Understanding Your Credit Score

Before lending you money, mortgage lenders and banks need to determine how likely you are to pay it back.  One way to do that is by examining your past use of credit, which is recorded on your credit report.

What goes on your credit report?

Each credit reporting agency may report information differently, all credit reports contain the following:

  • Identifying information.  This includes your name, address, date of birth, and social security number.
  • Credit accounts. Your report lists information on each of your accounts, including the account type, date it was opened, credit limit, balance, and payment history.
  • Inquiries.  When a lender requests your credit report, either to process an application you submitted or to qualify you for pre-approved offers, the inquiry is recorded.  When you request your own report, however, the inquiry is not listed.    
  • Public records.  These include information on bankruptcies, foreclosures, and any other liens.

What your credit score means

Credit scoring translates the information on your credit report into a numeric score, which makes it easier for a lender to evaluate your credit.  Scores generally range from 300 to 900, with a higher score indicating a greater likelihood that you will make payments on time. 

What affects your score
Credit scores are developed by comparing credit reports from millions of consumers over time, and identifying factors that tend to predict how well people manage credit later on.  Those factors include:

  • Payment history.  Whether you’ve made payments on time in the past is used to predict how likely you are to pay in the future.
  • Outstanding balances.  Being over-extended on your credit accounts tends to lower your score.
  • Length of your credit history.  Credit scores reflect payment patterns over time, so having a longer history gives lenders a more reliable picture of your credit.
  • Types of credit in use.  Having a diverse mix of account types usually has a positive affect on your score.
  • New credit.  A series of requests for new credit may suggest to lenders that you are looking to take on new debt.  Because people tend to shop around for mortgages and other loans, all credit applications within a 14-day period are counted as a single request.

Credit scores are considered unbiased because they are based only on your past credit history.  Your score cannot be based on race, religion, national origin, age, sex, marital status, or income.