Do you feel like you need an advanced degree to figure out what is affecting your credit score? Good news is you don’t—it can actually be rather simple.
Behind the number itself (credit scores typically range from 300 to 850), there are five main factors used to calculate credit scores. Lenders use those scores to figure out how likely you are to pay back your debt—thus those scores are often the deciding factor in whether you will get a new loan.
As your financial profile changes, so does your score, so knowing what factors and types of accounts affect your credit score give you the opportunity to improve it over time.
Top 5 Credit Score Factors
While the exact criteria used by each scoring model varies, here are the most common factors that affect your credit scores.
- Payment history. Payment history is the most important ingredient in credit scoring, and even one missed payment can have a negative impact on your score. Lenders want to be sure that you will pay back your debt, and on time, when they are considering you for new credit. Payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO® Score☉ , the credit score used by most lenders.
- Credit utilization. Your credit utilization ratio is calculated by dividing the total revolving credit you are currently using by the total of all your revolving credit limits. This ratio looks at how much of your available credit you’re utilizing and can give a snapshot of how reliant you are on non-cash funds. Using more than 30% of your available credit is a negative to creditors. Credit utilization accounts for 30% of your FICO® Score.
- Credit history length. How long you’ve held credit accounts makes up 15% of your FICO® Score. This includes the age of your oldest credit account, the age of your newest credit account and the average age of all your accounts. Generally, the longer your credit history, the higher your credit scores.
- Credit mix. People with top credit scores often carry a diverse portfolio of credit accounts, which might include a car loan, credit card, student loan, mortgage or other credit products. Credit scoring models consider the types of accounts and how many of each you have as an indication of how well you manage a wide range of credit products. Credit mix accounts for 10% of your FICO® Score.
- New credit. The number of credit accounts you’ve recently opened, as well as the number of hard inquiries lenders make when you apply for credit, accounts for 10% of your FICO® Score. Too many accounts or inquiries can indicate increased risk, and as such can hurt your credit score.
Types of Accounts That Impact Credit Scores
Typically, credit files contain information about two types of debt: installment loans and revolving credit. Because revolving and installment accounts keep a record of your debt and payment history, they are important for calculating your credit scores.
- Installment credit usually comprises loans where you borrow a fixed amount and agree to make a monthly payment toward the overall balance until the loan is paid off. Student loans, personal loans, and mortgages are examples of installment accounts.
- Revolving credit is typically associated with credit cards but can also include some types of home equity loans. With revolving credit accounts, you have a credit limit and make at least minimum monthly payments according to how much credit you use. Revolving credit can fluctuate and doesn’t typically have a fixed term.