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Credit scores influence many aspects of your life: whether you get a loan or credit card, what interest rate you pay, sometimes whether you get an apartment you want.
A higher credit score can give you access to more credit products — and at lower interest rates. Borrowers with scores above 750 or so frequently have many options, including the ability to qualify for 0% financing on cars and for credit cards with 0% introductory interest rates.
It pays to know how credit scores work and what the credit score ranges are.
A credit score is a three-digit number, usually on a scale of 300 to 850, that estimates how likely you are to repay borrowed money and pay bills.
Credit scores are calculated from information about your credit accounts. That data is gathered by credit-reporting agencies, also called , and compiled into your credit reports. The three largest bureaus are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
Creditors set their own standards for what scores they'll accept, but these are general guidelines:
In addition to your credit score, factors like your income and other debts may play a role in creditors' decisions about whether to approve your application.
Two companies dominate credit scoring. The is the most widely known score. Its main competitor is the . Generally, they both use a credit score range of 300 to 850.
FICO and VantageScore pull from the same data, weighting the information slightly differently. They tend to move in tandem: If you have an excellent VantageScore, your FICO is likely to be high as well.
A score is a snapshot, and the number can vary each time you check it.
Your score can vary depending on which credit bureau supplied the credit report data used to generate it. Not every creditor sends account activity to all three bureaus, so your credit report from each one is unique.
Each company has several different versions of its scoring formula, too. The scoring models used most often are VantageScore 3.0 and FICO 8.
Also, FICO and VantageScore weight scoring factors slightly differently.
The in the United States varies a bit between the two major scoring models.
The average FICO credit score in April 2021 was 716, near the top the good range. The average VantageScore as of July 2021 was 693, just inside the good range.
The two main credit scoring models, FICO and VantageScore, consider much the same factors but weight them somewhat differently. For both scoring models, the two things that matter most are:
Much less weight goes to these factors, but they're still worth watching:
The factors that go into your score point out ways to build up your score:
There are several ways to when you're just starting out, and ways to once it's established.
You can check your own credit — it — and know what the lender is likely to see.
You can get a from a personal finance website such as NerdWallet, which offers a TransUnion VantageScore 3.0.
It's important to use the same score every time you check. Doing otherwise is like trying to monitor your weight on different scales — or possibly switching between pounds and kilograms. So, pick a score and get a game plan to monitor your credit. Changes measured by one score will likely be reflected in the others.
Remember that, like weight, scores fluctuate. As long as you keep it in a healthy range, those variations won’t have an impact on your financial well-being.