Everybody wants “good credit.” But what is a good credit score and how do you get there?
Many of us spend years stuck with a less-than-stellar credit score that negatively impacts every aspect of our financial lives. The good news — it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here are five questions to ask when considering what is a good credit score, and how you can get on track for receiving one.
1. What are credit score ranges?
Both use the same credit score range – from 300 to 850. Within this range, the quality of your credit score is broken down into 5 main categories:
- 750-850 – Excellent credit
- 700-749 – Good credit
- 650-699 – Fair credit
- 600-649 – Poor credit
- 300-599 – Bad credit
So what is a good credit score? Anything between 700 and 749. You could still be in decent shape below 700, though. You’re only in subprime credit territory if you fall below 640.
2. Where can I find my credit score?
You could pay to receive a credit report from one of the three big credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.
There are, however, a couple of free ways to find your credit scores:
- Your credit card issuer may include your FICO Score with your monthly statement
- You can sign up for free credit monitoring through sites like Credit Karma and Credit.com
- Credit monitoring will include your VantageScore as well as access to information on your credit reports
If you’re curious about what to expect from free credit monitoring, you can find out more about how to receive a “Credit Report Card” from Credit Karma here. You’ll be on your way to seeing what is a good credit score in no time.
3. How long does it take to get good credit?
It really depends on how bad your credit is to start with. If your credit is currently fair, you could get to good in under three months.
But if your credit is bad, it could take six months to a year or more for you to see a significant improvement.
In other words, it takes as long as it takes. All you can really control are the steps that get you there.
1 – 3 Months
- Request all three of you credit reports from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax through AnnualCreditReport
- Look through your credit reports and dispute errors with the credit bureaus or original creditors
- Ask for debt validation from collection agencies
- Sign up for free credit monitoring through Credit Karma and Credit.com
3 – 6 Months
- Send follow-up letters to the credit bureaus, if necessary
- Settle old, unpaid debts (check the statute of limitations on debt in your state)
- Make a plan for paying off your debt
- If you don’t have a credit card, apply for one so that you have a better credit mix and more available credit (get a secured credit card if need be)
6 – 12+ Months
- Continue paying off your debt, increasing your payments if possible
- If you only have one credit card, consider applying for another one (if several months have passed since you opened the first one)
- Check your credit reports again through AnnualCreditReport
4. What are some other habits for building a good credit score?
Pay all of your bills on time, every time. And return your credit card balances to zero every month.
If you carry credit card balances from month to month, work on paying them off. Avoid using more than 30 percent of your available revolving credit at any one time.
Do not apply for several lines of credit at once, and don’t take out an installment loan just to improve your credit.
5. Could my credit score get worse before it gets better?
Here are a few ways you could actually hurt your credit score, and how to avoid them.
A hard inquiry is what gets listed on your credit reports every time you apply for a new line of credit. That’s why it is so important to make sure you only apply for a credit card you know you’re qualified for.
The last thing you want is to get turned down for a credit card because applying for another one will mean another hard inquiry. The good news is hard inquiries cause minimal damage to your score and are only temporary.
Applying for too much credit at once
This is a big red flag for credit bureaus. It signals that you may be getting in over your head and, in turn, becoming a greater credit risk.
Be sure to leave several months in between credit applications.
Paying off an installment loan
While off a huge loan sounds like a dream come true, you could see your credit take a hit. That’s because you’ve decreased the amount of credit you have.
Credit scores are impacted by the variety of your credit lines. So if your student loan let’s say was your only installment loan – and all you’re left with are credit cards or nothing else at all – your credit score may suffer.
Just give it time and continue following good credit best practices. Seeing your credit score fall a bit after paying off a loan is far preferable to carrying that debt any longer than necessary.
What is a good credit score in the end?
What is considered a good credit score? Yes, it’s 700-749. But when you get right down to it, good credit isn’t really the number.
Good credit is the behavior that shapes it. Focus on that and a good credit score will naturally fall into place.
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