Q How is a person's credit score computed? What's a good score? How do I find out my score?

A Credit scoring is a system creditors use to help determine whether to give you credit and how much to charge you for it.

It's determined by a formula using information about you and your credit experiences: bill-paying history, the number and type of accounts you have, late payments, collection actions, outstanding debt and the age of your accounts.

Creditors compare this information with the credit performance of consumers with similar profiles. A credit-scoring system awards points for each factor. A total number of points -- a credit score -- helps predict how credit-worthy you are.

In other words, how likely it is that you will repay a loan and make the payments on time? Generally, consumers with good credit risks have higher credit scores. They will be extended credit and they'll pay a lower percentage rate.

Credit numbers range from 620 to 850, with the national average at 730. Someone buying a $300,000 house with a 30-year mortgage could save $300 a month if they have a high score rather than a low score, because they'll get a better interest rate.

Don't confuse report and score

It's easier to get a copy of your credit report than your credit score.

By law, you're entitled to one free credit report a year from each of the three national credit bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian (and it's a good idea to check this report yearly). To do this, visit www. AnnualCreditReport.com, phone toll-free 1-877-322-8228 or complete an Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. (You can print the form at ftc.gov/credit.)

A copy of your credit score, however, can cost you money. Often your lender will provide the score when you apply for a loan. Otherwise, go to www.MyFico.com, the agency that provides the scores to the credit bureaus. The charge is $15.95, but the website lets you sign up for a 30-day trial so you can get a free credit score, at least once.

Because they may rely on different data, the three national credit bureaus can have different credit scores for you. Currently, MyFico.com can give you your credit score from Equifax and TransUnion, but not Experian.

Includes formation from Federal Citizen Information Center

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