You want to finance a car? Check your credit score. Want a mortgage? Check your credit score. Want your credit score? There's an app for that, turns out.
FICO, which developed the industry-standard credit-risk score, has introduced the myFICO App, available from the Apple App Store. It gives iPhone and iPod touch users a free tool to get an estimate of their credit scores. Needless to say, along with the estimate -- which is obtained through a series of questions asked by the "FICO Score Estimator" -- users have access to the site's fee-based scoring products as well. It's likely users will tap into that, as the free tool does not zero in on your specific credit score -- it gives you a range -- which could make the difference between getting financing for that Infiniti G37 Coupe or not.
If you haven't bought anything on credit for a while, it's important to know what exactly a FICO score is. FICO stands for Fair Isaac Corporation, the California-based company that developed the credit score. The score itself places a value on all sorts of accounts you hold, and includes your credit history. Don't ask for the formula it came up with -- it's top secret. Credit scores run from 300 to 850. Most people's scores fall between 600 and 800. The higher the score, the easier to get a loan, and the better the interest rate.
The most important factors FICO relies on are: your payment history, the amount of outstanding debt you have compared with your credit limit, your credit history, which types of credit you use, and credit-report inquiries. The issue that carries the most weight -- 35% of your score -- is how you've paid your bills, especially most recently. If you have a lot of late payments, your score goes down, big-time. Also important is the amount of money you owe -- all of your debt -- and how much credit you have available.
Your FICO score actually is a combination of three scores; they are derived from the reports of three credit bureaus -- TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. Best to get an accurate credit check before heading to a car dealership or mortgage lender, as the reports sometimes contain errors, which you'll want to clear up before the loan company runs its own check.
Is the myFiCO App worth downloading?
"Definitely," says Andrew Kaufman, 31, content manager of CarsDirect, an online resource for new- and used-car buying and finance, based in El Segundo, Calif. "It's quick, it's easy to use, it's mobile. It brought me peace of mind to find out the range of my credit score." Which, it turns out, was excellent.
Now maybe he can finance that car he's been eying.
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