Your credit score. Chances are you either love it or hate it. It’s either the greatest thing in the world or a total hindrance. Or, maybe you don’t really know enough about your credit score for it to make an impact on your life.
As a whole, Americans’ credit scores are beginning to increase but our knowledge of credit and how it works is declining. A recent survey from credit scoring company Vantage Score and the Consumer Federation of America, found that 32% of the people surveyed didn’t know they had more than one credit score.
Let’s forget about how many credit scores we have for a second and answer a very basic question: What is your credit score?
Your credit score is a three digit number ranging from 300 (the lowest possible score) to 850 (the highest score). Lenders use your credit score to make decisions about whether or not to offer you credit – such as a credit card, car loan or mortgage. Your credit score is also used to determine the terms of the offer – such as what your interest rate will be.
Your credit score is calculated by looking at these categories:
- Payment history
- Your debt-to-income ratio
- Total debt
- Length of credit history
- Types of open credit
- Public records (such as bankruptcy)
- Number of inquiries on your credit report
- New credit
So, what is considered a good credit score?
The average credit score in the United States ranges between 670 and 710. According to Experian, a “good” credit score is anything that falls between 661 and 780, which is about 38% of the population. Usually, if an applicant falls in that “good” credit range, they’re likely to be approved for credit at competitive rates.
Now that we know what a credit score is and what classifies as a good one, the next question to look at is: Why does your credit score matter?
Think of your credit score like a report card you used to get while you were in school. Your report card measured your progress during the school year, and your credit activity puts you into a scoring range. But, unlike grades – credit scores aren’t stored as part of your credit history. Instead, your score is generated each time you apply for credit. Fact: It actually negatively impacts your credit score if you have multiple inquiries in a short period of time.
What are your major financial goals? Buying a home? Buying a car? Chances are, your credit is likely going to be a factor in framing that financing picture. Your score will actually tell a lender whether or not you qualify for a loan and how good the terms of the loan will be. For instance, the lower your credit score is, the higher your interest rate on a loan will be.
If you’ve looked at your credit report and you’re surprised to see it’s lower than you thought, there are simple ways to fix that:
- Pay your bills on time. That goes for ALL your bills – not just credit cards and loans. Fact: Payment history is the most heavily weighted factor of your credit score. It makes up 35% of your total score.
- Keep your credit card balances low. Credit history accounts for 15% of your credit score, so keep those old accounts open even if you don’t use them.
- Space out your credit applications. Each time you apply for a line of credit, the inquiry is noted on your credit report. One or two inquiries aren’t a huge deal, but when you have a bunch within a two year period, it can cause your score to fall.
- Mix up your credit. Your credit mix, or the types of credit accounts you have, makes up 10% of your credit score. Basically, lenders want to see that you can use different types of credit responsibly.
Credit doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming. There are many responsible ways to start out slowly and build worthwhile credit for the future. First Financial can help! Are you looking to build or establish credit? We have a number of ways to start you on the right path. Stop by one of our branches today or give us a call. You can also check out our credit management guidebook on our website, for some additional tips.