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When checking your credit, you might wonder how you stack up against the average credit score or compare to others.
Both FICO and VantageScore use a scale of 300 to 850. They consider many of the same credit factors but weight them in slightly different ways.
The average FICO in 2021 is near the top of the “good” credit score range of 690 to 719. FICO saw an increase from April 2020, when Americans’ average score was 708. The average VantageScore rose from 688 in 2020, moving from the "fair" credit range into the "good" one.
How did the pandemic affect credit scores?
Credit protections — such as pauses on student loans and mortgage payments — helped shield credit scores, and consumers with scores between 550 and 599 saw the biggest increases in scores. Their scores rose about 20 points while consumers who had credit scores of 750 to 799 saw almost no movement. Other accommodations, plus home price appreciation and the stock market helped blunt some of the damage from pandemic-related shutdowns.
“I think there was a perception that if a score was going to go up during this period it was going to be largely about people not having missed payments on their file but instead they were in payment accommodation and therefore temporarily getting a reprieve from missed payments hitting their credit file," said Ethan Dornhelm, FICO's vice president of scores and predictive analytics.
"I think the thing that the analysis really made clear to us was that, no, these borrowers genuinely are in a better financial state than they were pre-pandemic. They genuinely have materially lower revolving debt levels.”
Dornhelm added that credit accommodations may have led consumers to check their credit reports and scores: "I don’t want to undersell the fact that we have seen a meaningful uptick in the desire of consumers to learn about credit scores and credit reports." He said traffic to FICO's consumer website nearly doubled during the pandemic, suggesting an increased interest in learning about credit.
Credit score under 600? You're not alone
FICO reported that about 15.5% of consumers had FICO scores below 600, a drop from the year before. People in that credit score range likely have a hard time qualifying for credit and pay higher interest rates or have to put down deposits.
On the other hand, 23.3% of consumers had FICO scores above 800 — a slight increase from 2020. Those “superprime” scores make it likely they get the best terms available when they borrow money and provide access to the best rewards credit cards.
Percent of Population
300 to 599
600 to 649
650 to 699
700 to 749
750 to 799
800 to 850
How can I build my credit?
Check your own credit health by looking over your credit reports. Until the end of 2022, you are entitled to a free credit report from each credit bureau every week from annualcreditreport.com.
If you see negative information that’s incorrect, you can dispute it to seek its removal. And check to make sure accurate negative information is removed on time.
Then, monitor your credit frequently to see your progress and watch for trouble. You can monitor your free credit report and credit score, updated weekly, with NerdWallet.
For both FICO and VantageScore, the biggest effects on credit come from:
Paying every bill, not just credit cards, on time.
Using 30% or even less of your credit limits.