FICO scores are everywhere now. You should be able to buy them while pumping gas soon. Sometimes I think there is too much emphasis on credit scores unless you are in the market for a loan or trying to refinance debt, but I guess they are used on a lot of things now. I just can’t see myself paying $15/month just to track my FICO score. But with the FICO Score Estimator from myFICO, you can estimate your FICO score for free, which is really all you need, I think. And it’s from the official FICO guys, Fair Isaac. You will need to answer ten questions about your credit history.
The main thing you can get out of this, besides your approximate score, is what actually affects your score. Let’s dissect the 10 questions:
1. How many credit cards do you have? How long ago did you get your first credit card?
The longer your credit card history, the better your score. I don’t think your actual number of credit cards matter much. My score was above 700 when I had one credit card. Now I have more than 10, and it’s still fine.
2. How long ago did you get your first loan?
Again, longer history = better score.
3. How many loans or credit cards have you applied for in the last year?
More applications = lower score.
4. How recently have you opened a new loan or credit card?
More recently = lower score.
5. How many of your loans and/or credit cards currently have a balance?
More cards with balance = lower score.
6. Besides any mortgage loans, what are your total balances on all other loans and credit cards combined?
Higher balances = lower score.
7. When did you last miss a loan or credit card payment? (effect is obvious)
8. How many of your loans and/or credit cards are currently past due? (effect is obvious)
9. What percent of your total credit card limits do your credit card balances represent?
I think is the most important question. It’s not how many credit cards you have, or even your balances necessarily. It’s how much of your balances you are using. If you have $20k of cc debt (like me, at 0% of course), and $100k of credit limit, your score isn’t going to be dented nearly as bad as if you only had a total credit limit of $25k.
10. Please indicate if you have ever gone through any of the following negative financial events in the last 10 years: bankruptcy, tax lien, foreclosure, repossession, or account referred to collection agency. (effect is obvious)
In the end, what was my credit score, even with my young age, $17k of credit card debt and 5 new credit cards in the last year?
Not bad, I think. I bet if I had to buy a house, I’d just pay off my balances and I’d be over 700, which would get me the best mortgage rates.