may not tell you your score because the reasons behind it are more useful-but you can ask.)
If your credit application was turned down, or you didn't qualify for the interest rate you wanted, ask your lender how you can improve your credit picture.
FICO Scoring Facts and Fallacies
FALLACY: A poor score will haunt me forever.
FACT: Just the opposite is true. A score is a "snapshot" of your risk at a particular point in time. It changes as new information is added to your bank and credit bureau files. Scores change gradually as you change the way you handle credit. For example, past credit problems impact your score less as time passes. Lenders request a current score when you apply for credit, so they have the most recent information available.
FALLACY: Credit scoring is unfair to minorities.
FACT: Scoring does not consider your gender, race, nationality or marital status. In fact, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits lenders from considering this type of information when issuing credit. Independent research has shown that credit scoring is not unfair to minorities or people with little credit history. Scoring has proven to be an accurate and consistent measure of repayment for all people who have some credit history. In other words, at a given score, non-minority and minority applicants are equally likely to pay as agreed.
FALLACY: Credit scoring infringes on my privacy.
FACT: FICO scores evaluate your credit report alone, which lenders already use to make credit decisions. A score is simply a numeric summary of that information. In fact, lenders using scoring can often ask for less information about you. They may have fewer questions on the application form, for example.
FALLACY: My score will drop if I apply for new credit.
FACT: Probably not much. If you apply for several credit cards within a short period of time, multiple requests for your credit report information (called "inquiries") will appear on your report. Looking for new credit can equate with higher risk, but most credit scores are not affected by multiple inquiries from auto or mortgage lenders within a short period of time. The FICO score treats these as a single inquiry, which will have less impact on your credit score.