When it comes to credit scores, it's better to be better than the average.
Sometimes, it seems that life is made up of a series of measurements, some of which matter more than others. A pretty shallow person would form an opinion of you based on your height, shoe size or dress size, for example. But, banks, lenders and other institutions use one measurement, your credit score, to assess whether you'd be a good person to lend money to or even a good person to hire for a particular job.
The goal of the credit score is to see how much of a risk you'd be to a lender. The higher your score, the safer bet you are. There are different methods of computing credit scores and different ranges of a score, but for the most part, scores are from 300 to 850.
What the Average Score Looks Like
The Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) is one company that figures out credit scores. According to its data, the average score in the US, in April 2015, was 695. The average credit score is currently the highest it's been since the company starting keeping track, in 2005 when the average score was 688. Scores between 640 and 700 are typically considered "fair," meaning that you won't get the best interest rates and loan terms, but a lender might not turn you down, either.
Who Has the Top Scores?
Along with a boost in the average score, FICO found that the number of people with "excellent" scores, above 800, has increased in recent years. Nearly 20% of the population had a score between 800 and 850 in April 2015. In 2005, around 17% of people had scores over 800.
Certain parts of the country are likely to have higher scores than other areas. Experian, one of the three credit reporting agencies, found that Minnesota had VantageScores (another credit score computation method) that were higher than the national average. Mankato, MN had the highest scores of all, with the average being 706. Rochester and Minneapolis both also had average scores over 700.
Increasing Credit Scores
Credit scores in the US are on the upswing, which can be good news for many, as better scores typically mean better interest rates and better loan terms. As of April 2015, fewer than 5% of people in the US had a FICO score under 500. In the midst of the recession, in October 2009, more than 7% of people had scores under 500.
Boost Your Score
If your credit score is similar to the national average, you might want to focus on improving it, especially if you plan on applying for a mortgage or another major loan in the near future. Higher scores tend to mean better rates, so you'll save money in the long run. Although there's no one surefire trick to bring your credit score up, there are a few areas you might focus on. One is making sure you pay on time, as payment history makes up 35% of the FICO score.
Another area to focus on is the amount you owe, particularly on credit cards. It's usually a good idea to borrow less than 10% of your available credit, as the more you've borrowed, the riskier you look to a lender. If you have a card with a $10,000 limit, aim to charge no more than $1,000 on it before you pay off the balance.
When it comes to credit scores, it's better to be better than the average. While a score around 695 might be fine for some people, if you want to get the best rate on your next loan, it pays to focus on boosting your score.