What is the average US credit score? Is it higher than in past years? Lower? Does it vary by age group? And truly…does a credit score REALLY matter?
While a credit score is a fairly simple measure of someone’s ability to pay back their debt, there are so many questions swirling around about it (oh, and I should tell you this post also has a way to check your credit score for FREE at the end!).
Let’s dig in and answer all these questions right here, right now.
This post may contain affiliate links.
The Average US Credit Score
According to Experian, the average credit score in America is 711. This is the highest average score that’s been recorded in some time (perhaps the highest ever), and oddly enough, they attribute the increase in the average credit score to Covid-19.
Yup, here’s why:
Since the onset of Covid, people have been afraid of a long-lasting recession. So naturally, people started watching their budget more closely, began paying down their debt, and worked on building up more cash just in case things got really bad.
These actions have decreased their credit utilization and improved their payment history, which has invariably boosted their credit score and has improved the nation’s averages.
So where does a 711 score fit within the range of poor to excellent credit?
The FICO model grades your score into one of five categories:
- Poor: 300-579
- Fair: 580-669
- Good: 670-739
- Very Good: 740-799
- Excellent: 800+
As you can see, the score of 711 sits pretty much right at the mid-point of the middle category. The average US credit score is “Good”. If your score is in the poor or fair categories, it is well below average. If your score is very good or excellent, you’re above average! Nice job!
What Really Impacts Your Credit Score?
Is your credit score lower than you’d like? How can you improve it?
Your credit score is impacted by five things, with the below weights of each:
- Payment history (35%) – are you paying all your bills on time?
- Amounts owed (30%) – are you using less than 20% of your total credit limit?
- Length of credit history (15%) – do you have long-standing, established credit accounts?
- Credit mix (10%) – do you have various credit types? Like credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, etc.?
- New credit (10%) – are you limiting the amount of new credit accounts you’re opening?
If you can answer “yes” to all the questions above, then your credit score should be on the rise. If you’re not paying your bills on time and you’re maxing out credit cards, then your credit score is likely going in the wrong direction.
Average Credit Score by Age
If your score is lower than the average credit score of 711, then maybe it has to do with your age (which obviously isn’t your fault!).
According to Value Penguin, credit scores actually improve with age.
- Gen Z (the youngest adults at the moment) have the worst average credit score with a 674
- Millennials have the next worst credit score at 680
- Gen X are in the middle with a score of 699
- Baby boomers have a score that’s quite a bit better at 736
- And then there’s those that are 75 and older with the best average credit score at 758
This chart seems strange at first, but it actually makes total sense when you look at what impacts your credit score – the main items being payment history, amount owed, and length of credit history…
- If you’re young, you naturally have little-to-no credit history because you’re just starting your adult life!
- Also, when you’re young, a bank or credit card company isn’t going to take a chance and give you a massive credit limit. So, if you use your credit at all, you’re likely using a large portion of your total credit…which is bad for your credit score.
- And, when it comes to credit history, you obviously don’t have much because once again, you’re young and just getting started!
So, the older you are, the more opportunity you have to build up excellent credit.
If you’re older and your credit score is still low, there must still be something that you’re not doing right. Review the five impactors again and do what you can to improve your credit score.
The Average Credit Score to Buy a House
Wondering what your credit score should be to buy a house? Is average okay? Or should it be better?
If you’re looking to get a conventional loan (like a 15-year or 30-year fixed mortgage), then Quicken Loans says your score should be at least 620, but that still may not be enough. In that same article, it states that the majority of lenders would look for a score of 740 or higher (which again, is just slightly better than average).
If you don’t qualify for a conventional home loan, then you may still be able to get an FHA loan or a VA loan, but the interest rates are typically higher, which obviously costs you more in the long run.
So the long and short of it — if you want to buy a house and you’re not going to take a briefcase of cash to the closing to pay for your house in full, then you’ll likely want a credit score of 740 or better.
Does a Credit Score Really Matter?
Aside from buying a house, does a credit score really matter? Yes and no…
I say “no” because…
- I wouldn’t ever encourage you to go into debt for anything other than a house.
- Want a car? Buy it with cash.
- Want a college education? Work your butt off and pay for it as you go.
- Want a pool but don’t have the money? Sorry Charlie…buy a sprinkler for the summer instead. You can’t afford the pool and shouldn’t buy it.
I say “yes” because…
- Businesses really over-utilize the credit score. If your credit report is lousy, you’ll likely pay more for insurance, you may not be able to rent a car, and it might even affect your ability to get a new job!
Don’t work toward a high credit score so you can borrow money, but DO maintain an excellent score to simplify your life and make everything a little bit cheaper!
How to Maintain a High Credit Score With No Debt
I paid my house off in 2012. I then took on no other debt until 2018 when I sold that house and bought a bigger house with acreage. I then paid that house off in 2019.
My credit score right now? It’s 800, well above the average US credit score of 711.
How did I do this without a car loan, mortgage, or credit card balances?
- I have two credit cards and use them when I buy gas or big-ticket items.
- Then I pay them off every month so I pay $0 in interest.
That’s it, seriously.
I haven’t had any other form of debt (aside from credit card usage) since 2019 and my credit score hasn’t gone down whatsoever. It was around 800 a few years ago, and that’s where it still is today.
See? Here’s a snapshot of my CreditKarma report.
How to Get a Free Credit Report
Want to know how I’ve continually tracked my credit for free all these years?
I heard about Credit Karma about 10 years ago. I signed up, and I’ve been using them ever since.
It’s awesome really.
I just hop in there once every 6 months or so, check my score, and then look into my credit report if my score went up or down for some reason.
As you can see in the image above, my score had recently gone down 9 points…Hmm, why was that? Well, let’s check out the report summary!
After reviewing the high level summary above, I now remember why my score might have gone down…
A couple months ago, I purchased over $2,000 worth of stuff on my card. The limit was only $3,000.
The credit on that card was wayyy over utilized (you should stay within 20% of your credit limit, so in my case, I shouldn’t have ran the balance higher than $600).
I’ll be more cautious about this in the future.
Will This Free Credit Report Hurt Your Credit?
Credit Karma’s credit reports are soft inquiries, so they don’t negatively affect your score, and they show you quite a lot of helpful information if you’re looking to improve your score! I can’t say enough about them, and now they’re one of my affiliate partners!
Want to sign up and check your score for free? Just click this link, enter your info, and you’ll soon see your credit score AND your credit report – all for FREE!
Are you ready to check out your credit score? Why not? It truly is a no-risk proposition that can only help your credit score!
My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.