What Is A Good Credit Score? The Ultimate Guide

Some people haven’t ever borrowed money before.

Claire wonders why those people have a low credit score.

The answer is pretty simple: Bureaus want to be sure they can trust someone before they lend them much money.

What Is A Good Credit Score?

Alright, now that Claire knows what credit is (the amount of money you can borrow) and what a credit score is (how likely you are to pay that money back), she comes back to her first question.

What is a good credit score?

Credit scores are generally divided into five categories.

The numbers for a “Good” credit score can be different since there are a few different ways to score your credit.

Claire decides to focus on the two biggest models: FICO and VantageScore.

First, a look at the FICO scoring model. 

Poor: 300 – 579

Fair: 580 – 669

Good: 670 – 739

Very Good: 740 – 799

Excellent: 800 – 850

So using FICO, “Good” is between 670 and 739.

VantageScore structures things a little different so here’s their model:

Very Poor: 300 – 499

Poor: 500 – 600

Fair: 601 -660

Good: 661 – 780

Excellent: 781 – 850

According to the VantageScore model, “Good” is 661 – 780.

Since the higher credit number can’t hurt, Claire focuses on the difference between the lower number.

A credit score of 662 would be “Good” with VantageScore, but only “Fair” on the FICO model. 

So what should Claire aim for?

Right now, Claire’s goal is to buy a house in the near future.

Claire doesn’t know which scoring model or credit bureau her mortgage lender will use.

Since it’s impossible to know, Claire decides to aim for 700 as a way to split the difference. 

Does Checking Your Credit Score Lower It?

Claire’s excited to have a goal, but she doesn’t know what her credit score is at the moment.

She wants to check, but she’s heard that checking your credit score can lower it, and she doesn’t want that! 

After doing some research, Claire learns that there are “hard checks” and “soft checks” of a credit score. 

A “hard check” is what a lender will pull to check your credit score.

This can lower your score since it’s associated with taking out more debt. 

Fortunately, you also have the option to do what’s called a “soft check”.

This is where you check your own credit, and it has no effect on your score.

After her soft check, Claire learns that her credit score is 602.

That’s nearly 100 points below her goal, and she starts feeling discouraged. 

How is she supposed to raise her credit score by that much without waiting years for her new home? 

Ways To Improve Your Credit Score

To improve her credit, Claire needs to learn what determines her credit score.

She finds there are five things that impact credit scores. 

1. Payments

You probably expected this one, right?

Whether you paid loans or credit cards off on time or late makes a big impact on your score. 

When someone pays on time, their score goes up since it sets a precedent for being responsible and trustworthy with credit.

When someone frequently pays late, their score goes down.

The lenders aren’t sure whether they can trust the borrower to pay back on time or not.

2. Usage

“Usage” is how much of your available credit you’re spending.

Say you can borrow up to $5,000, but you only use $500.

This reflects well on your score since you aren’t using the full amount. 

It’s kind of like when you offer someone a cookie and tell them to take as many as they want.

If someone takes the entire plate from you, you aren’t going to offer them cookies again! 

3. Recency

The next thing that impacts your credit score is how recently you applied for credit.

Applying for credit cards and loans frequently hurts your score.

This is closely tied to payments and usage since people who apply for lots, and lots of credit typically have a hard time paying it back since they use it all up. 

4. Credit Mix

“Credit mix” means the kinds of credit you’ve taken out — credit cards, car loans, mortgages, personal loans, etc.

Having more than one kind of credit under your belt will boost your score.

Why does this matter? Well, if you can effectively manage several different kinds of credit, lenders can trust you to manage another.

On the other hand, if you’re just barely making payments on time for one loan, it’s hard to tell how you’d handle another.

5. Credit Age

Finally, how long you’ve had credit accounts impacts your score.

This is about building trust. Anyone can make a great first impression, but it takes responsibility and commitment to keep that up over the years. 

Help With Improving Your Credit Score

After all that, Claire feels overwhelmed. She starts looking for some help.

She finds three great options for free services that she can trust to help her with raising her credit score. 

1. Credit Karma

Claire had heard of Credit Karma before, so she decided to look up more information about it.

She likes what she finds and decides to make a Pros and Cons list so she can easily compare it to the other services she’s considering. 

Pros:

  • Free credit monitoring and reports.
  • Uses VantageScore.
  • Offers credit card and loan options based on her credit history.
  • Security updates.
  • Offers recommendations on money management.

Cons:

  • Makes money through ads, which can get frustrating.
  • Offers loans and credit card options that aren’t always relevant or money-smart.
  • Doesn’t offer a FICO score.

2. Credit Sesame

Claire finds that Credit Sesame has a lot of similarities to Credit Karma.

She builds up another pros and cons list to make it easy to compare. 

Pros:

  • Goal setting feature gives tips on how to reach goals the user picks.
  • Free identity theft protection.
  • The “Key Factors Impacting Your Score” section helps you understand what you can change.
  • Free credit monitoring.

Cons:

  • Uses the Experian National Equivalency scoring model, up to 33 points off from a FICO score.
  • Full credit reports are $9.95.
  • Targeted ads can offer options that aren’t helpful or money smart.

3. Experian

Wait a second, wasn’t Experian one of the major credit bureaus from earlier? Yes!

They also offer a free credit monitoring service.

Claire makes a pros and cons list for Experian, too, so she can compare it to her other options. 

Pros:

  • Uses FICO model.
  • Performs a one-time dark web scan to make sure her information is safe.
  • Monthly credit reports and score updates.
  • ExperianBoost adds phone and utility bills to your credit file.

Cons:

  • Only checks Experian score.
  • Has a paid version of the service and can push it frequently.

Now, Claire can look over things with her spouse and pick the option that works best for her.

She can confidently correct her credit and work towards the home of her dreams. (And lots of other things along the way!) 

Conclusion

Don’t let the thought of improving your credit overwhelm you!

Instead, embrace the challenge and see it as an opportunity to take control of your financial future.

Every journey starts with a single step, and the same goes for improving your credit score.

You can make steady progress towards your goal by breaking it down into manageable steps and seeking help when needed.

So, what are you waiting for? The hardest part is over – you now understand the basics of credit and how to improve it.

It’s time to take action and start reaching for your dreams.

Go ahead, take that first step, and watch your credit soar!