Understanding Your Credit Score


What is a credit score?

A credit score is a number that reflects your credit risk level, typically with a higher number indicating lower risk. Your credit score is a fluid number, and it changes as the elements in your credit report change. For example, payment updates or a new account could cause your score to fluctuate.

FICO® scores are your credit rating. Scores can range from 300-850, higher is better.

Your FICO® score is calculated based on your rating in five general categories:

  • Payment History

  • Amount Owed

  • Length of Credit History

  • New Credit

  • Types of Credit Used

What information impacts my credit score?

Generally, credit scores are affected by elements in your credit report, such as:

  • Number and severity of late payments

  • Type, number and age of accounts

  • Total debt

  • Recent inquiries

What are score factors?

Score factors are the elements from your credit report that drive your credit score. For example, such elements as your total debt, types of accounts, number of late payments and age of accounts are what determine the outcome of your credit score. Score factors can have a positive or negative effect on your credit score.

How do I improve my credit score?

  • Paying your bills on time is the single most important contributor to a good credit score. Even if the debt you owe is a small amount, it is crucial that you make payments on time.

  • Minimize outstanding debt, avoid overextending yourself and applying for credit needlessly.

  • Use the credit you already have to prove your ongoing ability to manage credit responsibly. Applications for credit show up as inquiries on your credit report, indicating to lenders that you may be taking new debt.

  • If you do have negative information on your credit report, such as late payments, a bankruptcy, public record item or too many inquiries, your best strategy is to pay your bills and wait. Time is often your best ally in improving credit.

Disclaimer: Credit bureau-based scores cannot use demographics prohibited under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, such as race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, marital status, receipt of public assistance or exercise of rights under Consumer Credit Protection Act. Scores used by individual lenders may use such elements as income, occupation, and type of residence in determining their own custom credit score.