In the 'before time' if you had a pulse you could get credit. Those easy times are long gone and bankers seem to have dusted off their old credit analysis textbooks and are taking risk analysis a little more seriously. One's credit score (FICO) has always seemed to be shrouded in mystery and until recently it was somewhat difficult to find out your credit score.
For a good primer on your credit score I suggest you read this article by the Wall Street Journal (September 9, 2009)
Recently several paid services have popped up which will provide your credit score as well as report on any discrepancies in your credit. Why pay for it when you can get it all for free?
A few years ago congress mandated all three credit reporting agencies provide you one free credit report a year. You can get this free annual credit report at annualcreditreport.com All three credit reporting agencies make you go through several hoops in order to get the free report, and don't be suckered into paying for your credit score or a credit analysis. (Transunion requires you set up an account with them. It's free but annoying.) Eventually you'll get a copy of your credit report. I run mine every couple of years just to make sure everything is correct and have discovered discrepancies once or twice that I was able to resolve without too much pain or suffering.
Finding your credit score is a bit easier. Go to creditkarma.com and sign up. Creditkarma intends to make money pitching you various credit card and loan offers based upon your credit information. Creditkarma provides a very readable estimate of your credit score and breaks down how your credit behaviour affects your score. The credit score provided by Creditkarma is from just one of the 3 credit reporting agencies so it is not perfect, but it will be close.
In a later blog entry I'll go through each credit factor and how you can over time improve your score.