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

Various credit cards

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

Woman pushing credit card up a hill

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!

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further


Written by Mint

Mint is passionate about helping you to achieve financial goals through education and with powerful tools, personalized insights, and much more. More from Mint

90 responses to “What Your Credit Score Says About You”

  1. Algorithms that control so much of our lives yet remain opaque to all but those on the inside is wrong. They remain above reproach even if the logic (where one size fits all) turns out to be wrong in many cases. There should be a way to APPEAL certain situations that penalize people when they never should be penalized. This is not the right way to do this. It is flawed and should be put in the hands of our lawmakers for oversight!

    • I use my credit cards to buy things like 1 gallon of milk or a candy bar. Something under 10 dollars a month and pay it off. It’s funny how something so small can make such a big deal!

  2. I’ve been out of a divorce for 9 1/2 yrs. almost a year ago I got my car financing with a 520..shot up to 617 within 5mths. Now I have 2 very small credit cards, lost a lot of time at work due to family emergencies and my boss cutting my hrs. Tried to get a small personal loan and figured out that maybe I’d be approved. So many close ones… but now my credit score was back down to 561 and now going back up to 570…. p.s. also believe I was scammed through my bank account just 2 days ago. So I’m checking into my bank and so far my log in info has been changed. Advice please?

  3. How can I improve my credit if i have a few things listed and have had bankruptsy yrs ago and could never get my credit back up, what should i do to improve it and what kind of credit cards can I use to build it back up again?

  4. I pay on time, keep credit cards low and hardly any inquires, yet I can’t get above 695. So, what is my problem. I want to raise it another 100 points.

    • You’re doing great work so far! Raising your score can take some time and every person’s situation is different, so it’s difficult for us to give you specific tips here. But download Intuit’s newest app Turbo. It will be able to give you more insightful tips on what is going into your score as well as steps you can take toward improving it.

    • Try increase you available credit. Instead of looking at traditional credit like chase, capital one, and others. Get department stores credit cards like Fingerhut, gettington. Just to name a few. Make one or two purchases and make sure u pay more than what due. Continue to monitor payments and they would gradually increase your credit limit. This increases your available credit and decreases ultilization. Eventually you will see your scores above 700s.

    • I found out that my score leveled out because my car has been paid off for several years, educational loans were all paid off years ago as well, and I don’t have a mortgage. Thus, I have no major recent history except for credit cards. Don’t know if this helps any… Good luck!

    • Download Intuit’s newest app, Turbo. With Turbo, you receive your TransUnion credit score for free as well as a deeper look into what goes into your score and tips on how to improve it.

  5. I had credit card fraud in 2004 when I went to IRAQ for 1 year…..my cards were suppose to been cancelled by the companys but wasnt…I have not used credit since then…..how can I raise my score when I have no debt now……

  6. I currently have a mortgage but am on track to pay it off in about 5 years. This is the only loan I have. Will my credit score suffer at that time? If so, would opening a home equity line of credit repair the damage?

  7. I am currently on track to pay my mortgage off in about 5 years. Since it’s the only loan I have, will my credit score suffer as a result? If so, would opening a home equity line of credit at that time be a good move?

  8. Credit scores are bull. Mine is 830 but should be 900. Actually I really don’t care, just pay your bill 2 weeks before due date and forget the sales pitch. Never owed a penny or late in my life, that’s really all you should care about.

  9. I’d never really thought about my credit score in the past. Filed bankruptcy about 12 years ago, and just paid cash for everything afterwards. Then I started to take some steps to build credit, and was able to buy a home a couple years ago, then borrow 25,000 with just a signature earlier this year. I make a point of making all my payments, before they are due, and paying at least double the minimum. Thanks for opening my eyes to what a good credit rating can do.

  10. I am dating this new man. He has an okay credit score. It isn’t great, while mine is. He is great, but I am trying to determine what this might mean. Thanks for the suggestions that he might not be very wise about his money. I should really reevaluate this relationship.

    • If you are thinking about leaving a man because he doesn’t have as good credit as you….. please leave him, deserves much better than you.

      • Don’t ever believe someone who says finances are not important in a relationship! Credit is a valid and quantifiable indicator, it can alert you to observe how responsible/ trustable he is, and it can predict future conflicts about finances (one of the major causes of relationship tension). If he weasels around when trying to explain the OK score, that’s not a good sign.

    • I agree with both Jessica and JR. There are many reasons why people’s credit scores aren’t a good reflection of the whole person. I know someone whose significant other has developed brain damage due to head injuries sustained in Vietnam. He handled their finances. She had no idea that he had been making poor financial decisions for years until she found out he had been gambling online and had bought into an “I’m from Nigeria and I need help retrieving my money” scam. Guess what state HER credit is in.

      I live in eastern NC and was highly affected by Florence.My friend had 4 feet of water in her house and was trapped in her attic for 15 hours. Since she was in debt consolidation and had given up all her credit cards, I ended up maxing out mine helping her with hotel bills, boarding her pets, a rental car, food, etc. until she could start getting her insurance money. Between the storm and its resulting (and continuing) costs and a 4 month long illness, my score has dropped 80 points in the last year. Does that change the fact that I have a Ph.D., taught college until I retired, am an ordained minister, and a well respected member of the community?

      There’s also the fact that some personality types are better at handling money than others. My friend’s husband used to be. It isn’t one of my gifts.

      In this day and age with all the scams, account hacking, and identity theft, there could be any number of legitimate reasons why his credit score isn’t as stellar as you think it should be.

  11. HI Joy,
    I would be concerned if I was dating a new guy and found out his credit score was less than stellar. This by no means is a basis to judge him on. The more you get to know him I’m sure you’ll find that he’s had some unexpected circumstances or maybe he was just immature and didn’t understand that his spending habits would come back to bite him. I’ve never had an issue with my credit until I was without insurance and my medical and prescription bills were astronomical. Needless to say, I was late on payments and the rest is history. This was about 4 years ago, and I’m slowly crawling out of the black hole. I’m not bad with money I just got stuck in a spot where I had no resources. It can happen to anyone. Now, if he explains his debt and red flags start hitting you in the face, you may want to slowly distance yourself. It’s a personal choice. Follow your gut feeling 🙂


  13. late payments on a student loan from way back in 2015 are still fouling up my score – even tho its current now – thoughts on how long this will take to wipe clean? especially if i’m about to get a loan forgiveness on those same loans?

  14. I tend to my personal financial affairs on a daily basis. As a result, I rarely have surprises. When I do have a surprise, I address and resolve it immediately – saves many tears!

  15. Great insight!!! Thank you. I’m new to America and credit systems in general as such I struggled to understand the credit system, how it is ranked and what it means for individuals.
    I’m also struggling to raise my credit to 750, but I have no late payments or derogatory remarks, I pay more than is due and my DTI is good but my credit history is considered young/recent since I only started 2years ago, and there seems to be no way around that.
    Is this something creditors take into consideration when you apply for home buyer’s loans etc?

  16. Lapse in jobs working less than 40 a week, high interest rates and student loan I wasn’t aware of because of lack of knowledge and college financial assistant.

  17. Thank you! I’ve worked hard in the past 10 years AFTER NOT using credit that often. Even purchased my Town Home with cash. I’ve LEARNED~! 😉

  18. It was scary I’ll feel better if and when I received a refund . I’m been having tax issues for awhile don’t want a repeat. Thank you so much. It was great I can’t believe I waited so long.

  19. This site is great…all the detailed info on how to increase your credit score, what increases it, what lowers it, and more in an easy-to-understand written format.

  20. How to find out to taking out a loan so you can pay everything off to where you have one payment and free from everything else

  21. It appears that CREDICO was allowed to run my credit on the same day several times and thus the high credit checks. I did not authorize this, and I am concerned that they were allowed to abuse this on my credit report. What can I do about this?

  22. This was very helpful. It helped me understand how credit is used to value one’s worthiness. I never thought about credit being this diligent and important on how this can make or break our success. Thank you for your guidance.

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