Very few people have a perfect credit score of 850 or a rock-bottom score of 300. So you might be asking, “What exactly is a good credit score, anyway?”
Read on for a crash course in credit scores, along with some tips on what you can do to boost your numbers.
Good Scores by Credit Bureau
Your credit score is a three-digit number that expresses how consistently you pay back debt. Your credit score is based on information collected through the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.
Credit bureaus are agencies that collect, update and store credit information on your credit history. Creditors like credit card companies, banks and lenders report your credit activity to the three bureaus, which keep a record of how you borrow money. The items on your credit report contribute to your credit score calculation.
Every credit reporting bureau has its own method of calculating your credit score, so you might find a different credit score on each of your reports.
As a general rule, a “good” credit score is anything above 670, and the average score is around 704. However, each lender and bureau’s definition of a “good” score varies slightly.
Understanding Your FICO Credit Score
Have you ever heard of the term “FICO score?” If not, no worries — we’ll demystify it here. The Fair Isaac Company (FICO) isn’t a credit reporting bureau.
Instead, it’s the largest and most well-known of several companies that use your credit data to assign you a credit score. FICO credit scores are used in over 90% of lending decisions in the United States. FICO scores range from 300 to 850 points.
Factors Used to Calculate Your FICO Score
To calculate your score, FICO analyzes several factors related to how you use credit.
Do you pay your bills on time? Or do you often miss your minimums? Your payment history is the most important factor when it comes to calculating your FICO score. Your payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO credit score.
The term “credit utilization” refers to how often you use the credit that lenders extend to you. It’s based on the amount spent against your credit limit.
If you max out your cards every month, you have a high utilization rate. People with the best credit scores have credit utilization rates of less than 10%. Your credit utilization accounts for 30% of your FICO score.
Length of Credit History
The length of your credit history refers to how long each line of credit you have has been open. The longer your credit history, the more of a reliable borrower you are. Length of credit history accounts for 15% of your FICO score.
Your recent activity includes anything you’ve done on your credit report in the last three to six months. From applying for new lines of credit to paying off accounts, credit score calculators put more weight on your most recent credit activity. Your recent activity makes up about 10% of your FICO score.
Your credit mix refers to the types of credit that you have available on your report. From installment loans to credit cards, lenders like to see multiple types of credit available. Your credit mix makes up about 10% of your FICO score.
Understanding Your VantageScore Credit Score
VantageScore is FICO’s main competitor. The VantageScore model is the product of a partnership between the three major credit reporting bureaus which we’ll explain in more detail below. VantageScore ranges between 300 and 850.
Factors Used to Calculate Your VantageScore
Like FICO, VantageScore takes a few of your personal factors into consideration, though in slightly different ways.
Like the FICO model, your payment history is the most important factor that influences your credit score. Your payment history makes up 40% of your VantageScore credit score.
Age and Type of Credit
The VantageScore model puts more weight on the length of your accounts and the mix of credit types you have available. Age and type of credit influence 21% of your VantageScore credit score.
The VantageScore model places less importance on your credit utilization than your FICO score. Credit utilization makes up just 20% of your VantageScore credit score.
The VantageScore model takes into account how much you owe across your accounts. Your total balances make up 11% of your VantageScore credit score.
Like your FICO score, your VantageScore puts additional importance on your recent credit behavior. Your recent behavior makes up 5% of your VantageScore credit score.
How much credit do you currently have available? Your current available credit makes up about 3% of your VantageScore credit score.
Understanding the Three Major Credit Reporting Agencies
To get a better understanding of VantageScore, let’s take a look at the three reporting agencies that came together to create it.
Equifax is a credit reporting bureau that issues credit reports and scores. Your Equifax score comes from the items on your Equifax credit report. Equifax uses the FICO scoring model, so its scores range from over 800 (exceptional) to less than 580 (poor):
- Poor: Less than 580 points. If you have a poor credit score, you’re well below the national average. A poor credit score tells lenders that you’re a riskier borrower.
- Fair: Between 580 and 669 points. A fair credit score is below average. Many lenders will approve loans with a fair score, but you might have to pay higher interest rates.
- Good: Between 670 and 739. Most people have a credit score that falls in the “good” range. You can usually expect access to good interest rates and more loan options.
- Very good: Between 740 and 799. Scores in the “very good” range are above the national average. A very good credit score tells lenders that you’re a reliable borrower. You can usually expect access to better interest rates and more loan options.
- Exceptional: Over 800. “Exceptional” scores tell banks and other lenders that you’re an ideal borrower. If you have an exceptional credit score, you’ll have access to some of the best rates available and it’ll be easy for you to get a loan.
Your Equifax credit score might be different than your Experian or TransUnion score because the latter bureaus use the VantageScore model.
Experian is a credit reporting bureau that issues credit reports and scores. Your Experian credit score reflects the information on your Experian credit report. Experian uses the VantageScore model, and score tiers are as follows:
- Very poor: Between 300 and 499. If you have a credit score in the “very poor” range, you’re unlikely to be approved for a loan or credit line. Only 5% of people fall into the “very poor” category.
- Poor: Between 500 and 600. If you have a credit score in the “poor” range, you might find some success when you apply for loans. However, you might have higher interest rates or require a larger down payment.
- Fair: Between 601 and 660. If you have a credit score in the “fair” range, you’ll probably be approved for many loans. However, you won’t have access to the best rates or terms.
- Good: Between 661 and 780. About 38% of consumers fall into the “good” credit score range. If you have a good credit score, you’ll be approved for most loans at competitive rates.
- Excellent: 781 and above. If you have a credit score in the “excellent” range, you’ll have access to the most loan options and the lowest interest rates.
TransUnion is a credit reporting bureau that uses the VantageScore model. TransUnion scores are unique because instead of using a “very poor to excellent” scale, it assigns scores based on an F to A grading system. TransUnion’s VantageScore ranges are as follows:
- F: Between 300 and 600.
- D: Between 601 and 657.
- C: Between 658 and 719.
- B: Between 720 and 780.
- A: Between 781 and 850.
How to Compare and Boost Your Credit Score
It’s a good idea to know all of your credit scores and compare them. Knowing all of your scores will help you create the best plan possible to raise your score.
Step 1: Determine Your Goals
Why do you want to raise your credit score? Do you want to buy a home or just get approved for a new credit card? Determine your goals and consult with banks or lenders like MoneyLion to learn more about specific credit requirements.
Step 2: Monitor Your Score
Did you know that you don’t need to subscribe to an expensive service or pay money to access your credit score? It’s true!
MoneyLion’s app offers credit monitoring to members. You can monitor your credit score, payment history, age of credit, credit utilization rate, credit inquiries, loans, debt and more. It also charts out your history of credit score changes as well and gives you a “credit simulator” feature so you can test out how actions (such as opening a new credit card, paying off debt or taking a new loan) might affect your credit score.
Step 3: Review Your Credit Report
Your credit reports include information on your credit history. Credit accounts, missed payments, current loans you have open, inquiries and bankruptcies will all appear on your credit reports. Not every creditor reports to all three credit bureaus, so each of your credit reports may be a bit different.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles you to one free pull of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus once every 12 months. You can get your free reports by visiting https://www.annualcreditreport.com/. You can also purchase a full credit report from TransUnion and Equifax through MoneyLion.
Step 4: Compare Your Scores
Take a look at all of your credit reports and compare them.
Did you know that about 20% of Americans have an error on their credit report, which can lower your score? For example, certain information could be missing from your report or a creditor might report someone else’s credit history (in other words, another person’s delinquent mortgage payments could be mixed with yours because he/she has the same name as you).
MoneyLion can help you get access to your report. If you do find an error, report it as soon as possible.
Step 5: Make a Game Plan
Go ahead and move toward your financial goals if your credit scores look good. But if your scores are low, it’s a smart idea to take some steps to improve your credit before you apply for a mortgage or a new credit card.
Some steps you can take to boost your score include:
- Take out another line of credit. You might assume that when you’re trying to raise your score, you shouldn’t apply for any new lines of credit. However, increasing your overall credit line can actually lower your utilization, increasing your score. MoneyLion offers credit builder loans that can potentially help you raise your score over time, and you don’t need good credit to borrow.
- Resolve discrepancies. From reporting paid off loans as open to bankruptcies that aren’t yours, errors can pop up on your credit report. Report any errors to the credit reporting bureau.
- Pay down debt. Making regular payments on your loans shows that you’re a responsible borrower. Pay down your debt and watch your credit score rise!
- Make on-time payments. Making on-time payments on your loans and credit cards is the most important factor that plays into your credit score. Having trouble dealing with multiple monthly expenses? Sign up for automatic bill pay to have your minimum payments withdrawn when they’re due.
- Monitor your credit. Keep track of your score over time to see the progress you’re making — and catch identity theft early. If you have an account with MoneyLion, you can take advantage of MoneyLion’s credit-monitoring and credit-building features.
Move Toward a Great Credit Score
Your credit score plays a major role in getting a loan, being approved for a mortgage and pursuing your dreams. Know you want to raise your credit score? Check out MoneyLion Credit Builder Plus program and tips on boosting your score.
Create an account with MoneyLion today and get started on the path to a healthier credit score.