- Affects your credit applications
- Every time you apply for credit, your score is evaluated
- Knowing if you have a good credit score is essential
Your credit score, that sometimes mysterious number that reflects how responsible you are with your credit, plays a huge role in your financial life.
Almost every time you apply for credit, someone (or in some cases, a computer) will be looking at that number to determine if they are willing to give you credit.
And, if so, at what rate. This is true whether you’re applying for a new credit card, a car loan, or a mortgage.
We hope you know what your credit score is, but do you know if your credit score is good?
What is a good credit score?
Your FICO credit score, the score most used by lenders, is a three-digit number that can range from 300 to 850.
So how do things break down into that range when it comes to “good” and “bad” scores?
Experian says a «good» credit score is between 670 and 739.
As you can see, based on this graph, most Americans have “good,” “very good,” or “exceptional” scores.
The Average FICO Score
In fact, through 2022, the average FICO score nationwide is 716.
But different lenders have different ideas about what constitutes a «good» credit score.
For that reason, your ability to obtain credit and the rate you are offered may vary.
That’s why some people aim for a score of 850, something that Clark says «you’re crazy if you obsess over it.»
You don’t need to aim so high
«If you can get to around 760, you’ll get the same benefits, the same offers, that someone who has a score of 840 would get,» says Beverly Harzog, a credit card expert.
That said, if your current credit score is in the low 600s, reaching 760 may seem like a distant goal. But that’s no reason to get discouraged.
Clark says there are other numbers that can make a big difference in the offers you receive and the rates you can get on loans.
«It’s really important to be around 680. That’s a point where people see you differently than when you’re below that.»
Where to get it for free
Now that you have some specific numbers to target if you want to be seen as someone with “good” credit, how do you track your progress toward those goals?
Clark recommends two free services to get your credit score and track it, so you can see the progress you’re making: Credit Karma and Credit Sesame.
Both services give you instant access to your VantageScore 3.0 (which should be very similar to your FICO score).
As well as tips on how to improve it and the opportunity to receive alerts when your score changes.
Do not obsess
Remember what Clark said about not obsessing over your score.
Signing up for any of these sites will allow you to stay on top of your number without feeling the need to constantly check it.
You can also get free credit reports, which are more comprehensive than what you get with Credit Karma or Credit Sesame.
This from the three major credit reporting agencies once a week at AnnualCreditReport.com.
How Can You Improve Your Credit Score?
To improve your credit score, you must address each of the factors that influence your score calculation. According to MyFICO.com, those factors are:
Payment history, which shows whether you have paid your bills on time.
The amount of outstanding debt you have in relation to your credit limit, known as credit utilization.
The length of your credit history, that is, how long you have had your credit accounts open.
Key Factors to Improve your Credit Score
Recent credit inquiries, which refer to how many times you have applied for new credit in a short period of time.
Improving your credit score involves managing these areas responsibly and strategically.
You can take steps like paying your bills on time, reducing your debt, keeping credit accounts open longer, and avoiding applying for unnecessary credit.