Understanding the impact of your credit score and working to improve (or even establish) it can help you achieve your financial goals. With a good credit score, you may be able to access credit—such as a car or home loan—at a lower interest rate, saving you thousands over the life of a loan. That's money that can help you pursue other important priorities, like building an emergency fund, investing or saving for a child's education.
4 steps to control your credit score
Don’t forget this important part of maintaining financial health.
When it comes to your credit score, it never hurts to look for ways to improve it. After you've learned about what factors influence your credit score, you can use these action steps to help you build or improve yours.
1. Get your report
You're entitled to one free copy of your credit report from each of the three reporting agencies every 12 months. Check it to review your payment history and make sure there are no accounts on there you don't recognize. If there's an error, contact both the credit bureau and the creditor to make sure it gets corrected.
Stat: 1 in 3 Americans in a recent volunteer study found errors in their credit reports.1
2. Make sure you have a score.
Having no credit may mean you don't have any debt, but it also makes it harder to get approved for a mortgage or other loan. You can start by opening a single line of credit. Use it sparingly, pay it off every month and build from there.
Stat: 3–6 months is the minimum time it takes to establish a credit score.2
3. Stay current on your medical payments.
Medical debt no longer counts against your credit score unless it is six months past due. This change is one of the reasons average credit scores have been rising.
Stat: The average FICO credit score was 711 in 2020.3 45% of people have a credit score of 740 or higher.4
4. It's OK to ask for more credit.
If you've had a credit card in good standing for a while, consider asking for a credit line increase. It helps your "credit utilization" score, which can improve your overall credit score, especially if you don't use the new balance available to you.
Stat: Experts suggest keeping your credit utilization to 30% or less, meaning your outstanding balance is less than 30% of your overall credit availability.5
1 "More Than a Third of Volunteers in a Consumer Reports Study Found Errors in Their Credit Reports," Consumer Reports, June 11, 2021.
2 "A Beginner's Guide to Building Credit," Experian, Sept. 25, 2019.
3 "What Is the Average Credit Score in the U.S.?" Experian, Dec. 8, 2020.
4 "Here's What Americans' FICO Scores Look Like — How Do You Compare?" The Ascent, July 29, 2020.
5 "What's the best credit utilization ratio?" WalletHub, May 14, 2021.