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Before they decide on the terms of your loan (which they base on their risk), lenders want to discover two things about you: whether you can repay the loan, and how committed you are to pay back the loan. To figure out your ability to repay, lenders assess your debt-to-income ratio. To assess your willingness to repay, they use your credit score.
Fair Isaac and Company formulated the first FICO score to help lenders assess creditworthiness. You can find out more on FICO here.
Your credit score is a result of your history of repayment. They don't consider income or personal characteristics. Fair Isaac invented FICO specifically to exclude demographic factors. Credit scoring was envisioned as a way to consider only that which was relevant to a borrower's willingness to repay the lender.
Past delinquencies, payment behavior, current debt level, length of credit history, types of credit and number of inquiries are all considered in credit scores. Your score considers both positive and negative information in your credit report. Late payments lower your score, but establishing or reestablishing a good track record of making payments on time will improve your score.
To get a credit score, you must have an active credit account with a payment history of at least six months. This history ensures that there is enough information in your credit to calculate a score. Some people don't have a long enough credit history to get a credit score. They may need to spend some time building credit history before they apply for a loan.