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Part 2:

What Is a Credit Score?

Part 4
What Is a Credit Score?

Put in the simplest terms possible, your credit score is a guess of how likely you are to pay back a loan.  This guess is put into a numerical score that allows lenders to evaluate you when making a borrowing decision.  Your credit score is certainly not the only thing considered in these decisions, but it is much easier to control than, say, your income.

 

There are three credit bureaus who keep a record of your credit history: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.  These credit bureaus rely on lenders reporting both positive and negative actions by the consumer (hint: that’s you) in order to create these reports.  But these bureaus don’t actually concoct your credit score, that’s done by a completely different entity.  

 

FICO is the reigning authority of credit scores.  There are actually countless organizations that calculate “credit scores,” but FICO is used in over 90% of lending decisions.  We won’t worry about any of the others.  FICO draws this credit information from each of the three bureaus and wraps it up into one nice little score.

 

If you don’t already know what your FICO credit score is, there are a couple ways you can access it:

 

  • Many credit card companies offer a free monthly FICO score on their account statements. If you have any current credit cards be sure to check your latest statement (typically available in PDF form through your online account or by mail) to see if this is a feature available to you.
  • You can purchase your score through www.myfico.com.
  • You can access a free overview of your credit score and reports through providers like www.annualcreditreport.com. You can generally only access this service once a year, but it is the most convenient and financially sound if you don’t receive FICO updates through your credit card company.
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