When you check your credit score, you’ll probably want to find out how you compare. What is a good credit score?
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The most commonly used credit scoring models have a range of 300 to 850. Each lender sets its own standards for what constitutes a “good” score. But, in general, scores fall along the following lines:
- 300-629: Bad credit
- 630-689: Fair credit, also called “average credit”
- 690-719: Good credit
- 720 and up: Excellent credit
Fair Isaac Corp. produces the credit scoring algorithm used for the majority of lending decisions in the United States. Most FICO scores range from 300 to 850, and the higher the score, the better. (Some versions of the FICO score, such as those for the auto and credit card industries, are on a 250 to 900 scale.)
The average FICO score was 695, according to the latest data, from April 2015. About 22% of scores fall below 600; 23.3% are between 600 and 699; and 54.7% are 700 or above.
Here’s how those scores break down within each range, by percentage of scores:
FICO score ranges
|Source: FICO Score 8 data as of April 2015, courtesy of Fair Isaac Corp.|
|300 - 499||4.9%||650 - 699||13.0%|
|500 - 549||7.6%||700 - 749||16.6%|
|550 - 599||9.4%||750 - 799||18.2%|
|600 - 649||10.3%||800 to 850||19.9%|
The increasingly used VantageScore also employs a 300-850 scoring range. The average VantageScore in 2016 was 673, according to credit reporting agency Experian. (Because FICO and VantageScore consider the same factors, the scores generally move in tandem; a good score with one is predictive of a good score with the other.)
|Source: VantageScore data as of March 2016, courtesy of Experian|
|300 - 499||4.6%||650 - 699||18.3%|
|500 - 549||12.1%||700 - 749||12.6%|
|550 - 599||11.8%||750 - 799||14.6%|
|600 - 649||10.2%||800 to 850||15.7%|
How does your credit score affect your life?
Even if your score is in the low 500s, you may still be able to get credit, but it will come with very high interest rates or with specific conditions, such as depositing money to get a secured credit card. You may have to pay more for car insurance or put down deposits on utilities.
But as you add points to your score, you’ll have access to more credit products — and pay less to use them.
At the other end of the scale, borrowers with scores above 750 or so have many options, including the ability to qualify for 0% financing on cars and 0% interest credit cards.
Find the starting point
It’s important to know where you stand, so it pays to monitor your score over time. You can get a free credit score from a number of personal finance websites, including NerdWallet.
The important thing is 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. Some sources may be using a different scale entirely; Citi, for example, gives some of its credit card customers access to NextGen FICO credit card scores, which are on a 250-900 scale.
So, pick a score and stick with it to monitor your progress. Advancements you make measured by one score will be reflected in the others. (Here’s how to bump up your credit; the methods apply to whatever score you decide to track.)
And be aware that, like weight, scores fluctuate. A score is a snapshot, and the number can vary each time you check it. As long as you keep it in a healthy range, those variations won’t have an impact on your financial well-being.
Lenders look at more than credit scores
When you go to borrow money, a good credit score does not guarantee a good interest rate — or even approval.
Credit scores look at your reported credit history to gauge the likelihood that you will repay borrowed money; you can be deep in debt and still have great credit scores if you have paid all your bills on time.
But your credit reports don’t reflect whether you can afford to repay the credit you are applying for. That’s why your income and other debts play a key factor in some lending decisions, as lenders consider what you owe alongside what you earn and assets you have accumulated.
Updated Oct. 28, 2016.