A credit score is a three-digit number that represents your creditworthiness based on your financial history. A high score means you have demonstrated responsible borrowing and spending behavior in the past and are more likely to continue doing so in the future. Therefore, banks and other lenders will be more willing to do business with you.
Everyone has multiple credit scores. A few different methods to calculate credit scores exist, and each varies slightly based on the data their algorithms emphasize and the scoring range they follow. The FICO model is the most popular, ranging from 300 for the lowest credit score to 850 for the highest.
Read on to learn more about what a credit score is, the average credit score in America, and how credit scores are ranked.
What's a credit score?
Credit score calculations correspond to your personal financial information, which three major credit bureaus collect: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Again, FICO is one of the leading analytical models for calculating and ranking credit scores. Five main categories factor into computations.
Your payment history is the most significant factor in determining your credit score, making up 35 percent. Debts that you still have yet to repay, such as loans, weigh in as the second-largest factor, at 30 percent. The length of your credit history counts for 15 percent. New credit accounts are 10 percent, and a mix of credit types is last, accounting for 10 percent of your score.
Scores developed by the VantageScore model follow very similar criteria.
Credit scores are important because they play a prominent role in whether or not you can enter major financial ventures, such as a mortgage, an auto loan, or a new line of credit.
Average credit scores in the United States
Along with your financial behaviors, credit scores depend on many other factors, including your age, income, and where you live. The relationship between each of these factors dramatically affects your overall credit score.
According to FICO, the average credit score in the United States in 2021 is 711. The average VantageScore score is 688. That's an all-time high. Since 2005, credit scores have improved, albeit slowly.
Based on data collected by Experian, credit scores typically increase parallel to an individual's age.
Average credit score by age
Based on data collected by Experian, a person's credit score typically increases as they age.
Average credit score by income level
Collected by the Federal Reserve, the data in the following table shows the relationship between income level and average credit scores.
To improve your credit score, experts recommend keeping your credit usage – that is, the amount of credit you utilize at any given time – below 30 percent. For example, if you have a credit card with a $10,000 spending limit, keeping your balance below $3,000 will positively affect your credit score. Making sure you don't exceed your credit limit is another effective strategy.
Establishing credit history is one way to improve your credit score, but maintaining your credit history – through paying your bills on time and not overspending – is just as important. Wise money management is essential in achieving a good credit score.
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Average credit score according to state
The state in which you live can also influence your credit score. Data gathered by Experian shows that Minnesota and Wisconsin have some of the highest average credit scores in the U.S., while Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama have the lowest scores.
What's a good credit score?
Credit scores fall into five categories: poor, fair, good, very good, and excellent.
Poor is 300–579, fair 580–669, good is 670–739, very good is 740–799 is very good, and 800–850 is excellent. No credit score cannot exceed 850.
It is important to note that there is no "perfect score."
Remember, the average FICO and VantageScore scores for 2021 are 711 and 688, respectively. Each of those numbers is a "good" score.
You are entitled to a free credit check from any of the credit bureaus once a year. Online platforms also exist to help you determine your scores. No matter which service you use to find your credit score, remember, checking your score does not affect your score.
In fact, it’s better that you do check your score annually in order to know exactly where you stand in the financial world.
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