Gerri Detweiler focuses on helping people understand their credit...Read More
It can be hard to get a competitive interest rate—or even get a job—without a decent credit score. But what is the average credit score in America, and how can you improve your score if it’s not so great?
In This Piece
We’ll begin this article with a review of all five factors associated with your credit score, and then we’ll talk about two of the credit scoring models used by lenders in America. Finally, we’ll go over some ways you can boost your score. With a thorough understanding of your credit score, you can make better financial decisions and build a bright future.
Payment history: 35%. Paying your bills on time is the best way to get and maintain a good credit score. Conversely, late and missed payments knock points off your score.
Credit utilization ratio: 30%. If you use a large amount of your available credit and seem reliant on borrowed funds, lenders tend to back away.
Credit age: 15%. The longer you’ve had credit, the better. Avoid closing old accounts unless necessary to keep your credit history long.
Credit mix: 10%. Lenders like to see a good mix of different revolving and installment accounts.
New credit: 10%. Applying for too many lines of credit in a short amount of time can reduce your credit score.
Scoring Models in the US
Credit bureaus in the US primarily use two types of scoring models to calculate consumers’ credit scores: FICO® and VantageScore. The most recent versions of both scoring models range between 300 and 850, with 300 being “poor” and 850 being “exceptional.”
VantageScore and FICO use a slightly different blend of the five-factor system we wrote about above, which means your score will be different depending on the scoring model used. Plus, some lenders report to all three credit bureaus, while others report to just one or two. With that in mind, credit scores usually vary from bureau to bureau as well.
In 2020, the average VantageScore in the United States was 688—up six points over the previous year . In April 2021, that average had risen to 694. That’s considered a good VantageScore—in fact, anything over 661 is considered good on the VantageScore scale. Meanwhile, scores between 601 and 660 are considered fair VantageScores.
Average FICO Score
Most lenders in 2021 use FICO 8 scores to determine borrower eligibility. According to Experian, the average consumer FICO score in the US in 2020 was 711—an eight-point increase over 2019. In other words, the average credit score in America is good. “Fair” credit scores on the FICO scale range between 580 and 669.
Average Credit Score by Age
Financial obligations change over the course of a lifetime—and your credit scores will reflect those changes. Younger people haven’t had as much time to build their credit profiles, and they’re often also saddled with student debt. Many older borrowers no longer have mortgages, and some are better off financially than their younger peers.
Average and good may be two different things, but all of the “average” scores listed above are actually pretty good—even for the 18 to 23 age bracket. Anything over 670 is considered a good FICO score, while anything over 700 is a good VantageScore.
Average credit scores vary depending on state as well as age. According to Experian data, Minnesotans had the highest average FICO scores in America in 2020—an impressive 739 out of a possible 850. Meanwhile, with an average of 675, Mississippi residents had the lowest average credit scores in the nation. Again, despite the pandemic, average scores improved in every state in 2020.
Ways to Improve Your Credit
If your FICO score or VantageScore isn’t stellar, don’t panic. There are lots of ways you can enhance both scores—even if you don’t have a lot of time or money.
Before you do anything else, make sure you understand where your credit currently stands—and why—by signing up for a Credit.com account. With our free Credit Report Card, you’ll see an overview of your credit, including your Experian VantageScore 3.0. You can also get a free month trial of ExtraCredit to see 28 of your FICO scores and your detailed credit reports from all three bureaus.
Once you understand where your credit is and what is affecting it, you can start making positive changes. Here are five ways you can work to build your credit profile in 2021:
Keep your credit utilization low. Try not to use more than 30% of your available credit in any given billing cycle. Keeping your credit utilization low shows lenders that you’re a responsible borrower.
Make payments on time. Late or missed payments reflect poorly on you and lower your credit score. Show lenders that you’re responsible by making payments on time—and if you can, pay more than the minimum amount.
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Don’t apply for credit too often. Keep new applications to a minimum to limit hard inquiries and avoid a score dip.
Tackle past-due accounts. Late and missed payments stay on your credit report for up to seven years—and so do delinquent accounts. Working with your lenders to bring past-due accounts up to date could improve your credit score.
Keep Tabs on Your Credit
Great credit scores don’t appear by magic—you have to pay attention to all five credit factors to keep your score in the “good” zone. When you sign up for ExtraCredit from Credit.com, you can access all three of your credit reports—and with Track It, you can monitor 28 of your FICO scores. Give your credit the attention it deserves and watch your score improve from month to month.