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Posts Tagged ‘what is a beacon score’

How Credit Scores are Calculated

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

On every mortgage application, one of the first questions we hear from the lender is: can you send me their credit score. More and more borrowers are becoming aware that the manner in which they have handled their bills, over the past 5 years, has a material impact on their terms and rates on mortgage financing today. Just because a debt that went bad due to a divorce was ultimately paid, the effect can be long lasting, embarassing, and detrimental to future credit applications.

A nice breakdown of how credit scores are calculated came across my desk today and I wanted to post it so that people can see how their score is establisehed (or harmed):

FACTORS                                    WEIGHT          POINTS
Past Payment History               35%                   315
Credit Utilization                        30%                   270
Length of Credit History           15%                   135
Types of Credit in Use              10%                    90

Inquiries                                        10%                   90
TOTAL                                          100%                 900

In Canada we refer to this as your “Beacon Score” but in the USA it is more common to hear it referred to as a “FICO Score”

So, what does this all mean?

Past Payment History: Well, this one is obvious. If you miss a payment, it will show up on your credit and will have a VERY detrimental effect. However, in order to qualify as a “missed” payment, you needn’t be a day or week late. You must be really late. You have be one full payment cycle late before it shows up. So, if your bill is due on the 15th of June, and you forget and don’t pay it until the end of June, it is likely not going to show up on your credit bureau. However, if you miss the June 15th payment, and then miss the next one on July 15th, it absolutely will show up!

Credit Utilization: This the percentage of available credit being used. However, the credit score is calculated by a dumb computer so it doesn’t really do this calculation well. For example, if you owe $450 on a visa with a $500 limit then to the computer that does the scoring, that means you are utilizing 90% of your available credit. This is a very high percentage, and your score will suffer for it. However, if you owe a $450 on a $5,000 visa, it will have a positive effect on your score as the computer will see you are using less than 10% of available credit (even though the amount owing is the same). So, how you allocate your debt is important. It is far better to spread it out over several accounts, than load up one card. Then again, if you pay it off every month in full, you never have to worry about this.

Length of Credit History: The longest that an item remains on your credit is 72 months or 6 years. Each “Trade Line” or account reports the number of months reporting, and the longer the better. This can be important because people may have a Sears card they forget about that has 72 months reporting of good usage (even though they never ues it) and they always say, “should I cancel it?” I wouldn’t. That long lasting, but still current, account has a very positive impact on your score that can help mitigate other areas you may not score as well on.

Types of Credit in Use: Certain types of credit are worse than others. For example, finance companies (Wells Fargo, Citibank, etc…) score low, whereas visa cards and revolving credit facilities score high. Also, the number of recently opened accounts has an impact.

Inquires: This is the most misunderstood portion of the bureau, but one that people guard jealously. The more “inquiries” (companies looking at your credit score) the lower your score. However, you can see this accounts for only 10% of the score. Also, the folks operating the credit bureau don’t want to hamper you from shopping around, so all applications done within a 7 day period (for a similar type of account – mortgage versus finance company, for example) count as 1. More will show up, but the impact on your score is minimal. Also, you are allowed to have inquiries! Just because an inquiry was on there, doesn’t mean your score is low. However, if you apply at TD for a visa, RBC for a loan, a finance company for a secured card, and then Hydro pulls your bureau as well, you can expect it to drop. How much? Even then, it might be a few points. If you score well in other areas, you shouldn’t even be given this a thought. However, if you are re-building your score, you should monitor this carefully.

SCORES AND INTERPRETATION:

Minimum = 300
(Lowest I’ve ever seen is 393)

Maximum = 900
(Highest I’ve ever seen is 826)

Average = 660
(More likely 660-680)

A good score = 680+

A great score = 700+

So that should give you a good primer on what scores mean, how it is calculated, and what you can do to preserve yours.

Your credit is like your reputation: it takes years to build, and only a couple stupid moves to tear it all down…