Credit score talk is all over the place these days, from online forums to the office break room. That’s because your credit score affects just about every aspect of your life: your ability to get a mortgage, qualify for a car loan, or rent an apartment.
In some cases, potential employers will even check your credit to see how responsible you are. This means your credit score can even affect whether you’re picked for your dream job.
With all this competition for credit, housing, and even jobs, it’s natural to wonder what the average credit score is and how it compares to everyone else’s. We’ve got the inside scoop on how you stack up in the wild world of credit. Ready to find out?
Putting Credit Scores into Context
Credit scores are most frequently crafted by a company called FICO. The FICO credit scoring model uses the information in your credit report to create a numerical representation of your creditworthiness.
Most lenders and credit card issuers use FICO’s credit scoring model to determine how likely you are to repay borrowed funds. However, some of them use other credit scoring models. They use them to decide whether to approve your application, and what interest rate to charge you.
Since someone with a lower credit score is deemed less likely to repay the loan, they’ll receive a higher interest rate. Lenders do this to mitigate the risk of loan default.
FICO Score Rating Categories
- Excellent: 750 and above
- Good: 700-749
- Fair: 650-699
- Poor: 600-649
- Bad: under 600
Now that you understand the basics of credit scores, are you ready for the big reveal?
According to MyFICO, the average FICO score in America for 2021 was 716.
If you look at the credit score range above, you’ll see that a credit score of 716 falls just within the “good” rating. An average FICO credit score of 716 FICO is a record high.
Since the average credit score falls within the “good” category, you can do quite a bit in terms of loans. An FHA home loan, for example, only requires a score of 580 to qualify and take advantage of the program’s 3.5% down payment.
If you still qualify for the loan buy your score falls below that number, you’ll need to put down 10% of the loan price at the time of closing. For conventional loans, lenders usually require a minimum score of 660. So if your credit score is close to the average FICO score, your mortgage prospects look promising.
Getting Approved for a Loan
Getting approved for a car loan typically requires a score in the low- to mid-600s. However, it’s not unheard of for someone in the mid-500s to get approved. It depends on the lender or credit card issuer. Of course, the lower your credit score, the higher your interest rates will be.
Be careful with your credit applications, though. Each new credit inquiry for a credit card or loan type can dock your score anywhere between 5 and 10 points. That drop lasts for a year and the inquiry itself is listed on your credit report for two years.
If your credit score is just above 700, you could quickly dip back into the “fair” category and receive a higher interest rate offer on your next financial product. Bottom line: only apply for credit if you need it. If you’re looking for a loan, do all of your rate shopping within a few weeks and you’ll only have a single inquiry impact your credit.
See also: What Is a Fair Credit Score?
Average Credit Scores by Region
It takes a lot to maintain a high credit score, including low amounts of debt and on-time payments, to name a few things. But one influencing factor might surprise you: where you live.
It makes sense; after all, where you live affects how much you earn and how expensive your cost of living is. One striking thing is that not just particular states, but entire regions, tend to have similar credit characteristics. Could your geographic location be impacting your credit?
Average Credit Score in the Midwest
Many Midwestern states, for example, have the highest average credit scores in the country. Minnesota tops the list with the highest average credit score of 722. At $71,920, the median household income is above the national average of $61,372, but Minnesotans tend not to spend beyond their means.
Balances on credit card debt, mortgages, and auto loans are all below average in this state, and in several other Midwestern areas. Debt delinquencies are also low, giving many people a credit score boost across the state.
Average Credit Score in the South
Mississippi had the lowest average credit score in the nation at just 648. In fact, based on the credit score ranges above, the average credit score there is considered poor credit.
States with lower credit scores also tend to have higher credit card debt balances and delinquency rates. That makes sense because both of those factors contribute to lower credit scores.
Don’t worry if you live in a state with below-average or average credit scores or if you’re in a high credit state but still have a low credit score. You can boost your credit score by taking some basic, strategic steps.
It might take a little time and effort, but if you persevere, you’ll soon start to see a noticeable difference in your credit score.
Then, you’ll be able to pat yourself on the back for having above-average credit in both your state and the nation. Even better than that? You’ll start getting better offers on interest rates and other loan terms.
3 Tips for Boosting Your Credit Score
Now that you know what the average credit score is, it’s time to break out the competitive spirit and raise your credit score.
To become eligible for the very best credit cards, loans, and mortgages, you’ll need a credit score of 740 or above. That’s right at the top of the “good” credit category, just ten points shy of “excellent.” So, how can you do it? Here are a few simple tips.
1. Pay your bills on time.
It may seem like a no-brainer, but a 2018 study showed that 25% of Americans don’t consistently pay their bills on time. Why is that an issue? Your payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO score, so every time you become delinquent on a payment, you’re lowering your credit score.
Just how much your credit score is lowered depends on several personal factors, like how late you paid and how often you tend to miss payments. Obviously, if you are a regular offender, your credit score will suffer more.
2. Pay down your debt.
Most people carry some sort of debt these days, whether it be a mortgage, outstanding credit card balances, or some type of personal loan. But paying down your debt, particularly on high-interest balances outside your mortgage, can go a long way in helping out your credit history.
That’s because you’re penalized for owing too much money compared to the amount of credit you have access to, which is measured by your credit utilization ratio. Plus, by paying off credit cards and high-interest loans early, you’ll save yourself countless dollars in interest payments.
3. Double-check your credit report.
Did you know that according to the FTC, 25% of Americans have mistakes on their credit reports that have the potential to affect their credit scores? At the end of the day, it’s your responsibility to make sure all the credit accounts on your credit report are complete and accurate.
Order a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies every year. After all, it’s both your right and your responsibility.
Are Your Credit Scores Below Average?
If you have a FICO score well below the average American credit score of 716 or are constantly facing financial roadblocks due to your credit, it might be time to get help from a professional.
Experian states that 30% of Americans have lower than a 601, placing them in the “bad” rating category. In this situation, you might want to consider monitoring your credit score as you begin to make financial improvements.
Remember that even though your credit reports are free every 12 months, your credit scores are not included. It’s a separate calculation that is requested when your credit is pulled by third parties such as lenders and creditors.
There are several monitoring services if you’d like to check out your credit score on a regular basis, or you can pay a one-time fee to FICO to access your credit score.
When to Get Help from the Experts
If you need to get your credit score closer to the average credit score, a respected credit repair company may be able to help. They specialize in getting outdated and incorrect items removed from your credit report.
You can also certainly do it yourself. However, a professional company knows all the laws and regulations to make sure your interests are fully represented.
Plus, dealing with creditors and credit bureaus can feel like a full-time job, and you probably already have one of those. It’s often a wise choice to work with a professional for the fastest, most comprehensive results.
Regardless of how your credit score compares with others’, keep in mind that everyone spends and saves money for different reasons.
If you manage your money well and take smart steps to boost your credit score, you could see positive results in as little as 30 days. And that’s something to be proud of.