Your credit score can mean the difference between being denied or approved for credit, and a low or high interest rate. A good score can help you qualify for an apartment rental and even help you get utilities connected without a deposit.
What is it?
Your credit score is a three-digit number generated by a mathematical algorithm using information in your credit report. It's designed to predict risk, specifically, the likelihood that you will become seriously delinquent on your credit obligations in the 24 months after scoring.
There are a multitude of credit scoring models in existence, but there's one that dominates the market -- the FICO credit score. According to myFICO.com, the consumer website for the FICO score developer, "90 percent of all financial institutions in the U.S. use FICO scores in their decision-making process."
FICO scores range from 300 to 850, where a higher number indicates lower risk. What's a good score?
A consumer has three FICO scores, one for each credit report provided by the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Unfortunately, consumers currently have access to only their Equifax and TransUnion FICO scores. Experian ended its agreement with myFICO.com in 2009.