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How to Find True FICO Scores

    • 1). Know the FICO range. It is 350 to 850; the higher the number, the better your ability to get credit and a good interest rate. To improve your score, pay your bills on time, keep your balances low and only apply for new credit when necessary. If you have bad credit, you can re-establish your credit history by opening new accounts and paying them on time.

    • 2). Learn the four categories of your credit report. "Identifying Information" is your name, address Social Security number, birth date and employment information. (This information does not affect your credit score.) "Trade Lines" are your credit accounts. Your lenders report to the credit agencies the type of accounts you have, the date you opened them, your credit limit or loan amount, the balance and your payment history. "Credit Inquiries" are when you apply for credit. This section is a list of everyone who accessed your credit file within the last two years. "Public Record and Collection Items" are from court records concerning overdue debt, bankruptcies, foreclosures, lawsuits, wage attachments, liens and judgments.

    • 3). Know the five-category formula FICO uses to come up with your score. "Payment History" is the most important section of your credit rating and accounts for 35 percent of your score. This section lets the lender know if you pay back the money you borrow on time, if you are consistently late or if you skip payments altogether. "Amounts Owed" accounts for 30 percent of your score. This information is how much money you owe, on how many different accounts and if you are maxed out or not. "Length of Credit History" is 15 percent of your score and tells how long you have had the accounts. "New Credit" is 10 percent. Here, the credit issuer can see how much new credit you are opening. "Types of Credit Used" is also 10 percent and shows what kind of credit you have such as credit cards, installment loans or a mortgage.

    • 4). Understand the importance of credit inquiries. Whenever you apply for credit, an inquiry is made to the credit reporting agencies. The inquiries that count for your score are your applications for new credit. Rate-shopping for a single loan does not count against you as opening a multitude of new accounts in a short time period does.

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