If you’re looking to buy a home or sign up for a new credit card, you’re going to need to check your credit score. And the better your score, the more likely you’ll be approved and get a competitive interest rate. But understanding what constitutes a “good” credit score can be challenging, as definitions may vary by lender and credit scoring model.
According to a recent J.D. Power Banking and Payments Intelligence Report, close to one in five consumers aren’t clear about how credit scores are calculated. But learning about your credit score is important and can make a big difference in your financial life.
Ahead, we explain what is your credit score, the definition of a “good” credit score, and steps you can take to increase your score.
How credit scores work
Your credit score is represented by a three-digit number range from 300 to 850. Just like in school, the higher the number reflects a better score. This number is used by companies, like banks or lenders, to determine how likely you’ll be to pay back a loan. For consumers, a credit score is a good tool to understand your financial health.
“A good credit score opens doors for more than just opening a line of credit or getting a loan,” says Jennifer White, senior director, banking and payments intelligence at J.D. Power, which offers consumer insights and advisory services. “A good credit score can also lead to offers for credit cards with zero interest [balance] transfers, which allow you to move existing debt to a card that will cost you less in the long run.”
As a consumer, it’s important to be aware that there’s no one single credit score—there are a lot of variations. But the two most prominent credit scoring systems are FICO and VantageScore.
What is a good FICO credit score?
According to MyFICO.com, a good FICO credit score is one that’s between 670 to 739. Scores higher than that—between 740 to 799—are considered “very good,” and 800 and above are “exceptional.”
A “fair” credit score falls between 580 to 669 and a “poor” credit score is anything below 580.
In 1989, the Fair Isaac Corporation launched the FICO credit score, which is now one of the leading credit scoring models. FICO scores offer lenders insight into your credit history.
There are multiple factors that contribute to your FICO credit score, but some have more weight than others. Here’s how FICO scores are calculated:
What is a good VantageScore?
VantageScore is another leading credit score model used by many financial institutions and lenders.
VantageScore 3.0 and 4.0 follow the 300 to 850 range, but previous iterations had a range of 501 to 990. According to the VantageScore website, a good VantageScore is called “prime” and in the range of 661 to 780. Scores in the range of 781 to 850 are considered “superprime.”
VantageScore credit scores between 601 to 660 are “near prime” and those with a range of 300 to 600 are referred to as “subprime.”
The VantageScore 4.0 model is fairly similar to the FICO model and is calculated with the following weights and factors:
Additionally, VantageScore labels certain factors as degrees of “influential.” Here’s a breakdown of what those are:
- Extremely influential = total credit usage, balance, and available credit
- Highly influential = credit mix and experience
- Moderately influential = payment history
- Less influential = age of credit history
- Less influential = new accounts opened
VantageScore has some nuances when compared to FICO and uses different descriptions, but the ranges and impact on credit score are similar.
How to get a good credit score
FICO and VantageScore both vary a bit in how they define a “good” or “prime” score, and to make things even more complicated, different financial institutions might have their own standards.
“A good credit score depends a lot on the financial institution that is lending the money,” says Chris Fred, head of U.S. credit cards and unsecured lending at TD Bank. “They all have their unique ways of evaluating creditworthiness and the credit health of customers based on a variety of factors, not just the score.”
Rather than stress about a very specific number, it’s best to just focus on keeping your accounts in good financial standing and working toward the highest score you can. If you want to improve your credit score, there are a number of actionable steps you can take to move the needle forward.
Here are 10 steps to get you started:
- Pay bills, debt, and other monthly payments on time, consistently. Set up autopay or sign up for reminders if you tend to forget.
- Get on a budget. Setting up a household budget is a great way to ensure you can pay more than the monthly minimum payment if you have credit card debt. Ideally, pay off your balances in full each month.
- Keep a low credit utilization ratio. Your credit utilization ratio is the number you get when you divide your balances by your credit limits. Experts recommend keeping this to 30% or less.
- Pay ahead of the statement due date. Your credit utilization is reported to the credit bureaus close to your statement due date. If your utilization is high, consider paying down or paying off your balance before the statement date.
- Ask your credit card issuer for a credit limit increase. Getting a boost in credit limit and keeping balances on the low end can positively impact your credit utilization ratio. But you should only do this if you won’t be tempted to spend beyond your means.
- Avoid applying for lots of new credit within a short timeframe. When you apply for any type of credit, a hard inquiry will follow. A hard inquiry is when a company pulls your credit report to review as part of a formal application for credit. This may lead to a temporary decrease in score. If you apply for too many credit cards, it can be a sign to lenders that you’re living beyond your means.
- Be careful about closing accounts. When you pay off a loan or close a credit card, it can lower your credit score temporarily as it impacts your length of credit history. This can be just a temporary ding, but you usually don't want to close your oldest account.
- Become an authorized user on someone else’s account. If you have no credit history, it’s possible you can be an authorized user on a family member or spouse’s credit card. If they’re responsible with credit, it can help you increase your credit. Be aware that payment is still the responsibility of the other party, so if you overspend and don’t pay the bill on time, you risk hurting their score as well
- Start with a secured credit card. Are you credit invisible with no score or have poor credit? You can start your credit journey with a secured card. You secure the card via a deposit that serves as your credit limit. “If you want to improve your credit score, a secured card is also a very useful tactic for many consumers who wouldn't qualify for an unsecured card,” says Fred.
- Routinely review your credit report for errors. There could be a mistake on your credit report that’s hurting your score. “Credit reports have errors,” says Carlos Medina, senior vice president of operations and business development for One Technologies, the provider of ScoreSense. “It's also important that you're staying vigilant concerning your credit and any fraud going on.” Access your credit report at no cost at AnnualCreditReport.com.
If your credit score has room for improvement, taking these steps can help. Start by obtaining your credit score from a trusted source.
“For many consumers, your score is offered for free online through not only the three large credit bureaus, but also often by your bank or your credit card company,” says White. "At some of those banks and credit card companies, your credit score will appear immediately when you login to their mobile app or online tools.”
Knowing where you’re at is the first step. Taking appropriate action and monitoring your credit score are the next steps. It may take some time, but consistency will work in your favor and can help your finances more than you realize.
EDITORIAL DISCLOSURE: The advice, opinions, or rankings contained in this article are solely those of the Fortune Recommends™ editorial team. This content has not been reviewed or endorsed by any of our affiliate partners or other third parties.
Anywhere between 670 to 739 is considered good. A credit score between 740 to 799 is considered very good. Credit scores 800 and up are considered excellent. Someone with a VantageScore that's 600 or less is considered to have poor or very poor credit.What is a bad credit score? ›
A credit score of 600 or below is generally considered to be a bad credit score. And if your credit is low, you may qualify for a loan but the terms and rates may not be favorable. Credit scores between 601 and 669 are considered fair credit scores.How can I see my credit score for free? ›
You're entitled to a free copy of your credit reports every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. You can also create a myEquifax account to get six free Equifax credit reports each year.How long does it take to build credit? ›
The Takeaway. It usually takes a minimum of six months to generate your first credit score. Establishing good or excellent credit takes longer. If you follow the tips above for building good credit and avoid the potential pitfalls, your score should continue to improve.How much debt do most people have? ›
How much debt does the average American have? The same 2021 study from Experian shows that the average American has a consumer debt balance of $96,371, up 3.9% from 2020. Mortgages, home equity lines of credit and student loan balances are the biggest contributors to American debt today.How common is an 800 credit score? ›
According to a report by FICO, only 23% of the scorable population has a credit score of 800 or above. FICO considers five factors in the calculation of your credit score: Payment history (35%): Make sure your payments are made on time and in full.Why is my credit score low when I pay on time? ›
You have a high balance on one or more credit cards
Your credit utilization ratio — the portion of your credit limit you actually use — influences your credit score more than any other factor except paying on time. It's figured on both an overall and per-card basis.
Generally, having no credit is better than having bad credit, though both can hold you back. People with no credit history may have trouble getting approved for today's best credit cards, for example — while people with bad credit may have trouble applying for credit, renting an apartment and more.How do I build my credit? ›
Pay at least the minimum payment due each month, or more if you can, and make sure you pay on time. The best way to reduce the interest owed on a credit card is to pay off the balance as quickly as possible. Otherwise, it may take many years to pay off even a small credit card balance if you only make minimum payments.How many credit cards should you have? ›
If your goal is to get or maintain a good credit score, two to three credit card accounts, in addition to other types of credit, are generally recommended. This combination may help you improve your credit mix. Lenders and creditors like to see a wide variety of credit types on your credit report.
In general, you'll need a credit score of at least 600 to qualify for a traditional auto loan, but the minimum credit score required to finance a car loan varies by lender. If your credit score falls into the subprime category, you may need to look for a bad credit car loan.What is the easiest way to check your credit score? ›
You can request a free copy of your credit report from each of three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax®, Experian®, and TransUnion® – once each year at AnnualCreditReport.com or call toll-free 1-877-322-8228.Does paying Netflix build credit? ›
If you're a longtime Netflix user, paying your Netflix account balance every month can count as an on-time payment on your credit report.Will paying bills early increase credit score? ›
You won't get extra points for sending a payment on a credit card bill early, but paying bills on time is a surefire way to build credit. As long as you pay your bills by the due date each month, your credit score won't be hurt.Does paying early help credit score? ›
If you are looking to increase your score as soon as possible, making an early payment could help. If you paid off the entire balance of your credit card, you would reduce your ratio to 40%. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, it's recommended to keep your debt-to-credit ratio at no more than 30%.At what age should you be debt free? ›
In 2018, Kelvin O'Leary, a personal finance author, said that 45 years old is the ideal age to be debt-free. This means that if you've made the right financial choices, by the age of 50 you should be in a place where you are debt-free, and your retirement savings should be enough to give you a comfortable life.Which gender has more debt? ›
Indeed, men carry more overall debt than women, including across most debt categories. But women carry more student loan debt and often have more credit cards. 1 We go a little more in-depth into this in the next section. Experian updated the average credit score for women to 705 in Q2 2020.What age has the most debt? ›
According to data on 77.4 million Credit Karma members, members of Generation X (ages 42-57) carry the highest average total debt — $60,063. In this study, debt can include the following account types: auto leases, auto loans, credit cards, student loans and mortgages.Can you get a 900 credit score? ›
FICO® score ranges vary — they can range from 300 to 850 or 250 to 900, depending on the scoring model — but higher scores can indicate that you may be less risky to lenders.How many people have over 850 credit? ›
Does having a perfect credit score really matter? Experts say that this credit score will likely get you all the same benefits — and the best deals. Only about 1.6% of the 232 million U.S. consumers with a credit score have a perfect 850, according to FICO's most recent statistics.
If you've ever wondered what the highest credit score that you can have is, it's 850. That's at the top end of the most common FICO® and VantageScore® credit scores. And these two companies provide some of the most popular credit-scoring models in America.Does my credit score go down if I dont pay in full every month? ›
Your monthly payment amount doesn't directly impact your credit score, but it does influence the amount of credit you're using—your credit utilization. Using more of your credit limit can cost you several credit score points.Does it hurt your credit to not pay in full? ›
Does keeping a balance help your credit score? Carrying a balance does not help your credit score, so it's always best to pay your balance in full each month. The impact of not doing paying in full each month depends on how large of a balance you're carrying compared to your credit limit.Will my credit score go down if I pay in full? ›
Paying off a credit card doesn't usually hurt your credit scores—just the opposite, in fact. It can take a month or two for paid-off balances to be reflected in your score, but reducing credit card debt typically results in a score boost eventually, as long as your other credit accounts are in good standing.Is 0 credit better than no credit? ›
Having no credit or bad credit can complicate your financial life. In general, having no credit is better than having bad credit. But either unestablished credit or a negative credit report can make it difficult to qualify for loans or credit cards.Is bad credit forever? ›
Generally speaking, negative information such as late or missed payments, accounts that have been sent to collection agencies, accounts not being paid as agreed, or bankruptcies stays on credit reports for approximately seven years.What's the lowest credit score can go? ›
The FICO® Score☉ , which is the most widely used scoring model, falls in a range that goes up to 850. The lowest credit score in this range is 300. But the reality is that almost nobody has a score that low. For the most part, a score below 580 is considered "bad credit." The average FICO® Score in the U.S. is 704.What is your credit score when you first start? ›
The base credit scores of the most popular credit-reporting models start at 300. Starting with a score of around 300 is possible only if you've managed your finances poorly. You may start to build a credit history or improve your score without using any type of credit.What are 5 things you can do to build your credit? ›
- Pay your bills on time. ...
- Keep your balances low. ...
- Consider a credit card. ...
- Don't apply for more credit cards than you need. ...
- Keep an eye on your credit report.
- Pay credit card balances strategically.
- Ask for higher credit limits.
- Become an authorized user.
- Pay bills on time.
- Dispute credit report errors.
- Deal with collections accounts.
- Use a secured credit card.
- Get credit for rent and utility payments.
A credit card can be canceled without harming your credit score. To avoid damage to your credit score, paying down credit card balances first (not just the one you're canceling) is key. Closing a charge card won't affect your credit history (history is a factor in your overall credit score).Does it hurt credit to have too many cards? ›
Having too many outstanding credit lines, even if not used, can hurt credit scores by making you look more potentially risky to lenders. You can boost your score in some cases by opening new credit cards if the new credit lines lower your overall utilization ratio.Does opening a credit card hurt your credit? ›
Applying for a new credit card can trigger a hard inquiry, which involves a lender looking at your credit reports. According to credit-scoring company FICO®, hard inquiries can cause a slight drop in your credit scores. Keep in mind: Hard inquiries usually stay on your credit reports for two years.What credit score do I need to buy a $30 000 car? ›
What Is the Minimum Score Needed to Buy a Car? In general, lenders look for borrowers in the prime range or better, so you will need a score of 661 or higher to qualify for most conventional car loans.What is considered a high car payment? ›
According to experts, a car payment is too high if the car payment is more than 30% of your total income. Remember, the car payment isn't your only car expense! Make sure to consider fuel and maintenance expenses. Make sure your car payment does not exceed 15%-20% of your total income.What score is used to buy a house? ›
One of the most common scores used by mortgage lenders to determine creditworthiness is the FICO® Score (created by the Fair Isaac Corporation). FICO® Scores help lenders calculate the interest rates and fees you'll pay to get your mortgage.Can you look at your own credit score? ›
Your credit score is based on personal and financial information about you that's kept in your credit report. You can access your credit score and credit report for free. If you want to fix something in your credit report, see credit repair.What is the average credit score? ›
Credit scores are three-digit numbers that show an important piece of your financial history. Credit scores help lenders decide whether to grant you credit. The average credit score in the United States is 698, based on VantageScore® data from February 2021. It's a myth that you only have one credit score.How can I do a credit check on myself? ›
You can access your personal credit reports through either the My Credit Check or My Credit Expert portals. The My Credit Check portal, available at www.mycreditcheck.co.za, references data from the Experian Sigma database, which is the historical Compuscan bureau database.What bills can boost your credit? ›
- Rent Payments. Before property management platforms, renters were unable to report rent payments to credit bureaus to build their credit health. ...
- Utility Bills. ...
- Auto Loan Payments. ...
- Student Loan Payments. ...
- Credit Card Payments. ...
- Medical Bills.
Payment history is the most important factor in maintaining a higher credit score. It accounts for 35% of your FICO score, which is the score most lenders look at. FICO considers your payment history as the leading predictor of whether you'll pay future debt on time.Can paying a phone bill build credit? ›
Will paying my phone bill build credit? The short answer: No, paying your phone bill will not help you build up credit. Phone bills for service and usage are not usually reported to major credit bureaus, so you won't build credit when paying these month to month.Should I pay off my credit card after every purchase? ›
If you regularly use your credit card to make purchases but repay it in full, your credit score will most likely be better than if you carry the balance month to month. Your credit utilization ratio is another important factor that affects your credit score.Is it better to pay credit card early or on due date? ›
Paying early also cuts interest
Not only does that help ensure that you're spending within your means, but it also saves you on interest. If you always pay your full statement balance by the due date, you will maintain a credit card grace period and you will never be charged interest.
Making more than one payment each month on your credit cards won't help increase your credit score. But, the results of making more than one payment might.Is it better to pay credit card in full or minimum? ›
If you can, paying the balance in full each statement period is the better option. If you pay off the balance in its entirety, it can help you save some serious money by helping you avoid costly interest payments. Paying in full may also help your credit score.What is the 15 3 rule? ›
The 15/3 credit card payment rule is a strategy that involves making two payments each month to your credit card company. You make one payment 15 days before your statement is due and another payment three days before the due date.Can a 25 year old have a 800 credit score? ›
The oldest active account for those with scores of 800 or higher averages more than 27 years. While younger consumers can't reach such steady account ages just yet, an 800 credit score is still obtainable.Is 725 a good credit score for a 23 year old? ›
A “good” credit score based on FICO's criteria is 670-739, a “very good” score is 740-799 and an “exceptional” score is 800-850.What credit score do 18 year olds start with? ›
If you haven't yet built a credit history, there's no information on which to base that calculation, so there's no score at all. Once you begin to establish a credit history, you might assume that your credit score will start at 300 (the lowest possible FICO® Score☉ ).
A 740 credit score is Very Good, but it can be even better. If you can elevate your score into the Exceptional range (800-850), you could become eligible for the very best lending terms, including the lowest interest rates and fees, and the most enticing credit-card rewards programs.How do you get a 800 credit score? ›
- Pay Your Bills on Time, Every Time. Perhaps the best way to show lenders you're a responsible borrower is to pay your bills on time. ...
- Keep Your Credit Card Balances Low. ...
- Be Mindful of Your Credit History. ...
- Improve Your Credit Mix. ...
- Review Your Credit Reports.
The amount of time it takes to go from a 700 to 800 credit score could take as little as a few months to several years. While your financial habits and credit history will play a role in how long it takes, there are some factors that have specific timelines.How long does it take to get to 800 credit score? ›
Depending on where you're starting from, It can take several years or more to build an 800 credit score. You need to have a few years of only positive payment history and a good mix of credit accounts showing you have experience managing different types of credit cards and loans.Do you start off with good credit? ›
Some people wonder whether the starting credit score is zero, for example, or whether we all start with a credit score of 300 (the lowest possible FICO score). The truth is that there's no such thing as a “starting credit score.” We each build our own unique credit score based on the way we use credit.What will your first credit score be? ›
When you check your credit score for the first time, you might be surprised to find a three-digit number, even if you've never used credit before. That's because your credit score doesn't start at zero. In fact, the lowest possible score from FICO® or VantageScore® is 300.What is a good credit score to buy a car? ›
What Is the Minimum Score Needed to Buy a Car? In general, lenders look for borrowers in the prime range or better, so you will need a score of 661 or higher to qualify for most conventional car loans.How long does it take to get a 700 credit score? ›
|Initial Score||Avg. time to reach 700*||Avg. time to reach 800*|
|450 - 500||18 months - 2 years||3+ years|
|550 - 600||12-18 months||2+ years|
|650 - 700||–||1 year|
|750||-||6 months - 9 months|
A credit score ranges from 300 to 850 and is a numerical rating that measures a person's likelihood to repay a debt. A higher credit score signals that a borrower is lower risk and more likely to make on-time payments.