To make things more complicated, the FICO scores you see are not the same ones that lenders see, although they are very similar. All FICO scores are based on a scale ranging from 300 to 850, with a higher number representing a better score. If you want the most accurate idea of what your credit score is, you should look at all three of your FICO scores -- one from each of the three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax).
Several years ago, it was common for companies to advertise “free credit reports” on TV and radio spots. Most of the offers were a bait and switch. Sign up, get a free credit report and score, then see your credit card charged $10-$20 every month after that if you didn’t cancel on time. Thankfully, the Credit Card Act of 2009 changed the way companies are allowed to advertise free credit reports. The Federal Trade Commission now requires credit bureaus and credit monitoring services to market credit reports differently than previously.
Your score is essentially a 3-digit summary of your credit health. A lender or credit card provider who looks at your credit score will be able to determine right away if you’re a borrower who can be trusted to pay back the money they lend you. Credit scores are calculated from the information in your credit report, a file containing all of your credit and financial activity over the months and years. Lenders will want to know you credit report and score to determine your ability to hold a loan.
But what these commercials aren't telling you is that the scores you're seeing aren't the same ones lenders are looking at. This doesn't mean they're worthless, but you have to understand exactly what you're getting so you aren't misled into thinking that your score is much higher or lower than it actually is. Here are the most important things you should know.
We always hear that it’s good to diversify. Your credit is no different. The mix of accounts you have—your student loans, auto loans, mortgages, and revolving credit cards make up 10% of your credit score. Creditors like to see this mix because it shows them you’re capable of handling all types of accounts. Want to see where you’re at? Your free credit report card will show you. See it now »
The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is responsible for encouraging the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of all data that is held by the credit reporting bureaus in the United States. Some of the major rights under the FCRA include you being told when information in your current file is used against you, what data is held in your file, request your credit score, dispute inaccurate or incomplete data, and the reporting agency must correct or delete the data that is not accurate or complete.