What Your Credit Score Says About You

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Your credit score is more than just a number. It represents how reliable a borrower you are and how well (or poorly) you manage your debt. Just like your SAT scores back in high school (which I prefer to never think about again), it will spark judgement.

Prospective lenders, landlords and maybe even a new dating partner will use your score as a make-or-break sign. If you’re curious to know where you stand, be sure to get your free credit score report with Turbo.

Depending on where your score falls on the credit score scale (which runs between 300 and 850 on the VantageScore scale) what does this three-digit figure actually reveal about you?

Note: Some creditors will use the FICO score system, which is graded and calculated differently from the VantageScore. We’re using VantageScore below.

Superprime: 818 – 850

A score between 818 and 850 is the equivalent of an A/A+ on your school report card. It implies you’ve been very responsible with your credit, paying your bills on time and in full each month. Even if you had a low score at one point, you’ve worked hard over time to reclaim a top spot on the credit score charts. In short, you’re very mindful and responsible when it comes to credit.

Your score also reveals that you’re a relatively safe bet when it comes to borrowing money from a lender or renting out an apartment. Using your VantageScore, the lowest mortgage rates tend to go to borrowers with credit scores in the 818-850 range, which means your high score will also help you save money down the road.

Prime Plus: 727 – 817

If superprime is the honor-roll student, prime plus is the one occasionally acing tests and getting high B’s otherwise. This score tells people that you’re a solid bet, and maybe just a tad new to the game still. You’ve been hard at work building your score and doing the right things. Continue maintaining a nice level of available credit and pay on time, and you’ll hit that Superprime title in no time!

This range will make you eligible for most credit cards, loans, and mortgages with a slightly higher interest rate than those in the superprime category. Still, you should have no problem securing most cards or major loans, even those required for a house or car.

Prime: 636 – 726

This range shows you’re either somewhat new at building credit or you’ve made a few mistakes, suggesting you have some room for improvement when it comes to managing your credit well.

Since payment history, debt-to-credit ratio, and available credit are the three biggest factors in crunching your credit score, a figure in this range could signal that you were late paying a bill recently or are carrying a tall balance on your credit cards (or both). A score of 636-726 will hardly exempt you from qualifying for credit, but it may cost you a higher interest rate on that loan.

Non-Prime: 546 – 635

Hmm. Did you recently foreclose on your home? Are you delinquent on some bills?

At this level, your score suggests you are going through some tough credit times or, at least, recovering from some recent setbacks. While you may be making the right moves to rebuild your credit now, it may take many months or several years. Meanwhile, lenders will see this as concerning. You may qualify for new credit, but it will likely come attached to a higher-than-average interest rate.

High Risk: 300 – 545

At this point, I’d lay low and not apply for any new credit until your score breaks 545. Your score is telling people, “I’m not in a good place!” And banks and landlords may see you as too big a risk.

If you’re getting over a bankruptcy or a foreclosure, it may take seven to ten years before the stain falls off your credit report. In the meantime, your credit score may be slow to heal.

To help, you could take on a secured card, which is sort of like a credit card on training wheels. It’s designed for people who can’t qualify for a typical credit card yet (perhaps due to very low credit).

How it works: You load the card with your own money, just like you would a prepaid card. You then use it like a credit card, charging a few expenses on it and paying off your bill every month (or, essentially paying yourself back).

The activity on a secured card gets reported to the credit reporting agencies. Use it wisely and your credit score could inch up sooner than later. Eventually you may be able to qualify for a traditional credit card and really start to enhance your credit game to boost your score. Patience and good behavior will go a very long way.

General Credit Score Questions

Knowledge is the best tool when it comes to building your credit score and reaching that Superprime status. To help you reach your credit score goals, here are a couple of common questions.

What’s the Credit Score Wheel?

The credit score wheel is a way to visualize the various elements that factor into your credit score. This wheel will look a little different depending on if you’re looking at VantageScores or FICO scores, as the two are calculated using different weights.

The VantageScore 4.0 criteria are as follows (in descending order of importance):

  1. Payment History: Paying your bills on time is the most heavily-weighted criteria here.
  2. Age and Type of Credit: Having numerous types of credit (credit cards, mortgage, auto loan, etc) over a long period of time is another huge factor.
  3. Percentage of Credit Used: Having your individual credit balances under 30% of total available credit can help grow your score.
  4. Total Balances and Debt: Maintaining a low level of total debt will help your score reach Superprime.
  5. Recent Credit Behavior: Opening too many accounts too quickly will hurt you. Allow a sizeable gap between opening accounts.
  6. Available Credit: This goes hand-in-hand with percentage of credit used. Don’t use too much credit, only what you need.

Does My Credit Score Impact my APR?

Many wonder if their credit score will impact their APR. In short, yes, your credit score heavily impacts your APR.

Those with a higher credit score, especially those in the Prime Plus and Superprime territory, will have a far lower APR than those in the other tiers. Unfortunately credit is necessary to build credit, so you’ll likely have to start with credit cards that have poor APR. (Just use them sparingly and don’t leave a balance!)

Your Credit Scores: A Never-Ending Battle

Your credit score is always moving in one direction or another. You can’t get lazy and expect it to stay put, so make sure you’re always aware of where your credit use is at. Don’t spend what you don’t have, don’t open too many accounts, and keep an accurate budget.

You can reach Superprime eventually. Before you know it, you’ll be the one on the block all the other credit card holders want to be like!


Written by Mint

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