When it comes to important numbers, your credit score is right up there with your social security number, your best friend’s phone number, and your PIN. It’s the number that lenders, landlords, and even employers use to check your creditworthiness. It’s useful to understand the credit score range and how it impacts your financial life.

What is a credit score?

A credit score is the number that represents your creditworthiness—which basically means how likely you are to pay back debts and manage credit responsibly. Lenders and creditors use your credit score to evaluate the risk of lending to you. The higher your score, the more creditworthy you appear, making it easier to qualify for loans and secure favorable interest rates.

What is the credit score range?

Credit scores typically fall within a specific range, and each credit bureau uses a slightly different formula to calculate scores. The most commonly used credit score range in the U.S. is the FICO Score, which ranges from 300 to 850. Here’s how the FICO Score range is typically divided

Poor (300-579)

A credit score in this range is considered poor, and individuals with scores in this category may have difficulty obtaining credit or may face high-interest rates if they do.

Fair (580-669)

A fair credit score suggests some credit risk. While you may qualify for credit, it’s likely to come with less favorable terms.

Good (670-739)

Falling into the good credit score range indicates that you’re a lower credit risk. You’re more likely to qualify for loans and credit cards with reasonable interest rates.

Very Good (740-799)

A very good credit score reflects strong credit management skills. You’re likely to receive favorable terms and interest rates on loans and credit cards.

Excellent (800-850)

An excellent credit score indicates that you have a long history of responsible credit management. You’re likely to qualify for the best loan rates and credit card offers.

Factors that influence your credit score

Understanding the credit score range is essential, but it’s equally important to know what factors influence your credit score. The following factors can impact your credit score:

1. Payment history (35% of your score)

Your payment history is the most significant factor affecting your credit score. It looks at whether you’ve made payments on time, had late payments, or missed payments altogether.

2. Amounts owed (30% of your score)

This considers the amount of credit you’re using compared to the total credit available to you. It’s also known as credit utilization. Lower utilization is better for your score.

3. Length of credit history (15% of your score)

This factor looks at the age of your credit accounts. A longer credit history can positively impact your score.

4. Credit mix (10% of your score)

A diverse mix of credit types, like credit cards, installment loans, and mortgages, can positively influence your score.

5. New credit (10% of your score)

Opening multiple new credit accounts in a short period may lower your score temporarily. It’s seen as a potential sign of financial stress.

How to improve your credit score

If your credit score falls in the lower ranges and you want to improve it, here are some steps to consider:

1. Pay bills on time

Consistently making on-time payments is the most effective way to boost your credit score. Set up reminders or automatic payments to ensure you don’t miss due dates.

2. Reduce credit card balances

High credit card balances relative to your credit limit can hurt your credit score. Aim to keep your credit utilization below 30% on all cards.

3. Build a positive payment history

If you have limited credit history, consider becoming an authorized user on a family member’s credit card or applying for a secured credit card to start building positive credit history.

4. Avoid opening too many new accounts

Each new credit inquiry can slightly lower your credit score. Be selective when applying for new credit and only open accounts when necessary.

5. Maintain older accounts

The length of your credit history matters, so try to keep your older accounts open, even if you’re not actively using them.

6. Monitor your credit report

Regularly check your credit report for errors or discrepancies. Dispute any inaccuracies you find, as they can negatively impact your score.

7. Create a budget

Establish a budget that allows you to manage your debts effectively and make timely payments. Avoid overspending, especially on credit cards.

Why your credit score matters

Your credit score has a profound impact on your financial life. It not only affects your ability to qualify for loans and credit cards but also influences the interest rates and terms you receive. Here’s why your credit score matters:

1. Loan approvals

Lenders use your credit score to determine whether to approve your loan application. A higher score increases your chances of approval.

2. Interest rates

Your credit score directly affects the interest rates you’re offered. A better score can save you thousands of dollars in interest over the life of a loan.

3. Rental applications

Landlords often check credit scores when evaluating rental applications. A lower score can lead to higher security deposits or even application rejection.

4. Insurance premiums

Some insurance companies use credit scores to assess risk and set premiums. A lower score may result in higher insurance costs.

5. Employment

Certain employers may check credit scores as part of the hiring process, particularly for jobs that involve financial responsibilities.

The bottom line: understanding the credit score range matters

Understanding the credit score range and the factors that influence your score is essential for managing your financial health. Monitoring your credit, responsible credit management, and taking steps to improve your credit score can lead to better financial opportunities and a more secure financial future.