FICO is the most widely used credit score of choice for most lenders today and is used when applying for credit for major purchases, like a home, automobile, or attempting to refinance or restructure existing loans for more favorable interest rates.
Credit Score Components
Your FICO credit score includes multiple components that make up your credit history. These components include:
- Payment history. Your history of payments for utility bills, student loans, credit cards, and other bills that report to major credit reporting agencies.
- Credit utilization. That is the total amount of debt you owe on all your credit balances compared to the amount of credit available to you. Your goal should be to keep your balances low on credit cards whenever possible.
- Years of credit. Older accounts carry more weight, from a credit perspective than newer accounts.
- New credit. When you apply for new credit, the lender checks your credit history before issuing an approval. This credit check may cause your score to dip a little.
- Types of credit. That includes things like credit cards, student loans, auto loans, or mortgages. Lenders like to see a healthy mix of installment loans and revolving credit.
Higher FICO scores translate to potentially lower interest rates for you. These components determine your credit score.
Credit Reporting Services
The good news is that there are services available that provide credit reports. Many of them offer services for free. Be aware that many of them might not be offering true FICO scores, but rather a scoring approach unique to them.
A best practice is to always be aware of what is on your credit report. Access free copies of your credit reports each year from TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian by going to annualcreditreport.com.
Credit Card Company Offers
With the availability of alternative credit scoring services, many lenders that offer credit cards, or banks and credit unions, have begun to provide their customers with free credit score tracking services. It's important to note that these scores might not be the FICO branded scores, which is what most lenders utilize for approval.
Keeping up with your credit reports and FICO score can be easy, but it takes the right tools.