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The average credit score in the US as of February 2023 is 698, according to Equifax. You can see your credit score on select credit card or loan statements, through a nonprofit counselor or with a credit score service — though not all options are free.
What is a credit score?
Your credit score is a three-digit number between 300 and 850 that represents your credit history, including your payments and defaults. Lenders use your credit score to predict how likely you are to repay a loan on time.
The higher your credit score, the better your odds of approval for financial products with low interest rates and flexible terms. It can also determine how much you’ll pay for car insurance and rent.
The “big three” credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — calculate your credit score based on proprietary algorithms criteria that weigh factors of your credit history.
What is a good credit score?
A credit score of 670 or higher is considered “good” generally. Some 67% of Americans have a good credit score, according to Experian. Most lenders are far more likely to approve those with good credit scores for loans and offer better terms and rates.
Scoring systems vary depending on which platform provides your score. However, they’re similar in that the higher the credit score, the better your chances are of being approved for a low-rate loan.
Borrows with good credit or higher are typically delinquent on payments less than 5% of the time. This gives lenders the confidence that loans extended to borrowers with good credit will be paid back on time.
A credit score of 740 or higher is considered an excellent score. Consumers in this range are the easiest for lenders to approve and typically receive the best interest rates.
Credit score ranges
There’s more than one model for calculating credit scores, and lenders and bureaus weigh the information in your credit history differently. However, they’ve widely adopted two scores: your FICO Score and your VantageScore.
Both scoring systems weigh the same factors when determining your credit score, including how long you’ve had credit, your payment history, your credit utilization rate and how many loan products or other types of credit you carry. However, lenders use FICO Scores in 90% of credit decisions, which makes it a good barometer for how potential lenders might see you when determining approval.
|Credit rating||How a lender sees your credit score||FICO Score||VantageScore|
|Very good||You’re more likely than the average American to maintain healthy credit, and it’s unlikely you’ll incur an adverse event in the next 12 months.||740+||720+|
|Good||You’re less likely to declare bankruptcy, miss a payment on a debt or have a judgment against you, indicating less likelihood of a default.||670–739||658–719|
|Fair||You’re likely to incur an adverse event such as a default, bankruptcy or something similar in the next year.||580–669||601–657|
|Poor||You’re highly likely to have adverse events listed on your credit report within the coming year, including court judgments, bankruptcies, insolvency or defaults.||579 or lower||600 or lower|
How to understand your score
Several factors affect your overall credit score. The three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — all have their own models for calculating your score, which can result in slightly different scores from each.
Here’s a list of credit score ranges for the scoring models you may come across.
- FICO Score: 300–850
- VantageScore 3.0: 300–850
- Experian: 300–850
- Equifax: 280–850
- TransUnion: 300–850
- Experian PLUS score: 330–830
Some aspects of your credit score aren’t completely within your control. For example, if you recently turned 18, new to the country or new to credit, there’s little you can do to add to the length of your credit history. Also, your credit score doesn’t consider your income, employment status, marital status or place of residence.
How your score is calculated
If you’re trying to maintain or improve your score, you should know what piece of the pie these five factors account for when calculating your score:
- Payment history (35%)
- Credit card balances (30%)
- Credit history length (15%)
- Types of credit (10%)
- Credit inquiries (10%)
The 3 major credit bureaus
A credit bureau is an agency that collects and files information about your credit history into a report. The three main credit bureaus in the US are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
These bureaus don’t make lending decisions when you apply for credit. They simply provide your credit history to the lender.
- Equifax. Founded in 1899, Equifax operates in 24 countries and monitors information on more than 800 million people and 88 million businesses worldwide. It also offers products such as credit monitoring, fraud prevention and identity theft protection.
- TransUnion. With reports on nearly 200 million consumers in the US alone, TransUnion monitors nearly every credit-active individual in the country. It also offers a range of credit and fraud-protection products to consumers and businesses.
- Experian. This bureau monitors more than 1 billion individuals worldwide as well as 25 million businesses in the US. Some of its products include lost wallet assistance and family identity theft, which protects children’s Social Security numbers.
How to get your credit score
- Credit card or loan statement. In 2014, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau pushed for top credit card companies to show consumers their credit scores free of charge. While many lenders allow only customers to view their score, Discover and Capital One allow everyone — customer or not — to access their credit score.
- Nonprofit counselor. Reputable nonprofit credit counselors can access your credit score for free as well as offer advice on managing your debts, creating a budget and improving your overall score.
- Credit score service. A credit score service like CreditKarma may offer free access to your credit score and make recommendations for loan products based on your history and needs.
- Credit reporting companies. Purchase your credit score directly from credit reporting companies like FICO. These companies typically package access to your score into a monthly membership with other credit services, like identity theft protection and fraud monitoring.
Can I get my score from my credit report?
Not usually. Your credit report is a detailed record of your borrowing history, while your credit score is a numerical representation of your creditworthiness based on your credit report. Most credit reports from bureaus don’t contain your credit score.
Instead, on your credit report is a list of the applications you’ve made for different forms of credit — whether they’ve been approved or not — including:
- Your repayment history.
- Details of any defaults you may have.
- Information about the consumer.
- Info on commercial accounts you hold.
It also contains your name, age and other personal information, as well as data held on public records, such as bankruptcies.
Even though your credit report doesn’t typically contain your credit score, it’s important to regularly review your report for any errors. Order a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months or if you have been denied credit in the past 90 days. Or access your credit report online for instant download.
If it’s been less than 12 months since your last free report and you need to review it, you can pay a fee to receive it sooner.
5 ways to improve your credit score
5 credit score pitfalls
Avoid these five common credit mistakes that could potentially impact and drag your score down:
- Having a credit utilization ratio of 30% or more.
- Missing or making late payments.
- Closing old credit accounts that have reported healthy activity to the three credit bureaus.
- Not taking the time to monitor each credit report for inaccuracies at least once a year.
- Making too many credit inquiries at once.
Frequently asked questions
How does continually carrying a balance affect my credit score?
Regularly use your credit card to show you can responsibly manage a line of credit, but pay the balance in full at the end of each billing cycle to avoid extra interest charges.
How does getting married affect your credit score?
Some people think that once you get married, you have a joint score with your spouse — but this is a common credit myth. Marriage has no effect on your credit score.
What is an “adverse event?”
An adverse event refers to a default, bankruptcy, court judgment or writ or personal insolvency.
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