A credit score may be used by various companies in their evaluation of whether to do business with you. Your credit score may determine whether you can rent a car, lease an apartment, qualify for a mortgage, finance a car, or get a credit card. Utility companies will check your credit score to decide whether to charge you a deposit to turn on your service and insurance companies will check your credit score to set your auto insurance premium rate.
As a result, you must understand what a credit score is and, more importantly, what causes a credit score to go up or down. Here are some frequently asked questions about credit scores along with answers that will help you to manage your credit score.
What is a credit score?
Credit scores range from 300 to 850. The higher the number, the more attractive you are to a lender. A score of 740 or higher is considered very good to excellent. A score of 670 to 739 is considered good. Scores below 670 are considered fair to poor.
Your credit history determines your credit score. Specifically, your credit history is a running record of your number of open accounts, total level of debts, and repayment history. This information is used to calculate a credit rating that represents the risk of extending credit to you.
How are credit scores calculated?
Three credit bureaus track and calculate your credit score. Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion collect information from companies you do business with, as well as public records such as court documents, bankruptcy filings, and tax records. This information constitutes your credit history with that bureau. Your credit history may vary among the three bureaus because lenders may not report credit events to all three.
Each bureau calculates a credit score based on your credit history. They use the same scoring range, but your credit score may vary because each one uses different inputs and different formulas to calculate your credit score. Nevertheless, your credit score will usually be within a few points across the three bureaus.
The term “FICO Score” refers to the credit scores created by the Fair Isaac Corporation. FICO is not a credit bureau because it does not collect credit information. Rather, it merely calculates a score based on credit data from the three bureaus. Fico scores are used in over 90% of US lending decisions.
What factors are used to calculate a credit score?
Credit scores are based on several factors including:
- Credit utilization: The number of open credit accounts, the age of the accounts, and the type of account (credit card, store credit, mortgage, and so forth) is a factor in your credit score. More credit accounts are not necessarily bad, but rapidly opening new accounts can cause your score to drop.
- Debt-to-income ratio (DTI): DTI is calculated by dividing your total amount of annual debt by your annual income. A DTI of 36% or less is considered good. Lenders hesitate to extend credit once your DTI gets above 43%.
- Payment history: Late payments, delinquent accounts, and defaults that lead to collections can adversely affect your credit score. A history of on-time payments boosts your score.
According to Experian, your payment history and utilization rate accounts for 65% of your credit score.
What builds a credit score?
Credit scores are dynamic. For example, every time you make a payment to a vendor or creditor on-time, you avoid a negative entry in your credit history. Here are a few ways to enhance or rebuild a credit score:
1. Only borrow what you can afford
Maintaining a responsible level of credit lowers your DTI and allows you to keep up on your bills. Both should help boost your credit score.
2. Pay your bills on time
Late payments and collections accounts will stay on your credit history for seven years and has the biggest impact on your scores. If you have defaulted on an account and it has been sent to collections, paying off the account does not reverse the damage. Based on the way credit scores are calculated, you will be best served by keeping up on all your other accounts to avoid further defaults or late payments than paying off the collection agency.
3. Mix up credit and other loans
Consider getting various types of credit or loans. Having a mix of both revolving credit and installment accounts may boost your score.
4. Dispute credit report errors
Review your credit report and check for mistakes and identity theft. Dispute these negative entries directly with the credit bureaus. Credit bureaus are required to investigate and respond in 30 days unless your report is deemed frivolous.
Does debt consolidation improve a credit score?
Yes, if used properly. Debt consolidation combines multiple credit accounts into a new loan. Because it requires opening a new account, debt consolidation can temporarily decrease your credit score. However, if you make on-time payments and refrain from incurring any new debt, your credit score should slowly improve.
How do soft inquiries and hard inquiries affect credit score?
Soft inquiries do not affect your credit scores while a hard inquiry can cause your credit score to drop by five to ten points.
Soft inquiries are usually used by a lender you already have a credit relationship with and, as such, are designed to provide limited information without affecting your credit score. Hard inquiries are usually used to determine whether to offer a new credit account.
Manage your credit score better
Under consumer protection laws, you are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus every 12 months. You can use this information to both dispute errors and identify what actions can be taken to build up your credit score. Although it takes time, building a good credit score will unlock many opportunities from buying a home to accessing credit for vacations and weddings.
To learn more about the credit opportunities your credit score can provide, visit our online form or call us at 877-310-2373 to begin the loan application process.
†We offer personal loans from $1,000 to $25,000, with minimum and maximum amounts dependent on an applicant’s state of residence and the underwriting of the loan. Loans between $1,500 and $7,000 may be funded online. Loans greater than $7,000 or less than $1,500 are funded through our branch network. Specific interest rates and fees are determined as permitted under applicable state law and depend upon loan amount, term, and the applicant’s ability to meet our credit criteria, including, but not limited to, credit history, income, debt payment obligations, and other factors such as availability of collateral. Not all rates and loan amounts are available in all states. Not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rates or larger loan amounts, which may require a first lien on a motor vehicle not more than ten years old titled in the applicant’s name with valid insurance.
To help the government fight the funding of terrorism and money laundering activities, Federal law requires all financial institutions to obtain, verify, and record information that identifies each person who opens an account. As a result, under our customer identification program, we must ask for your name, street address, mailing address, date of birth, and other information that will allow us to identify you. We may also ask to see your driver's license or other identifying documents.
*The process uses a “soft” credit inquiry to determine whether a loan offer is available, which does not impact your credit score. If you continue with the application process online and accept a loan offer, or are referred to a branch and continue your application there, we will pull your credit report and credit score again using a “hard” credit inquiry. This “hard” credit inquiry may impact your credit score.