Before delving into what’s a good credit score number in America, it’s helpful to understand what’s the top credit score you can have. The highest credit score and the best credit score possible is 850 for both VantageScore and FICO – the two main credit score models in the US.
And while both have the same overall credit score range of 300 to 850, they differ on how they break out each specific credit score level within that range. For example, for FICO, a good credit score number is in the 670 to 739 range, while for VantageScore 3.0 a good credit score is from 661 to 780.
FICO scores above 739 fall into the very good and exceptional categories, while VantageScore 3.0 scores above 780 are considered excellent.
On the other hand, FICO scores in the 580 to 669 range are considered fair, while those falling in the 300 to 579 range are poor scores. For VantageScore 3.0, scores from 601 to 660 are considered fair. And scores below 601 fall into the poor and very poor categories.
What is a credit score and what does it mean?
A credit score is a three-digit number that measures your risk as a borrower using information from your credit reports. To calculate it, credit bureaus rely on scoring models created by companies such as FICO and VantageScore.
A credit score tells lenders how likely or unlikely you are to default on a loan within a period of time. When you miss bill due dates or carry too much debt, your credit reports pick up that information. It’ll lead to a lower credit score and lenders will view you as a higher risk.
Credit scores affect loan terms. Lenders look to balance the amount of risk they take on their lending against their profit. So riskier borrowers are more likely to get fewer credit perks and pay higher rates as compensation for that risk.
For example, if you’re looking for the best cash back rewards credit cards, you’re more likely to be approved if you have good credit.
Credit scores also change depending on which credit bureau provides your credit report. Your credit score will vary slightly when calculated using information from Experian, TransUnion or Equifax – the three main credit bureaus.
Lenders don’t have to follow the same credit score ranges used by others to approve a loan. They have their own internal policies. So even if your FICO score is 675 – in other words, in the range of a good credit score – a lender may decide they’ll only approve loans to people with a 700 credit score or even with a 750 score and higher.
What is a good credit score number in the US?
Generally speaking, US lenders view a score of 670 or higher as a good credit score. This is consistent with FICO’s definition: a good credit score number is from 670 to 739. But theirs isn’t the only definition.
VantageScore is a popular alternative used by some lenders. For VantageScore 3.0 a good credit score is from 661 to 780. Here are the full credit rating scales for both FICO and VantageScore.
FICO 8.0 credit score range
According to myFICO.com, FICO’s credit ranges are defined as follows:
- Exceptional: 800 to 850
- Very good: 740 to 799
- Good: 670 to 739
- Fair: 580 to 669
- Poor: 300 to 579
The following credit score chart for FICO reveals that the majority of Americans have a good credit score number.
VantageScore 3.0 credit score range
According to Experian, VantageScore’s credit levels are defined as follows:
- Excellent: 781 to 850
- Good: 661 to 780
- Fair: 601 to 660
- Poor: 500 to 600
- Very poor: 300 to 499
Here’s a credit score chart for VantageScore using the above information.
Why does having a good credit score matter?
Having a good credit score is important because it affects your access to loans, mortgages, credit cards and other financial products. In addition, your score plays an important role in determining the rate you’ll pay. Lenders offer better credit terms to people with good credit.
But that’s not all. A good credit score can affect your overall financial well-being:
- It can make renting an apartment more affordable: In some places, landlords may require potential renters with less than good credit to make a larger security deposit. And for homebuyers, a good credit score can help them qualify for a mortgage and get an attractive rate.
- You may have an easier time getting your utilities: Utilities run credit checks on new customers. And those with poor credit may need to make a deposit as an additional payment guarantee. So having a good credit history can make it easier to get the services you need.
- You can have an easier time landing your next job: When permitted by law, employers can (and often do) run credit checks on potential employees. While your credit history is not necessarily an indication of your skills, it gives potential employers additional information on your personal character.
- It’s easier to qualify for a loan: Whether you’re looking for a personal loan, a car loan or a mortgage, having a good credit score makes it easier to qualify. If you don’t meet the lender’s standards, you may need a cosigner to raise the money you need.
- It can affect your insurance rates: Insurance company analyses show that people with higher credit scores tend to get into fewer accidents and cost insurance companies less than those with lower credit scores. So a good credit score can affect your car insurance premiums in most states.
- You can qualify for better credit perks: You can get access to more attractive credit perks from lenders the higher your credit score. For example, if you have at least a good credit score, you can qualify for some 0% balance transfer credit cards.
What factors affect a credit score?
Your credit score is determined using information contained in your credit report. According to myFICO, this information is grouped into five categories as follows (the percentage in parenthesis reflects the importance of each category):
» Payment history, (35%): This includes not just your credit card bills, but also your mortgage, loans and other debt obligations including medical debt. It considers whether you have any missed payments or listed collections.
This category also looks at public legal record items such as foreclosures. To have a good credit score, you need to make your payments on time with few, if any, late payments.
» Amounts owed, (30%): The amount of debt you owe, how many accounts you have which carry a balance, and your credit utilization ratio are part of this category. Your utilization ratio refers to how much of your available credit you’re currently using.
Folks with a good credit score use a small percentage of their overall credit limit: less than 30% according to experts. If your utilization is too high, you may want to get a higher credit limit on your credit cards.
» Length of credit history, (15%): This category refers to the age of your accounts, including how old is your oldest account. If you have several credit cards, keeping your oldest one open helps maintain your credit age going.
More specifically, this category takes into account not only the age of your oldest account, but also the age of your newest account and an average age of all your accounts.
» Credit mix in use, (10%): Refers to the types of accounts you have open whether credit card accounts, loans, mortgages, etc.
Having and using different types of credit responsibly shows that you can manage different types of debt. While it’s a small component of your score, a good credit mix is part of a good credit score number.
» New credit, (10%): This category looks at the frequency with which you‘ve opened credit accounts in the past and the number of new credit requests or inquiries you’ve made in the last year.
Not all credit inquiries have an effect on your credit, though. Soft inquiries, for example, won’t impact your credit score as they’re not considered a request for credit on your part. But be mindful of hard inquiries or hard credit pulls as they can harm your credit.
How can I improve my credit score?
If you’re building your credit from scratch or are looking to fix bad credit, consider a secured credit card. While a secured card looks similar to a regular credit card, you’ll need to make a cash deposit to obtain one. The deposit acts as your credit line and collateral.
Why a secured credit card? Most issuers report your credit behavior to the main credit bureaus. So you’ll build credit by using your card responsibly, paying on time, and using a small percentage of your credit limit. And over time, your on-time payment record and low utilization will help you build your credit history.
If you want to achieve a good credit score number, the following tips will help you build it:
- Avoid late payments. To get and keep a good credit score you need to make your payments on time. If you’ve missed due dates in the past, start paying on time.
- If you’re late, avoid going into collections. Accounts that go into collections remain in your credit report for seven years. Avoid them as much as you can: they’ll slow down your progress towards a good credit score number.
- Be mindful of your credit utilization. Maxing out your credit cards increases your credit utilization, which hurts your credit. Maintain a low usage, as a utilization rate below 30% is best for building good credit. If your credit card issuer lowers your credit limit, follow these steps.
- Pay more than your minimum due on your credit cards. When you only pay your minimum due over a period of time, you signal to lenders that you can’t handle more credit. This can keep you from being approved for credit offers and drag down your efforts to improve your credit.
- Limit the number of credit cards that carry a balance, but avoid closing them. This tip ties out with keeping a low credit utilization. Maxing out a credit card can hurt your credit.
- Pay down debt. Paying down debt is one of the fastest ways to achieve a good or even an excellent credit score. The amount of debt you owe is a factor that carries a 30% weight on your credit score.
- Don’t rely on just one type of funding. Maintaining a healthy credit mix of loans, credit cards and retail credit shows you can handle different types of debt. This is a small factor, but it can help you maximize your credit score number.
- Avoid multiple hard credit inquiries in a short period. Hard credit pulls signal your need for credit. When shopping for credit, find out ahead of time whether your lender will do an initial soft or a hard credit check to provide you with a quote. Multiple hard inquiries hurt your credit.
- Request your credit reports and correct any errors. You can get your free credit reports three times a year by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. However, because of Covid, the site is offering free weekly online reports through April 2021. Review your report for any mistakes regarding your personal information and any accounts or activity you don’t recognize.
How can I check my credit score?
Your credit score depend on the information contained in your credit reports, which you can access for free from AnnualCreditReport.com. This site is maintained by the three main credit reporting agencies and is the only authorized site to provide you with your free credit reports.
But your free credit reports will not include a free credit score. Luckily, you have several options to obtain your credit scores for free:
Free FICO 8.0 score
Credit card issuers like American Express and Discover provide free FICO scores if you’re a cardholder. Check with your credit card company. They may offer you this service for free.
Free VantageScore 3.0 score
You can get your free VantageScore from the following sources:
- Capital One’s CreditWise: They use credit information from TransUnion.
- Chase’s CreditJourney: Their credit scores are powered by TransUnion and are refreshed weekly when you log into your account.
Here are some additional articles on credit that might be of interest to you:
- Why Was My Credit Card Application Denied? Steps to Fix It
- 19 Simple Ways to Improve Your Credit Score
- 7 Crucial Steps to Get Out of Credit Card Debt
- A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding Credit Scores
Mortgage lender policies vary, but generally speaking, you need a minimum score in the range of 620-640 to qualify for a mortgage. Better mortgage rates are available to people with a score of 700 and above, which is a good credit score.
Car loans are easier to obtain than mortgages and you can secure one even if you have less than perfect credit. But to get a good rate, you’ll need a credit score above 690.
Credit scores differ substantially by age bracket and increase as you get older. According to Experian, people aged 20 to 29 have an average FICO score of 662; those 30 to 39 average 673, and people in the 40 to 49 age group average 684, based on data from 2019.
Both scoring models rely on the information contained in your credit reports. So as you build your credit history, it’ll make its way into both scores. Most lenders rely on FICO, so monitoring it makes sense.