Your credit score can be used to determine everything from your mortgage rate to your employability. Obviously it’s a good idea to keep your credit score as high as possible. We’re often asked, “How can I calculate my credit score?” Without actually pulling your credit, it’s impossible to know exactly what your score is, but there are some basic principals you can use to guess whether your credit is good, average, or not-so-hot.
Understanding your credit score
Credit scores are represented by a three-digit number, between 300 and 850. A higher number reflects more financial responsibility. Your credit score is calculated by the length of your credit history, how often you make credit card and loan payments on time, and how much debt you carry in relation to your credit limit. Also taken into consideration are the types of credit you hold and the numbers of inquiries on your record.
Is it possible to calculate my credit score without ordering a credit report?
Not exactly, but to get a quick idea of what your credit might be, you can easily evaluate the first three factors listed above.
1. Length of Your Credit History.
How long ago did you get your first credit card? Or your first loan? To get the most out of this factor, the longer ago, the better. If your credit history is less than a year, it will be very difficult to get a major loan, like a mortgage. Less than six months, forget it! You should try to have at least a couple years of credit history under your belt before you endeavor to make any serious obligations.
How do you establish a credit history? Try a secured credit card or store credit card, or convince a parent or sibling to cosign on a small loan.
2. Credit Payment History
Have you missed a credit card or loan payment in the past two years? If you’ve never missed a payment, you’re golden. If it has been several years since you last missed a payment, you’re likely out of the woods. But if you have missed payments within the past two years, your score will likely see the effects from those missed payments. You can be dinged as much as 50 points per missed payment! Even more if the payment goes into 60- and 90-days-late status. That’s why it’s essential to make payments on time.
3. Debt-to-Limit Ratio
What is the balance on your credit cards? If you are using less than 20% of the credit that is available to you, you are doing fine. Over 30% and you begin to hit troubled waters. Near maxed out, then you need to concentrate on your debt right away! Simply paying down all your balances can be one of the quickest ways to get a lift in your credit score.
Want a more accurate gauge of what your credit might be? There are several online tools, like Quizzle, that do a “soft pull” of your credit score. These services will give an approximation of your score and offer many details of your accounts to help you improve.
How can I get my accurate credit score?
You can try to calculate your own score by taking a good guess, but of course nothing beats the real thing.
The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act requires that the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion –give you a free copy of your credit report once a year, but only if you ask! And you should ask!
To make things simple, you can go to AnnualCreditReport.com and order all of your free reports at once to compare, or order from just one bureau. It’s a good idea to do get your free yearly report so you can check to be sure everything is accurate, resolve any negative items, and if nothing else, to ensure your identity has not been compromised.
You might be saying, “How important can it be to calculate my credit score?” Well, it’s important to know as much as you can about your credit score in order to avoid problems down the road. And simply by knowing what factors affect your score, you can be sure that your credit is as high as it can be.