What is a credit score?

About Your Credit Score

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Before lenders decide to lend you money, they have to know that you're willing and able to pay back that mortgage loan. To assess your ability to pay back the loan, they look at your income and debt ratio. To calculate your willingness to pay back the mortgage loan, they consult your credit score.

Fair Isaac and Company built the original FICO score to assess creditworthiness. We've written more on FICO here.

Credit scores only take into account the information contained in your credit reports. They never take into account your income, savings, down payment amount, or personal factors like gender, ethnicity, nationality or marital status. Fair Isaac invented FICO specifically to exclude demographic factors. Credit scoring was developed as a way to consider solely what was relevant to a borrower's willingness to repay the lender.

Deliquencies, derogatory payment behavior, debt level, length of credit history, types of credit and number of inquiries are all calculated into credit scores. Your score is based on both the good and the bad of your credit history. Late payments will lower your score, but consistently making future payments on time will raise your score.

Your credit report must have at least one account which has been open for six months or more, and at least one account that has been updated in the past six months for you to get a credit score. This payment history ensures that there is sufficient information in your credit to generate an accurate score. Should you not meet the criteria for getting a credit score, you might need to establish a credit history prior to applying for a mortgage loan.