There are five primary factors that account for the magical credit score which determines you acceptance or rejection for most loans or credit cards, and strongly influences the interest rates or total cost for you to borrow the funds.
The following is a very basic overview of the five most important factors in determining your credit or loan score (aka FICO score). It is worth noting that the three major credit bureau all calculate their scoring models slightly differently, so what I have presented is a slightly blended overview, but it will give you the most important factors and an a rough relative weight in the credit scoring process.
How Payment History Affects Your Credit Score – 35%
Payment history accounts for about 35 percent of your credit score (this will vary depending on the scoring agency). It makes sense that this would be a top factor, since someone with a long history is of never missing a payment is likely to continue to be a safe person to lend money to.
If you do have negative marks on your credit score, three factors will determine the size of the deduction to your credit score:
- Time Since The Event – how long ago did you miss a payment? If it was a long time ago, and you have a good payment history since that time, it will not affect your score very much. Whereas a recent missed payment will cost more against your credit scoring.
- Number of Missed Payments – obviously matters. One missed payment in ten years of good history won’t matter very much, but the more missed payments in your history, the more risky you are seen to be and this will be reflected in a lower debt score.
- How Bad Was The Blunder? – being late or missing one credit card payment is a small deduction. All the way up to having a bill go to a collection agency to the biggest black mark of all: bankruptcy.
How Much You Currently Owe – 30%
If you think of your credit score as a kind of “worry index” for lenders, you’ll understand why how much of your possible credit you are using would be a concern for lenders.
Think of this aspect of credit score as a percentage. The amount you owe on all possible credit sources (credit cards, auto loans, home loans, your current mortgage and so on) divided by the total of all credit available to you.
To put it into perspective, statistically most Americans use less than 30% of their available credit and only about 12% use more than 80%.
How much you currently owe compared to your total available credit accounts for about 30% of your loan score. Knowing this straightforward measurement, to improve your score, simply pay down any loans and avoid the temptation to get cute and improve your ratio by getting a larger amount of “available credit”. As we’ll see in the next sections, this can actually hurt your credit score more than improve it.
In general people who have a debt scenario near to or at the limit of their credit are much more likely to default and therefore are given a lower credit score. If you are in this situation credit counseling, to develop a debt management plan, may be something worth considering to reverse the trend and lower your debt ratio.
How Long You Have Had Credit – 15%
This metric accounts for about 15% of your credit score, with favorable weight going to those who have had credit for the longest time. The reasoning behind using time as a credit score factor is because in time it is easier to establish patterns of behavior.
Even if someone has never had a credit incident (a late payment for example) but they have only had a credit card or loan for a short period of time, they may not have encountered any of the critical life events that can cause major stress.
Credit statistics show that people with the highest ratings for example, have not missed a payment even when they have lost their job or been ill for extended periods.
Your Last Application for Credit – 10%
The typical American consumer last applied for some sort of new credit 20 months ago. Recent credit applications can indicate a “need” for money and needing money is a negative factor on your credit score.
Your last credit application date accounts for about 10% of your total score. In fact, even having many lenders check your credit score can have a negative impact on your credit score, so make sure you don’t authorize lenders or banks to “pull” your credit score unless you are in fact, seriously shopping for a loan or other credit instrument.
Ordering your own credit score report from one of three bureaus should not count as a negative on your actual credit score.
The Types of Credit You Are Using – 10%
In short there are two major types of credit: revolving and installment.
Installment loans are items like car loans and mortgages. Revolving are credit cards and the like where even if you pay them in full, you still retain the credit to use it again. Generally credit cards are seen as higher quality revolving credit, than department store cards. And mortgages are seen has higher quality than revolving credit, simply because they are more difficult to obtain ( the recent sub-prime loans excluded ).
The type of credit you are using represents about 10% of your score, and a higher score is give to people with a blend of credit from various sources. This is seen as a reflection of trust, due to each credit card or loan being seen as an endorsement from a different company.
Credit Score Conclusions
It is clear when you read through the 5 credit score factors that they are derived from a statistical analysis of many years of loans versus default rate data. This is both good and bad. For the lenders it can be a fairly accurate predictor of the “typical” borrower’s behavior and for the consumer it does provide a clear roadmap for improving their credit score.
The downside to this statistical analysis is, of course, that it doesn’t account for the human factor or treat people as individuals. In the old days, before FICO Scores, the bank manager or loan officer knew their clients and included the client’s “character” as a major factor in making a decision whether to lend or not. Now that the decision is largely automated, it is possible to be unfairly represented, and be forced to pay higher lender fees, by a credit scoring models based on other people’s behaviors.