Are you someone who pays more attention to the scores of last night's big games than your credit scores? If so, you could be paying more for a loan or for insurance than you should.
Lenders use credit scoring systems to assess risk: How likely are you to pay back your car or home loan or make credit card payments? The answer will determine whether you get the loan or credit card and the interest rate you will pay. Other types of businesses, such as insurance companies and telephone service providers, also use credit scores to decide whether you are a risk they want to take on.
A high score means you are more likely to get the loan or insurance and pay less for it. But creditors and insurance companies may use different scoring systems. They may develop their own, based on a random sample of their clientele or potential customers, or use a standardized system. Or they may pick and choose, depending on the type of loan or insurance product.
Many lenders, including credit unions, use the FICO® system, a credit risk model created by the Fair Isaac Corporation. Here are key points you need to know about FICO scores:
Range from 300 to 850
Are based on the information compiled in the credit reports of the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Transunion and Experian
May vary 50 points or so depending on which reporting agency is used; lenders may report activity to only one of the agencies and each uses different equations.
Credit scores are based on your credit report, so make sure that information is accurate. By law, you have the right to obtain one free copy of your credit report a year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. Contact the Annual Credit Report Request Service at P.O. Box 105281 , Atlanta, GA 30348-5281 , call 877.322.8228 or visit www.annualcreditreport.com.
According to myFico.com, nationally, scores break down like this:
Range: Percentage of population
up to 499 2%
There's no single "cutoff score" lenders use to deny credit, but the lower your score, the more you'll pay. For example, according to myFico.com, if your score is between 620-639 your mortgage rate may be 1.59 percent higher than if it's more than 760. That could cost you thousands over the life of a 30-year mortgage.
You can raise your score by:
Paying your bills on time
Keeping your balances low on credit cards and revolving credit
Not opening a lot of new accounts
Using the credit card(s) you've held the longest.
For more details, talk to the loan officers at your credit union.