What Is A Good Credit Score in 2014?

Posted by CreditCardGuru

If you’re talking about FICO, the range runs from 300 to 850. For years FICO used to report what the median score was but they stopped a few years ago.

But up until late last decade – when they did publicly release the number – the median was 723. A median means exactly in the middle; half of the scores are higher and half are lower. It’s a more accurate measure than the average credit score.

FICO score and mortgage rate july 2014Most sources say a good credit score range (for FICO) is somewhere between 700 and 759. And sure enough on MyFico they list scores within that range as likely being eligible for the same mortgage rate (screenshot pictured to left).

However after the financial fiasco during the latter part of last decade, what many creditors consider to be “good” is higher than the 700 benchmark.

To get approved for a good rewards card like this one that earns up to 6% cash back or the Sapphire from Chase, you will probably need a number within that ballpark.Conclusion? Anything between 700 to 759 is within the good credit score range. However nowadays if you want to be conservative with your definition, go ahead and increase that bottom number by 10 or 20 points – i.e. 720 to 759 = good.

But things can still get complicated …

That’s because there is a great deal of variation in the world of credit scores. Many sources out there do not use FICO scoring, but instead use other types of credit scores.

There are only TWO websites licensed to sell real FICO scores and those are MyFICO and Equifax. Unfortunately both charge $20 to check each score from each of the three credit bureaus. And you have to pay that every time you check!

More than 1,000 different scoring models?!

Yep, you read that correctly. According to Experian, by some estimates there are upwards of 1,000 or more different credit scores being used today.

Obviously you can see why this makes it difficult to answer the question “What is a good credit score number?” because first you have to ask “What type of score are you talking about?”

FICO credit score statsBy far the most important type is FICO. They were the original pioneers of scoring and have been around for several decades. When you apply for a credit card or mortgage, there’s a good chance the creditor is basing the decision on your FICO scores (you have three, one each from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion).

If you want to know how good (or bad) your score is, what you really should be doing is basing that decision on your FICO scores. After all, those are the numbers lenders are going to look at.

So why are there different types?

One word… money. There is a lot of money to be made selling scores.

Because FICO owns their formula, it can’t be used by creditors (or websites selling credit scores) unless they pay FICO for that right. And obviously since they are the industry leader, doing so isn’t going to be the cheapest option.

So over the years, competing scoring models have been created. If you’re simply monitoring your credit as you improve it, looking at a different score can still give you a useful benchmark for your progress — although it’s recommended you pull your FICOs right before applying for a major loan.

FICO aside, what’s good for the 1,000 other types?

This is where it’s going to get tricky, because the definition of “good” will vary since every score uses different formulas and often different number ranges.

Here’s a rundown on some of the most common types:

VantageScore

This is second-most popular but it’s a distant second to FICO. Some estimates peg their market share among lenders at only 10 percent. It was launched in 2006 and its development was a joint effort of Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.

Until 2013, the scale for this score ran from 501 to 990. Every increment of 100 was equated with a letter grade, starting at 501 to 600 which was an “F” grade.

However, the range for the VantageScore has changed to match FICO and now spans from 300 to 850.

Use the chart below (from the VantageScore website) to compare the old and new scoring models:

Vantage score ranges

PlusScore

A very distant third place goes to the Experian PLUS Score, which has a range of 330 to 830. This score is not used by lenders whatsoever.

lenders don't use Plus Scores

If you read the fine print on any website that offers you a peak at your PLUS Score, they say it’s for “educational purposes” only.

Translation? You can use your PLUS score to track your credit-building progress, but it’s wise to pull your FICOs before applying for a major loan, since that’s what the lender will look at.

You can compare Experian’s PLUS Score and FICO here.

Experian PLUS Score distribution

So what’s good and what’s not? That’s tough say, because from my experience (both personally and feedback I have heard) the results are often quite different than FICO.

But if I had to peg a number, I think it’s safe to say anything within the 700-to-740 range is good in terms of being approved for rewards credit cards, or getting a loan with a favorable rate.

Other Formulas

When you check your score online, there are at least a dozen others I can think of which are actively being used.

It’s impossible to determine the worthiness of some types because they reveal almost no information about them. For example, FreeScore.com uses its own formula and to the best of my knowledge, they haven’t released much information about it.

There are websites like Credit Karma, Credit Sesame and Quizzle which offer free scores. Credit Karma uses TransUnion data, Credit Sesame uses Experian and Quizzle uses Equifax. I recommend these if you want to estimate what your FICO would be. And unlike the sites that try and sell you scores, these three are upfront and honest about the type of score you are getting — an “educational” score. Also, some issuers, including Discover and Barclaycard are starting to provide your TransUnion FICO score for free with billing statements.

Whatever you do, just don’t pay money for a non-FICO score. If you’re going to pay money, then my belief is it should be a true FICO.

How I got a GREAT score super quick

It’s possible to start from scratch and get your credit score up into the high-700′s or low-800′s even in your 20s if you do everything right and don’t color outside the lines.

One strategy is to responsibly utilize student and auto loans, paying them down on schedule. Beyond that, this strategy has been been proven effective:

  1. Have several open credit card accounts
    No, I’m not advising you use them to carry debt — or get more cards than you can keep track of. In fact I encourage the opposite; pay off your cards in full each month by the due date, if not before. The key here is that simply by having a large number of accounts, your credit history becomes more robust. Several of these credit accounts can be private label store cards, which can be easier to open when first starting out vs. a major credit card.
  2. Make sure each account gets used at least once per year
    Obviously using all your cards regularly would be a nightmare. But it’s quite easy to keep track of one to three cards at a time. Every time the season changes, change which cards you use. That way your banks won’t cancel any of your cards due to inactivity.
  3. Don’t cancel a card (usually)
    As long as a given card isn’t charging an annual fee (and as long as you can responsibly handle the open credit line), there’s no reason to cancel it. Keep it open because as it ages, that will help boost your average account age.

If you need more credit card accounts, it is strongly recommended that you stick with those that have no annual fee and have accounts with a variety of different issuers.
Written or last updated October 2014


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Editorial Disclosure: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

24 comments... read them below or add your own

  1. Warren September 15, 2014 at 10:20PM

    So I just got approved for a credit card with a limit of 2,000 dollars and am going to need a student loan for around 3-4 thousand in august. My transunion score is 675 which private loans should I apply for? Also I know to get the government loans first.

  2. Mark gallahue August 15, 2014 at 8:32PM

    A credit score is worthless. Be smart and build wealth. Save save save. Why build a credit score to “borrow” money at a cheaper interest rate, when you could save cash to invest, and live off other peoples interest?

    • stu August 21, 2014 at 3:19PM

      depends on what point you are in your life. If you are 25-30, or right at the time that you are getting into home ownership, then your credit score is quite important. By the time you are 45 and have likely paid off your home (a good saver should have paid of their mortgage by this time) then what you said is more correct.

  3. SB January 11, 2014 at 10:36PM

    By law, the consumers can get one credit report each from each of the three agencies for free. That can be had at annualcreditreport.com. This can be verified at the FTC website http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0155-free-credit-reports.

    All other websites charge you.

    • Adam May 2, 2014 at 1:57PM

      Correct, but that only includes th report and no score. So it will tell you what inquiries, accounta, history, and personal information is on your report, but will not give you an actual quantified FICO score.

      • cw May 13, 2014 at 10:45PM

        The Barclaycard above gives you your FICO free now.

  4. jeff January 7, 2014 at 5:20AM

    truly free fico score with no obligation?
    go to lendingclub.com enter info as if applying for a loan..request a high loan like 30,000 put 1$ for income….enter all your info (this is not a hp and will not affect your score) when it rejects your application click on factors affecting their decision and there is your fico 04 score

    • Pat January 25, 2014 at 3:11PM

      Thanks Jeff – great advice!!

    • Mark February 9, 2014 at 3:48PM

      Didn’t give me a score just the reasons

    • Ryan April 12, 2014 at 6:05AM

      Applying for loans may lower your score.

    • dan May 23, 2014 at 4:10PM

      Good-lookingout jeff, thanks man!

  5. DMC November 6, 2013 at 9:47PM

    I went through a foreclosure (even though I was eligible for a modification, thanks Bank of America) and had to file bankruptcy as a consequence. These were discharged in December 2011. I have student loan debt and one small credit card with a $1500 maximum that I pay off or close to it regularly. My median credit score as of today is 706,less than two years after financial disaster. Having a small amount of debt is optimal and never making a late payment.

  6. GR October 28, 2013 at 7:22PM

    My credit history is 23 years and average is 9 years. My equifax report tells me that one of the things bringing down my score is a “short” credit history. People in the highest category have lengths of 15 years for age and 6-12 for average. This makes no sense to me and I have listened to the MyFico people spew nonsense on why my credit history is “short.” Oh and they couldn’t tell me what long means. If 23 years isn’t long what the f is?

  7. smlgsd October 20, 2013 at 3:26PM

    I unfortunately had to file bankruptcy which was discharged in Jan of 2011. My credit score at the time of filing was 530 :( I immediately opened a secured credit card with a limit of 200 because I was skeptical about the concept of secure cards; in August of that year I was up to 580 and qualified for an auto loan at 13.9 which I thought was pretty good for have bankruptcy so recent. Now I have 2 cards at 1500 limit 1 at 600 and the secured is now unsecured still at 200 though and my credit rating is 667…so still not in the middle of the good range but I am working on it and have been accepted for all credit I have applied for (knock on wood) and have been using my cards to APR 10-15% of their limit then paying off the balance before the statement date :)

  8. k4tt September 24, 2013 at 2:47PM

    This was a great article. I remember reading somewhere else that the average-age-of-accounts includes closed accounts, so closing an account wouldn’t affect the average-age until they fall off the report after the approx. 10 year mark. I think it’s 10 years for accounts in good standing and 7 for accounts that had negative remarks. By that time, your other open accounts should be mature enough to keep your average-age high. The only thing with closing accounts is that it changes your debt ratio, which could make your credit rating drop if you regularly carry debt since it would lower your available credit percentage. If you think a credit card sucks, then close it and find a better one later. It’s not worth the trouble to keep cra@ppy credit cards open just for the sake of a temporary hit to your credit rating.

  9. Bonnie April 18, 2013 at 4:40PM

    Thank you so much for this information and taking the time to type and possibly research this for those of us, who are just not quite sure! Very kind of you. I am attempting to rebuild my credit, thus I pay higher interest and fairly expensive yearly fees. I have been doing well with this for approx. 15 months. Paying onetime and paying at least 10 to $15.00 over the minimum payments. But I still am NOT receiving any re asonable offers by mail? I have not been late at all. Guess its just much more difficult now to have banks send even slightly better offers. Hope I don’t have to wait 5 or so years. Thanks again, Bonnie

  10. Bertram February 16, 2013 at 7:27AM

    This information was very helpful.. Thanks for posting it..
    :-)

  11. Brian February 12, 2013 at 3:57AM

    I have belonged to Credit Inform Premier for a couple years now through Capital One and it costs a couple bucks a month that they put on my credit card. I get monthly scores and short reports and quartarly full credit reports. They are probably not FICO scores but my credit has improved dramaticaly because of the fact that I see it every month. I do believe it is worth it. When I got my mortgage, my score was the same through the bank as it was on Credit Inform also so they’re not that far off. My score has gone from the low 600′s to 724 in less than two years. Definately worth the money.

  12. Rod Griffin January 17, 2013 at 7:00AM

    I wanted to shed some light on some of the confusion and myths surrounding credit scores, and especially want to address the thought that there is any kind of deception going on. There are many different credit scoring models used by lenders in the marketplace today and these models have different score ranges. Generic scores may be used by many types of lenders and businesses to determine general credit risk. They want to be able to gauge the probability that the consumer will default on the debt obligation. The lender customizes the scores based on their needs, and there are different scores to meet the specific needs of the businesses that use them.

    To compare this to something everyone is familiar with—asking why there isn’t just one credit score is a bit like asking a car company why they don’t build just one vehicle.

    Automobiles all have engines, steering wheels and tires, and their underlying purpose is essentially the same: to get us from one place to another. But, people have different needs for those vehicles when they are going from place to place. As a result, there are two-door cars, four-door cars, mini-vans, sports cars and trucks. They all use the same basic technologies and principles, but are slightly different to meet the very specific needs of the people who use them.

    The same is true of credit scores. The technologies and principles they use are very similar. But, there are different scores to meet the specific needs of the businesses that use them.

    Auto lenders need to know whether or not you will repay a car loan as agreed. Credit card companies need to know that you will make your payment each month. Mortgage lenders need to know you will make your house payment. So, they have scores specifically for those purposes.

    I came across an infographic recently from an industry expert that I wanted to share. http://www.creditsesame.com/blog/scores-scores-and-more-scores-how-many-fico-credit-scores-do-you-have/

    This illustrates that there isn’t just one FICO score either. There are many, but people assume that there is just one.

    I hope that this helps clear up a little bit of the mystery around why there are so many credit scores. Experian produces products and services that its clients and consumers need and we’re always working to improve and meet the needs of both.

    • bob January 26, 2013 at 11:08AM

      Unfortunately you have made the comparison between the credit industry and the industry most built on deception: automotive.

    • stupid October 4, 2014 at 12:11PM

      That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. Auto lenders need to know if you’ll repay, credit card companies need to know if you’ll repay, lenders need to know if you’ll repay. Are you seeing a trend? They all want to know if you’ll REPAY. You can’t get your score period. Yes, all the companies that want to lend you money for whatever reason won’t use the same scoring model. Can you, as the consumer, as the owner of the information, get that scoring model. Of course not! Crazy people. Can you get your credit report for free more than once a year? No, geez….what do you think this is? Credit reporting agencies giving you your information so you know what you need to do to improve your credit or to know if you can buy a house? Really, you’re crazy. It’s your information but sorry, we’re going to keep it secret, and make sure the government agrees and backs us up.

      Actual fact – I applied for a mortgage, my credit score was 630. Not great, I get it. Out of work for 6 months will do that. The lender says, get your credit card utilization down to 10% to improve your score. I ask “how much will my score go up if I do that?” Lender “I have no idea. Could be 10 points, could be 100″. Now I really am armed with information. (in case you didn’t get it, that sentence is dripping in sarcasm!)

      Actual fact – I sued someone and won. But a judgement showed up on my credit report. I dispute it but the credit bureaus I guess get no resolution so it’s still sitting there. I can’t see my credit report for another year so I guess I’ll just sit here and twiddle my thumbs. Maybe it will come off. A year later – nope still there. I file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (http://www.consumerfinance.gov/). After about a month, I get a resolution – Equifax does not show this judgement on your credit report. Awesome! What about TransUnion & Experian? The judgement showed on those too. Guess I’m still out of luck. Try back next year.

      If you read on the web, there are 100′s of different scoring models but we as consumers will never get that info. I am confused. It’s my information – It’s my score. Why can’t I get it? No answer, just a dumb stare.

  13. WG December 17, 2012 at 7:13PM

    THANK YOU SO MUCH for clearing this up. I am so confused reading websites telling me different numbers for what is considered to be a good score. They are misleading because they fail to explain that there are DIFFERENT types of scores. THANKS AGAIN!

  14. Scott December 11, 2012 at 8:12PM

    Thank you very much for clearing this up. I have been wondering why different websites have shown such drastically different numbers.

  15. Peter Mutanen November 18, 2012 at 2:50PM

    This is really good information. I didn’t know there were more then 1000 types of credit score but I don’t think it really matters because all the major banks only look at the FICO score. Even the vantage score which is the second most popular system is so far behind FICO it is essentially useless. Not to mention the other systems.

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