Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

The Average American Has This Credit Score. How Do You Compare?

By Todd Campbell – Jan 11, 2015 at 1:05PM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

If you're one of the many who have a credit score below this number, there's no time like the present to begin making changes that could have a major impact on your retirement savings.

Source: Flickr user Sean MacEntee.

As lessons learned during the Great Recession become more distant, consumers are increasingly spending money again on everything from clothes, to cars, to condos, and the bills are piling up, especially for consumers who took a lump or two to their credit score over the past few years.

Climbing again
The amount of money Americans owe on revolving loans, such as credit cards, has marched from a post-recession low of $837 billion to $882 billion in October. Motor vehicle debt reached an all-time high of $943 billion in the third quarter, and the amount of money borrowed from banks to buy property has climbed for six consecutive quarters.

That may be good news for credit card companies like Discover Financial (DFS 0.06%) and banks like Wells Fargo (WFC 0.23%), but it may not be good news for consumers, who are discovering that lenders are focusing more attention than ever on credit scores compiled by companies like Equifax (EFX 1.26%). Those credit scores determine whether or not a credit card or loan will be approved, and what interest rate the borrower will be charged.

How do you stack up?
According to the credit tracking firm Credit Karma, more than 75% of Americans have a credit score below 700.

That's not good news given that banks are likely to offer their best terms to borrowers with scores that are above those levels.

Those better terms can mean less money from the borrower up front, and far lower interest rates that can produce thousands of dollars in savings over time.

For example, according to myFico, a borrower with a credit score below 660 who is taking out a five-year loan of $20,000 to buy a new car would pay an annual interest rate of 10.385%, or $5,724 in interest over the life of the loan. If that same person had a credit score north of 720, the interest rate would be a paltry 3.245%, which works out to total interest payments of just $1,693.

That $4,031 difference in interest payments is a lot of money, but that isn't the total financial impact of a lower credit score. Investing that $4,031 for 30 years in something like an index fund that returns a hypothetical 6.5% per year would result in an extra $26,662 in retirement savings, which means a lower credit score could mean the difference between pocketing an extra $26,000, or spending an extra $4,000. 

Making changes
If you're one of the many who have a credit score below 700, there's no time like the present to begin making changes that could have a major impact on your retirement savings.

Rating agencies like Equifax are continuously updating credit scores, and as a result, changes made today can have a positive impact quickly.

One way to give a boost to a credit score is to reduce the balance carried on credit cards to below 30% of each card's credit limit. Credit card utilization has a big impact on credit scores, so making an extra monthly payment, or paying a bit more than the minimum payment every month can pay off fast.

Consumers may also want to contact their lender and ask them to forgive a late payment. If there are only one or two late payments on the account's credit history, and the borrower's history has otherwise been good, lenders may be willing to make a one-time adjustment. Borrowers may also want to ask their lender if they'd be willing to bump up their credit card limit. Lenders probably won't do that for borrowers with credit scores at the low end of the range, but for those with scores closer to 700, they might. If so, bumping up the credit limit could improve the credit utilization ratio used to calculate the borrower's credit score, too.

Finally, consider keeping a bit of cash handy for day-to-day purchases, rather than using a credit card. That can go a long way toward making sure credit balances don't sneak their way higher, and setting up automatic payments through your lender may help avoid late payments and related fees that can really hurt credit scores, too. While these tips won't fix credit scores overnight, they should go a long way toward healing any lumps to credit suffered in the past.

Todd Campbell has no position in any stocks mentioned. Todd owns E.B. Capital Markets, LLC. E.B. Capital's clients may or may not have positions in the companies mentioned. Todd owns Gundalow Advisors, LLC. Gundalow's clients do not have positions in the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool owns shares of Discover Financial Services and Wells Fargo. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

Equifax Stock Quote
Equifax
EFX
$200.43 (1.26%) $2.50
Wells Fargo Stock Quote
Wells Fargo
WFC
$47.44 (0.23%) $0.11
Discover Financial Services Stock Quote
Discover Financial Services
DFS
$108.73 (0.06%) $0.07

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
356%
 
S&P 500 Returns
118%

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 11/28/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.