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Age and credit have a somewhat complicated relationship. Like it often is with personal finance, straightforward questions don’t always have simple answers.

Does your age affect your credit score? In the most literal sense, no: Your date of birth isn’t factored into your credit score. Still, if you’re older, you have a better chance at getting one of the highest credit scores than someone in their 20s, because you’ve had more time to establish a strong credit history. At the same time, it’s still possible to have an excellent credit score before you’re 25.

How Does Age Factor Into Credit?

The average age of your credit accounts is one of the five major factors determining your credit score. Say you took out a student loan and opened a credit card at age 18, and they are your only credit accounts. Ten years later, when you’re 28 and those accounts are still open, you’re doing very well in that category of your credit history. If your best friend of the same age has no loans and opened her first credit card when she graduated college at age 22, her oldest credit account is only six years old, which isn’t great as far as a credit history goes.

How Do I Improve My Credit Age?

Having a 10- or 20-year-old account will help your credit score, but the more newer accounts you have, the lower your average credit age will be. If you’re focusing on improving your credit age, try to minimize the number of new accounts you open, as they bring down your average. Opening new accounts also results in a hard inquiry on your credit report, which will slightly hurt your credit score in the short term.

As it is with all aspects of your credit score, you need to exercise patience as you work to develop a long credit history — after all, you can’t do anything but wait for an account to get older. You could benefit from being an authorized user on an older account, because account history is reported based on the age of the account, not when you’re added to it. For example, if as a teenager your parents added you as an authorized user on one of their oldest credit cards, you could have a credit history that goes back before you were born.

While you’re waiting for the average age of your credit accounts to rise, focus on making loan payments on time and keeping your debt levels low, because those behaviors have the greatest impact on your credit score. To see how everything forms the big picture of your financial health, you can get two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com every month.

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