A credit score is a number that evaluates your creditworthiness. Lenders use your credit score to evaluate your credit risk – generally, the higher your credit score, the lower your risk may be to the lender.
Why a good credit score is important
When you have a good or excellent credit score, you will have an easier time being approved for loans and rental applications, get better rates on car and homeowner’s insurance, and will be offered better interest rates on loans and credit cards.
How your credit score is calculated
Your credit score is generally based on information in your credit reports. This information is reported by your lenders to credit reporting companies. The three biggest are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
FICO scoring model
- Payment History (35% of your score)
Details your track record of paying back your debts and bills on time. This includes credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans (such as automobile or student loans), finance company accounts and mortgages.
- Amounts Owed or Credit Utilization (30% of your score)
Reveals how much of available credit you are using. If you have high outstanding balances or are nearly "maxed out" on your credit cards, your credit score will be negatively affected. A good rule of thumb is not to exceed 30% of the credit limit on a credit card.
- Length of Credit History (15% of your score)
How long you have had and used credit. The longer your history of responsible credit management, the better your score will be.
- Type of Credit (10% of your score)
Concerns the types of credit you access, including credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, finance companies, and mortgage loans. This factor considers the various types of credit you have and whether you use that credit appropriately.
- New Credit Inquiries (10% of your score)
Any new applications for lines of credit. Suggests that you have or are about to take on more debt. Opening many credit accounts in a short amount of time can be risky.
What is a good credit score?
Credit scores typically range from 300 to 850, with 300 considered “poor” credit and 850 considered “excellent” credit.
For the most part, the minimum credit score needed for a loan approval will depend on the lender. Some lenders will tell you upfront what their minimum requirements are. While lenders might approve loans to consumers with a wide range of scores, the terms will likely be better for those with higher scores.
- Poor: 350 to 579
- Fair: 580 to 669
- Good: 670 to 739
- Very Good: 740 to 799
- Excellent: 800 to 850
- Very poor: 300 to 499
- Poor: 500 to 600
- Fair: 601 to 660
- Good: 661 to 780
- Excellent: 781 to 850
How to check your credit score
Check your account statements
Check your credit card, financial institution or loan statement. Many credit card companies, banks and loan companies have started providing credit scores for their customers. It may be on your statement, or you can access it online by logging into your account.
Purchase your credit score from the three major bureaus
Purchase credit scores directly from one of the three major credit bureaus or other provider, such as FICO.
Credit scoring services
Use a credit score service or free credit scoring site. Some sites provide a free credit score to users. Others may provide credit scores to credit monitoring customers paying a monthly subscription fee.
FICO credit score education
Information about your credit score from FICO.
About your vantage credit score.
Understand your credit score
Helpful information from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.