Average credit score: How do you compare?
A credit score is an assessment of your trustworthiness as a borrower. Companies use this simple number, along with other factors, to assess the likelihood that you'll pay back the money you borrow.
Credit scores tend to rise with age. Someone about to retire is much more likely to hold a higher rating than someone just emerging from college.
But wide variability exists between age groups. And sometimes, people within those cohorts have higher or lower scores than their peers.
If you're not thrilled with your rating in 2020, fixing the problem can take time. But by consistently following a few smart-money steps, you can get back on track.
Dig Into Credit Score Details
Everyone has a credit report, including people who don't know such pieces of data exist. Knowing how your numbers are both assessed and used is an important part of becoming a financially savvy consumer.
More than a thousand types of credit reports exist. They all work differently, but they tend to pull from the same data points, including:
- Overall debt. How much do you owe right now?
- History. Do you repay your debts on time? Have you ever walked away from a bill without paying it?
- Interest in borrowing. Have you filled out plenty of loan applications lately?
Your credit score does not include an assessment of your employment status, salary, or health. Instead, it's a check of your payment history and current debt.
Your credit score also doesn't represent your financial health. If you have no credit cards, for example, you may have enough money on hand to cover your expenses. But you could have a low score since you have no history of paying back the funds you borrow.
Credit scores are typically arranged on a scale. The FICO version reads like this:
- 300 to 579: Very poor
- 580 to 669: Fair
- 670 to 739: Good
- 740 to 799: Very good
- 800 to 850: Excellent
You can have a credit score considered fair or poor and still get a loan. But your lender may put you in a high-risk category, and that could mean higher fees and more interest payments.
On average, Americans had a FICO credit score of 711 in July 2020. Financial experts were a bit surprised by this figure, as it represents a new high for consumers. As the nation grappled with a pandemic, most economists predicted higher debt loads and more missed payments.
But from January to May 2020, debt loads shrunk by 1%, and missed payments dropped by 5%. Despite these figures, many are still struggling.
It's not clear how the numbers will change moving forward. Consumer credit scores move up and down based on all sorts of factors that even experts can't predict. But it seems clear that plenty of people are prioritizing financial health despite the challenges they face.
Average Credit Score by Age
With each candle on your birthday cake, your financial prowess tends to grow. In general, older people have better scores than younger individuals. However, some young people know more about what credit reports mean than their elders do.
Average FICO scores per age group include:
- Ages 20 to 29: 662
- Ages 30 to 39: 673
- Ages 40 to 49: 684
- Ages 50 to 59: 706
- 60 and older: 749
Plot these numbers on a graph, and you'll see a line stretching up to the sky. The data doesn't change whether people are aware of their scores or not. But research suggests young people watch their credit scores carefully, and they work hard to fix problems they find.
In studies of awareness, the age groups demonstrate sharp differences. These numbers represent the percentage of people within each generation aware of their credit standing:
- Millennials: 93%
- Generation X: 79%
- Baby boomers: 73%
Clearly, young people may have lower credit scores, but they're aware of the issue. And all consumers are seeing higher numbers as time passes.
In 2015, for example, people ages 30 to 49 had a credit score of 652. In 2019, that same age group had a credit score of 672. In 2015, people ages 40 to 49 had a credit score of 667. In 2019, that number rose to 683.
5 Ways to Improve Your Credit Score
About 61% of consumers are working hard to shift their credit scores. If you're one of them, know that your work will take time. You can't fix your credit report overnight. But a few simple steps can make a big difference over time.
Change your credit scores by:
- Paying all bills on time. Dealing with your debts is the best way to build up your credit score. Don't miss a payment, and try to ensure your debtors get their money before it's due.
- Checking your scores regularly. Per federal law, you're entitled to one free copy of your full credit report every year. Discover data about outstanding debts, your payment history, and more. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to order one.
- Fixing errors when you find them. If you spot mistakes on your credit report, contact both the source of the error (your bank or debtor) and the agency that created the report.
- Paying your debts in full. It's easy to pay only the minimum amount due on credit cards, car loans, and mortgages. When you can, tack on extra money. Better yet, pay the entire balance as soon as you can.
- Managing credit carefully. Don't apply for more charge accounts than you need. But when you've paid off your balance, keep unused cards open. You'll have a high ratio of debt availability with a low balance, and that looks good to potential creditors.
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Current is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by Choice Financial Group, Member FDIC.
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At What Age Can You Expect Your Best FICO Score? (March 2020). Experian.
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What a 'Good' Credit Score Actually Means, and How You Can Get One. (September 2020). TIME.
Free Credit Reports. Federal Trade Commission.
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Millennials’ Average FICO Score Increased 25 Points Since 2012 — Here’s the Average Credit Score by Generation. (August 2020). CNBC.
Tricks to Improve Your Credit Score. (November 2020). NPR.
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