Credit Score

What is a credit score? It’s a number typically ranging from 300 (low) to 850 (high) that represents the likelihood of someone paying back a loan on time, based on that person’s past credit history.

Why is it important? Banks use credit scores to determine a lender’s credit worthiness. If someone has a low score because he’s been late on his payments before, then lenders will either refuse to give him a new loan, or agree to lend him money at a higher interest rate, to compensate for the extra risk.

How is the credit score calculated? Broadly speaking, it’s based on 5 factors with different weighting. See breakdown below.

14-04-creditscore credit score

How do you increase your credit score? Improve the 5 variables that make up the credit score.

  • Credit Searches: Everyone is entitled to one free credit score report per year. Hard pulling your credit history too often could raise red flags and decrease your score.
  • Types of Credit: Have a wide range of different types of debt. Types include mortgage, car loan, credit card, line of credit, student loan, etc.
  • Length of Credit Accounts: The older your credit accounts are, the higher your score will be.
  • Credit/Debt Ratio: Try to keep this ratio below 50%. But ideally it should be under 25% for the best possible score. For example, don’t keep a balance higher than $2,500 on a credit card with a $10,000 maximum credit limit.
  • Payment History: Always pay the bills on time and always pay at least the minimum amount.

Where to find your score. You can request it from any of the three large credit bureaus:  Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Credit reports are generally free and can be obtained either through the credit bureau’s website or by letter request, but you may have to pay a fee for the score itself. Cafe Credit lists all services offering free credit scores. Alternatively if your bank recently pulled your credit history you can ask your financial advisor or another banking representative. They will have your full credit report on file, including the score 😉

What’s the typical credit score? In the United States, the median score was 711 in 2011. The proverbial “subprime mortgage crisis” in 2007 got its name because banks were lending to borrowers with credit scores below 640, which is seen as the dividing number between prime and subprime. Typically individuals with subprime status, or credit scores below 640, have trouble meeting their debt obligations.

This means you should keep your own credit score above 640 at the minimum. A score between 700 and 750 would put you in the same boat as most other people. And a score over 750 would give you the lowest interest rates on the market for your next mortgage or auto loan 🙂

Do companies have credit scores too? Yes, but they’re referred to as credit ratings. And instead of a number, companies receive letter grades such as AA, or AA+ for prime and credit worthy businesses, to C or D for more risky borrowers. Credit rating agencies who grade businesses include Moody’s, S&P, and Fitch. Entire countries can be graded as well. According to S&P Canada has the highest possible sovereign credit rating of AAA 😀

Random Useless Fact: Computer programs can be so inconsiderate sometimes.

14-04-invaliduser credit score invalid user

dat frown 🙁

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Mario Debtblag
04/14/2014 8:08 am

Nice walk-through 🙂

That feels especially terrible to say after your cartoon. How sad.

04/14/2014 9:35 am

Thanks for the info. Honestly, I have no idea what my credit score is. I’ve actually never pulled my credit report either (yikes, I know). I should probably get on that.

Mark Thomas
Mark Thomas
04/15/2014 7:34 am

One interesting thing to note is that FICO themselves have stated that the score algorithm likes to see a little bit of credit-related activity. That may seem obvious, but it seems that many people with a lot of credit card debt want to pay everything off and get their utilization to 0% and then not touch anything unless they have to. Of course, that will significantly improve your score, but if you want to improve it even MORE, maybe 1-5% utilization would boost it a few points. So it’s not a bad idea to continue using a card for small purchases and paying it off in full every month. However, it’s pretty much impossible to make sure a certain utilization percentage is reported since credit card issuers can report the balance at any point during the billing cycle, so the utilization can vary even if you try to spend a certain amount to get the utilization to a specific percentage. So it’s not worth stressing over watching it like a hawk, but it’s still a good idea to use credit responsibly in small doses, rather than leaving your balances at 0 indefinitely.

The Asian Pear
04/18/2014 4:07 pm

Great post. This reminded me that I haven’t done my annual credit report yet! The last time I did it was in January 2013. I believe the last time I did a credit score report was in 2011. I think I got 820 or something like that. Good to know how that score came about. They never really explained.


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