by Matt Frankel, CFP | Feb. 28, 2020
What exactly is average credit? Experts generally define the lower cutoff for good credit as somewhere in the mid to upper 600s on the FICO credit scoring model, but where does the average American stand? And how many people have good credit or higher?
Experian just released its latest research report on consumer credit in the United States, so here's a look at where the average American stands, how scores vary by location within the U.S., and how to boost your credit score to above-average levels.
According to Experian's 2019 Consumer Credit Review, the average FICO® Score among American consumers was 703 in 2019 -- an all-time high. The national average was 701 at the end of 2018 -- and 689 in 2010 when the U.S. was just recovering from the Great Recession. In the period between those years, FICO® Scores were on a fairly steady upward path, so 2019 was a continuation of the longer-term trend.
A FICO® Score of 703 falls firmly in the middle of the "good" credit tier, which, according to Experian's estimates, includes scores of 670 to 739.
If you're curious, here's how Experian defines the various levels of FICO® Scores, and the percentage of American consumers who fall into each level:
|Credit Level||FICO® Score Range||% of Consumers|
|Excellent||800 or higher||20%|
Data source: Experian.
According to Experian, 59% of Americans have FICO® Scores over 700, which is also an all-time high. And if you're curious, just 1.2% of Americans have a perfect FICO® Score of 850.
One thing that might come as a surprise is that average credit scores vary quite a bit from state to state. The highest scores are found in Minnesota, where the average consumer has a FICO® Score of 733. Other states with relatively high average credit scores include North and South Dakota (both 727), Vermont (726), and Wisconsin (725).
On the other end of the spectrum, there are some states where the average consumer has a significantly lower score than the U.S. average. Mississippi has by far the lowest average credit score at 667. In fact, Mississippi is the only state in the U.S. whose average consumer doesn't have a "good" credit score.
To put this in perspective, based on the national average APRs on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, the average borrower in Mississippi will pay nearly $16,000 more in interest on a $200,000 mortgage over the term of the loan than the average borrower in Minnesota.
Consumers with the average credit score of 703 can generally get a credit card, mortgage, and/or auto loan with relative ease. However, the best credit cards and the lowest interest rates on loan products are typically only available to consumers in the "very good" credit range or higher.
To max out your credit score, you need to understand how the FICO scoring model works. You can read our thorough guide to the FICO formula, but here's a rundown of the five categories that factor into your score, along with the best ways to maximize each one:
|Category||% of FICO® Score||Best Practices|
Pay all of your bills on time.
If you have any collections or charge-offs, take steps to get them off your credit report.
Keep your credit card balances low relative to your limits.
Pay down loans faster than required.
Ask for higher credit card limits to reduce your credit utilization ratio.
|Length of credit history||15%||
Avoid closing unused credit accounts.
Don't open too many new credit accounts.
Don't apply for credit more than a few times per year.
Don't open too many new credit accounts.
|Credit mix||10%||If you only have one type of credit account, consider opening another.|
Data source: myFICO.com and author's own tips.
The bottom line is that there is no magic formula to getting great credit -- but by following these principles, you could end up raising your score significantly and saving yourself thousands in interest expenses over a lifetime.
As long as you pay them off each month, credit cards are a no-brainer for savvy Americans. They protect against fraud far better than debit cards, help raise your credit score, and can put hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars in rewards back in your pocket each year.
But with so many cards out there, you need to choose wisely. This top-rated card offers the ability to pay 0% interest on purchases into 2022, has some of the most generous cash back rewards we’ve ever seen (up to 5%!), and somehow still sports a $0 annual fee.
That’s why our expert – who has reviewed hundreds of cards – signed up for this one personally. Click here to get free access to our expert’s top pick.
We’re firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers. The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.
The Ascent is a Motley Fool service that rates and reviews essential products for your everyday money matters.
Copyright © 2018 - 2021 The Ascent. All rights reserved.