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What are the 'Five Cs Of Credit'

The five C's of credit is a system used by lenders to gauge the creditworthiness of potential borrowers. The system weighs five characteristics of the borrower and conditions of the loan, attempting to estimate the chance of default. The five C's of credit are character, capacity, capital, collateral and conditions.

BREAKING DOWN 'Five Cs Of Credit'

This method of evaluating a borrower incorporates both qualitative and quantitative measures. Lenders look at a borrower's credit reports, credit score, income statements and other documents relevant to the borrower's financial situation, and they also consider information about the loan itself.

Character

Sometimes called credit history, the first C refers to a borrower's reputation or track record for repaying debts. This information appears on the borrower's credit reports. Generated by the three major credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion and Equifax – credit reports contain detailed information about how much an applicant has borrowed in the past and whether he has repaid his loans on time. These reports also contain information on collection accounts, judgments, liens and bankruptcies, and they retain most information for seven years. The Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) uses this information to create a credit score, a tool lenders use to get a quick snapshot of creditworthiness before looking at credit reports.

Capacity

Capacity measures a borrower's ability to repay a loan by comparing income against recurring debts and assessing the borrower's debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. In addition to examining income, lenders look at the length of time an applicant has been at his job and job stability.

Capital

Lenders also consider any capital the borrower puts toward a potential investment. A large contribution by the borrower decreases the chance of default. For example, borrowers who have a down payment for a home typically find it easier to get a mortgage. Even special mortgages designed to make homeownership accessible to more people, such as loans guaranteed by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and the Veterans Administration (VA), require borrowers to put between 2 and 3.5% down on their homes. Down payments indicate the borrower's level of seriousness, which can make lenders more comfortable in extending credit.

Collateral

Collateral can help a borrower secure loans. It gives the lender the assurance that if the borrower defaults on the loan, the lender can repossess the collateral. For example, car loans are secured by cars, and mortgages are secured by homes.

Conditions

The conditions of the loan, such as its interest rate and amount of principal, influence the lender's desire to finance the borrower. Conditions refer to how a borrower intends to use the money. For example, if a borrower applies for a car loan or a home improvement loan, a lender may be more likely to approve those loans because of their specific purpose, rather than a signature loan that could be used for anything.

For more on the five C's, find out why banks use the five C's of credit to determine a borrower's creditworthiness.

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