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credit & debt

Lenders and Your Credit Score

Credit scores come in several versions, so it's important to check all of them before applying for a loan.

When you ask for your credit report, you can also get your credit score, but the scores can be significantly different from each other. Which score do lenders accept when it comes to borrowing money for a house? Do they take the highest score, or do they get an average?

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There are several versions of your credit score. FICO scores (developed by Fair Isaac Company) are the most common, but even FICO scores have several variations. You'll have a separate FICO score based on your credit record from each of the three bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion). Mortgage lenders usually get all three scores and use the middle one.

But other lenders may look at only one version of your score, which is why it's essential to check your credit report at all three bureaus to make sure there aren't any errors. You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the bureaus every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com.

When you're ordering your credit report, you'll also be given the chance to buy your credit score (your score isn't included for free with your credit report). And these scores are often different from your FICO score. Experian and TransUnion offer their own versions of credit scores. These scores aren't as popular with mortgage companies, but they can still help you learn about how your credit record stacks up. The credit bureaus generally provide detailed analyses showing you how your score compares with the rest of the population and how you can take to improve it, which is more important than focusing on the specific number.

You can buy your FICO score through Equifax (which you can buy either through Equifax.com or if you order your free Equifax credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com). Or you can get your FICO scores based on your three credit reports at MyFico.com. When buying your credit score through any company, be very careful not to sign up for extra services you might not need, such as credit monitoring with a monthly fee, which isn't always obvious until you read the disclosures. It generally costs from $7 to $16 to order your credit score, depending on how you get it (it's usually cheapest when you buy it along with your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com).

See Demystifying Your Credit Score for more information about your credit report and score.

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