Understanding your FICO score
However, the score that's used by 90% of top lenders2 is your FICO score. FICO scores range from 300 to 8503 and are based on the information that the three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — have on file for you. Again, your scores might vary between bureaus, so it's a good idea to keep tabs on all three (more on that below).
Credit score factors
Though the exact algorithm used to calculate your credit score is proprietary, we do know the five major factors that influence your FICO score:
- Payment history (35%): The most important factor in determining your credit score is your payment history. Missing just one payment can negatively affect your score, while always paying your bills on time will boost your score higher.
- Amount owed (30%): Lenders like to see that you aren't too reliant on credit. Maxing out your credit cards is a big red flag. In fact, experts recommend utilizing no more than 30%4 of your total available credit.
- Length of credit history (15%): A short credit history or no credit history at all can hurt your score because your behavior is less predictable. The longer you've been using credit, the better.
- New credit (10%): Opening a lot of accounts within a short period of time can be a red flag that you're unable to keep up with your bills. It's a good idea to pace yourself when opening new credit cards or taking out loans.
- Credit mix (10%): Finally, lenders like to see that you can handle a variety of credit types. A mix of credit cards and different types of loans on your credit report will help strengthen your score.
Credit score ranges
So what's considered good credit? And when should you worry? Experian breaks down the FICO score ranges:
- Exceptional = 800+
- Very Good = 740 to 799
- Acceptable = 670 to 739
- Fair = 580 to 669
- Poor = 579 and lower
People with “very good" and “exceptional" credit scores will be able to borrow money at the lowest interest rates. Those with “fair" and “poor" scores will have to pay more to borrow money — if they're approved at all.
How to check your credit report and credit score
Not sure how you stack up? It's important to regularly check your credit report and credit score so you don't have issues when you need to borrow money.
Once a year, you can check your credit report from all three of the major credit bureaus for free at annualcreditreport.com.5 Review your credit reports for any errors that could negatively affect your score. If you do find an error, you can dispute it online through that credit bureau's website or give them a call:
Credit reports don't include your credit score, unfortunately. However, most credit card companies offer free FICO scores to their customers. There are also sites, such as Credit Karma6 and Credit Sesame,7 that provide free credit scores, though they do not offer FICO scores, Still, they can give you an idea of where you stand.
If you need help understanding your credit score, or to learn more about how to improve your credit, stop by a Synovus branch and talk with us.