What's Your FICO Score?

The world of credit scores can get confusing in a hurry. That’s because there are many different “credit scores” that are used. But most major credit card issuers use some form of the FICO credit score.

If you don’t know what your FICO score is, you can get your FICO Standard credit score at myFICO.com. You get to choose which credit bureau. The cost is $19.95 for one score and you can get it instantly online.

Have you ordered any of your free annual credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com? You get a free report from each of the three major credit bureaus every 12 months.

When you request a report, you’ll be given the opportunity to order your FICO score at a reduced rate. So if you still need to get a report from one of the bureaus, this is a good time to order your score.

Check your mail to estimate your credit standing

Now, another way to estimate your credit standing, is to look at your mail. Are you getting credit card offers for the top cards? Banks pre-screen consumers so they know who to target for their cards. Now, if you’re getting offers that say you’re pre-approved, this doesn’t mean your already approved.

It just means that the bank thinks you have what it takes to qualify. And this method is totally free.

What's an excellent score?

If you don’t have a FICO score that’s excellent, say around 720-plus, you may have trouble getting approved for the best offers. By the best offers, I mean credit cards with at least a 12-month zero percent introductory APR and a decent “go-to” rate. By go-to rate, I mean the ongoing interest rate you’ll get when the intro period ends.

A score below 720, though, doesn’t mean you can’t qualify for any offers, especially if your score is above 700 and you don’t have any black marks on your credit report. Credit card issuers do look at factors other than your score.

What's your score?
Ways to boost your credit score

So what if you’re on the bubble between good and excellent credit? If you can take at least six months to work on your credit score, there are a few things to try.

  • Pay down all credit card balances as much as you can to lower your credit card utilization ratio (the amount of credit used compared to the amount of available credit).
  • Pay all of your bills on time, not just credit card bills.
  • Don’t close any credit card accounts and don’t open new ones.
  • Check your annual credit reports to see if there are any errors.

Trying to improve your score is unpredictable. It also takes time and patience to see your score improve. But these steps are worth trying if you’re close to qualifying for a balance transfer card with excellent terms.

Your FICO score is just a snapshot of your credit

IKeep in mind that FICO scores fluctuate daily. So when you get your score, think of it as a snapshot in time. It’s not possible to pinpoint what your exact score will be when a bank looks at your application, but you’ll know if have excellent credit or if you need to work on it.