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Credit Score FAQ

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About Credit Scores

What is a credit score?

A credit score, calculated from variables in your credit report and other factors determined by the lending institution, is a rating tool used by lenders to gauge an individual's creditworthiness.

What if I do not receive a credit score?

A credit score can't be generated if there's no information in a credit report, so individuals with little or no credit history will generally not have a score. To remedy this situation, consider applying for a retail, gas or secured credit card to establish credit. Then keep your debt low and pay your bills on time to establish your credit history on a positive note.

What is the credit score range? What is the average credit rating?

Credit scores range from 350 to 850. The higher the number, the better the credit rating. A score in the 700s or higher is excellent, around 650 is a midrange score, and anything lower than 600 has room for improvement. What is the average credit rating? The national average score is 676.

Some statistics about the score distribution (percentiles):

  • 90% of the US population is below 790
  • 70% of the US population is below 755
  • 50% of the US population is below 710
  • 35% of the US population is below 670
  • 15% of the US population is below 600

How does my credit score affect me?

Credit scores, calculated from such information in your credit file as total debt, types of accounts, number of late payments, age of accounts, and number of inquiries, give lenders a subjective rating of your creditworthiness. Lenders then consider this rating when deciding whether or not to extend you credit. It's in your best interest, therefore, to keep your credit as robust as possible so you can secure favorable rates and terms. If your credit score is weak, you can often strengthen it by minimizing outstanding debt, avoiding overextension, and limiting new credit applications.

How often does my credit score change?

Your credit score fluctuates as often as information in your credit file changes.

Do late payments affect my credit score?

Yes, late payments negatively affect your score - paying your bills on time is the single most important contributor to a good credit score.

Do inquiries affect my credit score?

It depends on the type of inquiry. Inquiries for marketing purposes do not affect your score. These include consumer requests for a credit report, lenders using credit information to review an account, or a potential employer looking over someone's credit. Inquiries initiated by the consumer, such as mortgage, auto loan and credit card applications, however, do affect your score because studies have shown that too many are a red flag for credit risk. Inquiries do not weigh as heavily, however, as past payment history or number of delinquent accounts.

Does co-signing a loan affect my credit score?

Yes. Any loan or credit card account affects your score.

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