The just-passed mortgage reform bill contains a little-publicized provision that could make a big difference to those people with bad credit. In the future, if you get turned down for a loan of offered one with worse terms than you applied for, you get a credit report and your credit score. That's a bigger deal than it appears. Here's why.

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If you applied for a Fannie Mae loan advertised at 5% and costing one point, and the lender tells you that you only qualify for 5% if you pay 3 points because of your credit, you get your credit report and the score. Why is that such a big deal? Because credit scores drive your mortgage approval and how you are charged more than they ever did in the past. Two or three years ago, the person with a 620 credit score paid pretty much the same for a Fannie Mae mortgage as the person with a 700 credit score.

But today, a one-point increase in your FICO could mean paying thousands more for your loan, thanks to new pricing structures. So one tiny mistake on your credit history could make a huge difference in what you pay; therefore you have a right to see the history and score that has hurt you.

Getting your credit score today, even if you have bad credit, is a start to improving it. And it can be motivating. For example, if all you know is that you were turned down because of your credit history, that's not terribly useful. But if you know that your score was 619 and you needed 620, that's pretty heartening. Make a few more on-time payments, or make an extra payment to reduce the balance on an account, or just put a little more time between your mortgage application and an old collection, and voila! You're approvable for your next refinance. You can also use your score to determine if it might be better to put off refinancing for a few months. Again, if you're just a few points away from being able to save a couple of thousand dollars on your mortgage fees, it may be worth waiting until your score has improved by 15 points.

Take a look at Fannie Mae's Loan Level Pricing Adjustment matrix. Find your loan-to-value and your credit score and see what it will cost you in surcharges. Then see how much you could save by improving your score a few points. For example, the surcharge on a borrower with a 75% mortgage and a 679 credit score is 2.25%. But if her score were to increase one single point to 680, the charge drops 1.25% to 1%. On a $300,000 mortgage, that's a difference of $3,750! Probably worth waiting a couple of months to get that extra point.

If you have bad credit, perfection may be a long way off. But improvement and savings may be right around the corner.