If you’re looking to take out an auto loan or buy your first home, then you’ve likely heard the term “credit score” being thrown around. Your credit score is a number that evaluates how likely you are to pay your loan on time.
But if you’re just starting to build your credit, what is the credit score range? And what is considered a good credit score? Those are the topics this article will discuss.
What is a Credit Score?
Your credit score is a number that predicts how likely you are to repay a loan. This number ranges between 300 and 850, and companies calculate your credit score by using information from your credit reports.
When a lender does a credit check, they use your credit score to determine whether or not to approve you for a loan. Your credit score also influences the interest rate you receive and your credit limit.
Why Is My Credit Score Important?
Your credit score matters because it will determine whether or not you get approved for a loan and the types of rates you receive. Receiving a lower rate can save you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.
Your credit score can also affect whether or not you’re approved to rent an apartment. In addition, a good credit score could help you qualify for lower insurance premiums. And employers can even use your credit score to decide whether or not to hire you.
Of course, other factors influence these types of financial decisions. For instance, most lenders will also consider your annual income, employment history, and debt-to-income ratio. But your credit score will always play a role in major financial decisions.
The Credit Scoring Models
There are different credit scoring models, and some lenders even use their own custom scoring models. But FICO and VantageScore are the most commonly used scoring models.
The FICO Score was created by the Fair Isaac Corporation, with scores ranging from 300 to 850. FICO scores are used by 90% of lenders, making them the most widely used credit scoring model.
Borrowers with a high FICO score typically have excellent payment history, keep their credit card balances low, and have a healthy mix of credit accounts. If you routinely pay your bills late or max out your credit cards, these factors will contribute to a lower FICO score.
The VantageScore was created by the three major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Like your FICO score, a VantageScore is used to predict how likely you are to repay a loan.
Although not as common as FICO, your VantageScore is used by some lenders to evaluate creditworthiness. In the past, VantageScore used a different scale than FICO. But it’s since been updated to use a scoring range of 300 to 850.
Fortuna Credit goes beyond a traditional credit score by using more current and relevant data. If you’re ever looking for a loan, Fortuna Credit provides lenders with more information so you may have better rates and more options even if your credit score isn’t great.
What Factors Affect Your Credit Score?
Several different factors determine your credit score. Knowing what these factors are will give you the information you need to either improve your credit or maintain a good score.
Each scoring model is slightly different in its approach, but most agree that these five factors are important.
Your payment history looks at whether or not you pay your bills on time. This accounts for 35% of your FICO score, and while VantageScore doesn’t use percentages, it says payment history is a “moderately influential” factor.
So if your credit score is lower than you would like, the best place to start is by paying your bills on time every month. If you wait longer than 30 days to pay your bills, this will negatively impact your score.
This section looks at how much of your available credit you’ve used, which is known as your credit utilization ratio. This accounts for 30% of your FICO score and is “highly influential” in determining your VantageScore.
In general, it’s a good idea to keep your credit utilization ratio below 30%. For instance, if you have $10,000 in available credit and have spent $4,000, you have a ratio of 40%. Also, work on paying down high-balance accounts, and this will help improve your score.
Length of Credit History
This category looks at how long you’ve had different types of credit accounts open. It accounts for 15% of your FICO score, and VantageScore labels it “less influential.”
Lenders like to see that you have a long history of good credit. So someone who has spent the last decade building their credit will likely have a higher score than someone who just opened their first credit card last year.
Obviously, there is only so much you can do about the length of your credit history. But you can help improve your score by not closing old accounts. You may also consider becoming an authorized user for someone who has a longer credit history than you.
Credit mix looks at how many different types of credit accounts you have open. Lenders like to see that you’ve had a healthy mix of different lending products. This accounts for 10% of your FICO score, and VantageScore considers it “highly influential.”
To improve your score, try to have a combination of installment accounts. For instance, taking out an auto loan, personal loan, and credit card will look better than if you just have three credit cards.
And finally, if you’ve applied for any new credit accounts lately, this will affect your credit score. This is because new credit accounts for 10% of your FICO score and is “less influential” in determining your VantageScore.
Applying for a loan or credit card won’t necessarily hurt you, but you don’t want to apply too often. If you’re frequently opening new credit cards, this could indicate that you’re overextended financially.
What Credit Score Should I Have?
Given the wide range of credit scores and scoring models, what type of credit score should you aspire to have? To give you some context, the average credit score in the U.S. is 711.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), anything above 660 is considered a prime credit score. It’s not perfect, but it’s high enough to qualify for relatively good interest rates.
Anything above 720 is considered super-prime, which means you’ll qualify for the best rates. So while it’s not necessary to achieve a score over 800, it is a good idea to aim for a score over 720. This will allow you to qualify for the best rates and terms on lending products.
How to Track Your Credit Score
Your credit score will go up and down depending on what’s going on in your financial life, so maintaining a good score is an ongoing process. If you don’t know what your credit score is then the first place to start is at FortunaCredit.com. Once you sign up you’ll have access to view your credit score and track how it changes over time. Fortuna Credit also provides your credit report from Experian but once a year you can request a free copy of your full report from all three bureaus once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Once you get your reports, you should review them closely for errors. If you spot any errors, you can contact the credit bureaus in writing to alert them to the mistake.
Going forward, it’s a good idea to sign up for a credit monitoring service. Fortuna Credit offers this for free and will alert you to any sudden changes in your credit score. Plus, you’ll be notified sooner if you’ve been a victim of fraud.
How to Raise Your Credit Score
Here are steps you can begin taking to raise your credit score:
- Start paying your bills on time every month — late payments indicate that you’re a possible credit risk
- Pay down outstanding credit card balances to lower your credit utilization ratio
- Consider becoming an authorized user on another person’s account
The Bottom Line
Your credit score is a number that helps lenders determine whether or not to give you a loan. If you have bad credit, it is possible to take out a loan or credit card, but you may end up with a higher interest rate.
If you’re new to learning about credit, the first place to start is to find out what your credit score is. You can do that by creating a free profile on ForutnaCredit.com. If your credit score is low, there are steps you can take to start improving it.
The best place to start is by paying your bills on time and lowering your credit utilization ratio. Aim to get your credit score above 720, so you can qualify for the best rates and terms.
*Any opinions expressed are those of Fortuna Credit and have not been reviewed or approved by any of our partners.