Credit

What is a Good Credit Score?

Credit scores can make or break your financial livelihood. So find out what constitutes a good credit score in this complete breakdown.

Editor's Note

You can trust the integrity of our balanced, independent financial advice. We may, however, receive compensation from the issuers of some products mentioned in this article. Opinions are the author's alone. This content has not been provided by, reviewed, approved or endorsed by any advertiser, unless otherwise noted below.

It seems like a simple question at first. What is a good credit score?

But what seems simple on the surface is often more complicated underneath. That's true when it comes to your credit score, too.

In fact, trying to define a good credit score is sort of like trying to define beauty. It's in the eye of the beholder. But in the case of your credit score, what's "good" depends on the opinion of the lender.

The bottom line is that different lenders have different criteria for what they consider a "good" score. If you applied for a loan today, one lender might turn you down while another offers you credit. This is, in part, because they'll look at your credit score slightly differently. But that's not to say that there isn't some consensus among lenders.

Good Credit Score

Generally, lenders will consider anything above 700 to be a good credit score. Between 650 and 700, and you might get loans with some lenders but not others. But if you're going for the best possible interest rate, you'll want to aim even higher than 700.

But the truth is that there's no single authority that defines what a "good" credit score is versus an average score versus a bad score. So we'll have to do some detective work to figure out those ranges.

First, we'll look at why there are so many differences of opinion on this seemingly simple question. Then, we'll dive into common credit score range breakdowns. Finally, we'll talk about what does and does not go into your credit score, and we'll direct you to some resources to help you improve yours.

Resource: Check your credit score for free at Credit Karma.

Why Is it So Complicated?

First, let's talk about why determining the answer to this question is so complicated. There are actually a few different reasons, including:

You have more than one credit report

For one thing, it’s important to understand that you actually have three different credit reports. Three bureaus--Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion--each collect credit data separately. Sometimes smaller lenders will report to one or two of the bureaus, but not all three. This could mean that some of your data doesn’t appear on all three reports.

Plus, if there are mistakes on your credit report, a mistake could appear on only one bureau's report. This can affect your credit score from that bureau, but not the others.

You never know which bureau's score a potential lender will pull. For larger loans, like mortgages, lenders will often pull your latest score from two or all three bureaus. But credit card companies, for instance, will typically only look at one bureau's report.

So this means that even if your credit score with one company looks excellent, your score with another company could look good or average.

What it means for you: If you’re aiming to get a baseline for your credit score, you’ll want to look at scores based on all three credit reports, if possible.

There are two major scoring models

Another major wrench in this conversation is the fact that there are two major scoring models. There are actually several different types of scoring models. But the two major models are the FICO Score and the VantageScore.

In general, these scoring models will look at similar data. How many late payments have you had? How much debt do you have relative to your available credit? But they're still not exactly the same. This means you could have a good score with one model and an average score with the other.

Plus, both of these major models have multiple iterations, as well. Right now, lenders can choose from more than a dozen FICO scoring models. There are models specific for car loans and models specific for home loans, for instance. The algorithm tweaks will make your numerical score appear slightly different, even if the raw data is the same.

And, again, you don't typically know ahead of time which scoring model a potential lender will use. So this makes it even harder to know if your credit score is objectively "good."

What it means for you: When possible, check out both your VantageScore and your FICO score. Our list of free credit score options offers both FICO Score and VantageScore estimates.

Your score may fluctuate from day to day

Perhaps you think you have a great credit score today. But if you're right on the line between good and great, that could change tomorrow. Unless you take a big credit hit, your score isn't likely to change dramatically from one day to the next. But it could.

If you're getting ready to apply for major credit, it's especially important to pay attention to this issue. This is why you shouldn't apply for new credit while you're also trying to get a mortgage, for instance.

What it means for you: Don’t get too hung up on the specific number you see at any given time. Remember that your score can fluctuate, and do your best to keep those fluctuations trending upwards.

Different lenders have different criteria

We can try all day to pin down the specific point at which your average score becomes a good one. But the fact is that different lenders have different criteria. One lender might give you decent rates with a score of 650, while another will require a score of 675.

Criteria will also vary depending on what type of loan you’re getting and on other financial factors. It’s always important to remember that lenders look at more than just your numerical credit score. They’ll also look at factors that don’t appear on your credit report, including:

  • Whether you have a full-time job.
  • How long you've worked at your job.
  • How much money you make versus your monthly financial obligations.

These items don't appear anywhere in your credit report. But they'll appear elsewhere in your loan application.

So if you have a 750 credit score but a low income, you probably won't qualify for a $500,000 mortgage. But if you have a 650 credit score and make $250,000 a year, you might qualify for that mortgage. (Though you probably won't get an excellent rate!)

What it means for you: Take our assessment of what makes a “good” credit score with a grain of salt. We’ll give you a general idea of what the industry says, but different lenders will interpret those numbers differently. And never forget that non-credit factors also play into whether or not you’ll qualify for the loan you want at a good rate.

Why Should I Care, Anyway?

Is all of this making your head spin? You're definitely not alone! At this point, maybe you're wondering why you should even care.

Well, for one thing, having a good credit score can seriously affect your ability to get credit. And a higher score will also result in lower rates. This means you can save tons of money just by improving your credit score.

Don't believe me? Here's one way to see how the differences play out.

Looking at current mortgage rates, let's see how the varying FICO credit scores stack up when applying for a 30-year fixed mortgage of $300,000. (Note: These rates are based on FICO's national average as of October 2, 2017.)

FICO Credit ScoreMortgage APRMonthly Payment
760 - 8503.553%$1,356
700 - 7593.775%$1,394
680 - 6993.952%$1,424
660 - 6794.166%$1,461
640 - 6594.596%$1,537
620 - 6395.142%$1,637

But your credit score doesn't just affect how big your mortgage payment will be. It also impacts things like:

  • How much you pay for auto and homeowner's insurance.
  • What you pay in credit card interest.
  • Whether you qualify for a 0% introductory APR credit card.
  • Whether you qualify for the best rewards credit cards.
  • How employable you are, in certain states.
  • Whether or not you qualify for a lease agreement or utilities.

Bottom line: Your credit score is central to everything you do in your financial life. So having a good one is really important.

Self is a unique company that offers to help you build your credit score. Instead of applying for a credit card that has high fees or a high-interest rate, Self has created a way for you to increase your credit score through a self-funded loan. After you’ve applied for your loan and selected a payment option, you’ll be on the path to building your credit. Once you’ve completed your payments, the entire principal is returned to you minus the interest rate.

Self Lender logo

doughroller Ranking

5/5

Need to build your credit? Life Happens... Self can help you get back on track.

So What Is A Good Credit Score?

But we still haven't answered the basic question of this article: What is a good credit score?

With all the above information in mind, we'll try to break down credit score ranges. Again, though, remember two things:

  1. Take this with a grain of salt. Different lenders may give you a different breakdown.
  2. A higher score is always better, even if you're near the top of the range.

So here's what our data says about the various credit score ranges:

FICO Credit ScoreMortgage APRMonthly Payment
760 - 8503.553%$1,356
700 - 7593.775%$1,394
680 - 6993.952%$1,424
660 - 6794.166%$1,461
640 - 6594.596%$1,537
620 - 6395.142%$1,637

Note: This information is based on Experian’s very helpful FICO Score breakdown.

VantageScore Ranges

RatingCredit Score Range
Excellent781 - 800
Good661 - 780
Average601 - 660
Fair500 - 600
Poor300 - 499

Note: This information is based on Experian’s VantageScore datasheet.

According to this information, we might consider a "good" VantageScore to be anything above 600. But you won't get the absolute best rates from lenders until you hit the 781 mark. For the FICO score, "good" is any score above 670. But you won't unlock the lowest rates until your score is near or at 800.

What Goes Into My Score?

Remember how we said that the FICO score and VantageScore look at different data? They do, but we won't worry too much about that here. Their specific formulas are top-secret, actually. But they do release information on basically what they're looking for in a good score.

Here is what you should worry about, in order of importance, when it comes to your credit score:

Payment History

Do you consistently make all your payments on time? Lenders are really concerned about this aspect of your credit history. So it's the most heavily weighted factor in your history. Problems in this area include late payments and negative filings like bankruptcy. But you can improve your score over time by making your minimum payments on time every month.

Amounts Owed

This isn't primarily about your total amount of debt, though account balances do appear on your credit report. Instead, it's about the total amount that you owe on revolving debt accounts, like credit cards, versus the amount of credit you have available. Running up big balances on your credit cards is the easiest way to tank this part of your credit score. Paying those balances back down may be one of the quickest ways to improve your score.

Length of Credit History

The longer you’ve had credit, the higher this portion of your score will be. This is why it’s important to think twice before closing old credit accounts, even if you don’t use them often.

Types of Credit Used

Having a mix of credit types--revolving and installment--helps improve this portion of your credit score.

New Credit

Taking out new credit isn't necessarily a bad thing. But applying for a lot of new credit at once can cause your credit score to decrease.

How Do I Get a Good Credit Score?

We have loads of content here on Dough Roller about how to improve your credit score. I'll break down the first steps you need to take, and then link you to more in-depth resources for further reading.

1. Make all your payments on time, every month. This will ensure that your payment history stays in good shape. If you already have late payments on your report, catch those accounts up as quickly as you can.

Once you’re in the habit of paying your bills on time, you’ll want to sign up for Experian Boost™. It’s free and will take note of the utility bills and mobile phone bills that you pay on time and use that information to give your FICO Score a boost. You can learn more and sign up for free here.

Learn More:

2. Pay down revolving credit balances. Carrying a high balance on a credit card or HELOC can cause your score to drop precipitously. Pay these balances down as quickly as you can, and you’ll find your score increases.

3. Be careful about applying for new credit. Generally, you should only apply for the credit you actually need. Don’t apply for new credit just to get a different credit score mix. It’s okay to shop around for credit, especially for accounts like a mortgage. But do this within two weeks to keep from dinging your score too much.

4. Consider leaving older accounts open. This can increase your average length of credit history, which is helpful for your score.

Further Reading

Check out these articles for more information on how to improve your score and keep it high:

How to Get Your Totally Free Credit Score

5 Ways to Build Your Credit Without Going in the Hole

How Late Payments Really Affect Your Credit Score

7 Things that Cause Your Credit Score to Fluctuate Month to Month

How to Build Credit When You Are Just Starting Out (The Smart Way)

This Woman Increased Her Credit Score 354 Points By Writing Letters

How To Get Your REAL Credit Score - The One That Lenders See

The Bottom Line Impact Credit Inquiries Have On You


Recommended Stories