Financial Planning
April 10, 2024

The beginners’ guide to credit score

Credit is an agreement that involves getting something now and agreeing to pay for it later

In personal finance, few things wield as much power as your credit score. It's not just a number; it's a gatekeeper, deciding the loans you qualify for and the interest rates you'll pay. Understanding your credit score isn't just beneficial—it's essential for navigating the financial landscape.

Your credit score isn't just a financial indicator; it's a pivotal player in your financial health. It shapes the opportunities available to you and influences your ability to manage your money effectively. 

A credit score is important because it serves as a measure of your creditworthiness to lenders. A high credit score can provide numerous financial benefits. It increases your chances of getting loans and credit cards with lower interest rates, potentially saving you significant money in the long run. 

A good credit score also makes you eligible for premium credit card offers with better rewards and perks. It can enhance your negotiating power when you apply for mortgages, car loans, or other types of financing. 

Also, landlords and insurance companies favor individuals with good credit scores, making it easier for you to rent a home and secure better insurance rates. In summary, a good credit score opens up better financial opportunities and rewards.

But how does it work, and what can it do for you? Let's delve into the world of credit scores to uncover the credit system in USA.

What Is Credit Score?

A credit score is what it sounds like. It is a three-digit number, generally ranging between 300-850, depending on the scoring model, that rates your creditworthiness. It scores your credit health, helping lenders assess your loan repayment ability.

Your credit history, total levels of credit, repayment history, etc. determine where you fall on the credit score scale. The highest credit score you can get is 850. But once you are in the high credit score range, getting a perfect credit score won’t make much difference.

Credit reporting agencies or credit bureaus gather information from your credit accounts and collate what is known as your credit report. This credit report also showcases your credit score.

The market for collecting, analyzing, and disbursing consumer information in the credit markets is dominated by a trio of major credit bureaus in the U.S.: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion

These three credit bureaus crafted an algorithm to create a credit rating scale called the Vantage Score. The competitor for this is the FICO Score. These two credit score ranges are the most widely used scores. 

Both use similar scoring but focus on different things. FICO looks at late payments often, while Vantage Score looks at how your credit has changed over time and doesn't need as long a credit history.

Let’s take a closer look at them.

What Is The FICO Score?

The FICO score was developed by the Fair Isaac Corp., which introduced the FICO scoring system in 1989. It is a widely used credit score that tells lenders about your creditworthiness. FICO credit ranges from 300 to 850. Some bands go from poor to exceptional in this range, depending on your credit health. So where does your credit score fall in the FICO score range? Here’s the FICO credit score explained:

  • Below 580: poor.
  • 580 to 669: fair.
  • 670 to 739: good.
  • 740 to 799: very good.
  • 800 and above: exceptional.

What Is The Vantage Score?

The three major credit reporting agencies, or credit bureaus, came together to develop the Vantage Score. This score is a direct competitor of the FICO Score and works pretty similarly to the FICO Score. It also ranges from 300-850, and although it was introduced far later than the FICO Score in 2006, it has gained quite a lot of importance with lenders.

Both scoring systems use similar data and factors to score your credit health, thus you will have similar results.

Here’s what your Vantage Score will tell your lender about your creditworthiness.

  • 300 to 600: subprime.
  • 601 to 660: near prime.
  • 661 to 780: prime.
  • 781 to 850: superprime.

FICO Score vs Vantage Score

The FICO Score and VantageScore are two of the most commonly used credit scoring models, but they differ in how they calculate scores and the factors they consider. Here's a breakdown of the main differences:

  • Development: The FICO Score was developed by the Fair Isaac Corporation and has been in use since 1989. On the other hand, the VantageScore was developed collaboratively by the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) and was introduced in 2006.
  • Score Range: Both scores range from 300 to 850, but they may have different score bands or categories to describe credit health. For example, a FICO Score of 670 might be considered "good," while a VantageScore of the same number might be categorized differently.
  • Factors Considered: While both scores consider similar factors such as payment history, credit utilization, length of credit history, and types of credit used, they may weigh these factors differently, resulting in different scores for the same individual.
  • Industry Adoption: Lenders use the FICO Score more widely, making it more established and well-known. However, the VantageScore has been gaining traction and is also used by many lenders to assess creditworthiness.
  • Which one is considered: Both scores are considered by lenders, but the FICO Score is still more commonly used. Some lenders may use both scores or have their proprietary scoring models.

Factors Affecting Your Credit Score

Several factors can significantly impact your credit score. These include:

  1. Payment History (35%): This is the most significant factor affecting credit scores. Consistently making on-time payments on credit accounts, such as credit cards, loans, and mortgages, positively impacts the score
  1. Credit Utilization (30%): The ratio of credit used to the total credit available, also known as credit utilization, plays a significant role. Keeping credit card balances low relative to credit limits helps improve the score. A good credit utilization ratio would be 30%. But the lower the utilization, the more it will help you improve your credit score. 
  2. Length of Credit History (15%): The longer an individual's credit history, the better, as it provides more data for assessing creditworthiness.
  1. New Credit Applications (10%): Frequent or recent credit inquiries and opening multiple new credit accounts within a short period can have a negative impact on credit scores. When you apply for a new credit card or loan, a hard inquiry, also known as a "hard pull," takes place. It happens when a creditor requests to review your credit file to assess the risk associated with lending you money. Hard inquiries are recorded on your credit report and have the potential to impact your credit score. This is one of the many mistakes you must avoid.
  1. Credit Portfolio/Credit Mix (10%): It shows the variety of credit types you have taken/cleared. Having a diverse mix – credit cards, auto loans, mortgages – can enhance your credit profile. It shows lenders you can manage different types of credit, contributing positively to your credit score.

These factors can vary in importance depending on your credit profile and the credit scoring model used. Managing these factors responsibly is essential to maintain a healthy credit score.

How To Improve Credit Score?

Improving your credit score requires consistent effort and responsible financial habits. Here are some effective ways to boost your credit score:

  1. Become an Authorized User: If someone with a good credit history adds you as an authorized user on their credit card, their positive payment history can potentially improve your credit score. The impact can vary but could significantly increase, especially if the primary cardholder has a long history of on-time payments.
  1. Keep Old Accounts Open: Closing old credit card accounts can reduce your overall credit limit and average account age, which can negatively impact your score. Keeping these accounts open, even if you're not actively using them, can help maintain a healthy credit history. The improvement can vary but be noticeable, especially if the closed account was one of your oldest.
  1. Apply for a Secured Credit Card: If you have a limited credit history or a low credit score, a secured credit card can be a good way to build or rebuild credit. By using the card responsibly and making on-time payments, you can demonstrate creditworthiness and potentially see a gradual increase in your credit score over time.
  1. Negotiate with Creditors: If you have outstanding debts, consider negotiating with your creditors to settle the debt or establish a payment plan. Paying off or reducing these debts can improve your credit utilization ratio and show a positive payment history. The improvement can be significant, especially if you can settle a large debt for less than the full amount owed.
  1. Seek Credit Counseling: If you're struggling to manage your debts, consider seeking credit counseling. A credit counselor can help you create a budget, negotiate with creditors, and develop a plan to improve your credit score. The improvement can vary but could be substantial, especially if you follow the counselor's advice and consistently improve your financial situation.

What Can A Credit Builder Loan Do For You?

Using a credit builder loan is a smart strategy for building credit from scratch or rebuilding damaged credit. 

A credit builder loan is an installment loan designed to help you establish or improve your credit score. Unlike traditional loans, the lender holds the loan amount in a savings account or certificate of deposit (CD) while you make regular monthly payments. Once you've paid off the loan, you receive the funds, and your on-time payments are reported to the credit bureaus, helping to boost your credit score.

Bright Builder offers a unique credit-builder loan program that combines the benefits of a traditional credit-builder loan with additional features to maximise your credit-building potential.

It offers affordable monthly payments, making it easier to manage your finances while building credit. It also provides access to credit monitoring tools, allowing you to track your progress and stay informed about changes to your credit report.

By making on-time payments on your Bright Builder loan, you can demonstrate responsible credit use and establish a positive payment history. 


Understanding your credit score is the first step toward building a strong financial future. Your credit score impacts your ability to borrow money, secure favorable interest rates, and even rent an apartment. By knowing what factors influence your credit score and how to improve it, you can take control of your financial health.

Remember, responsible credit behavior, such as making timely payments and keeping your credit utilization low, can positively impact your credit score over time. Additionally, regularly monitoring your credit report for errors and staying informed about your credit score can help you make more informed financial decisions.

As you continue on your financial journey, remember that building good credit takes time and patience.

Take your first step towards credit building and Money Management with Bright Builder!

Suggested Readings:


1. What credit score do you start with?

When you first start building credit, you begin with no credit score. This is because credit scores are based on the information in your credit report, and if you have no credit history, the scoring models have no information to assess.

As you establish credit by opening accounts and using credit responsibly, your credit score will start to develop. It's common for individuals new to credit to have lower scores initially, but with time and responsible credit use, your score can improve.

2.What's the highest credit score you can get?

The highest credit score you can get depends on the credit scoring model used. The most widely used credit scoring model is the FICO Score, which ranges from 300 to 850. In this model, a score of 850 is considered perfect and is the highest achievable score.

Other credit scoring models, such as the VantageScore, also range from 300 to 850, with 850 being the highest score. However, different scoring models may have slightly different score ranges and criteria for calculating scores.

3. What is considered bad credit?

Having a credit score below 600 is generally considered bad credit. With a score in this range, you may have difficulty qualifying for loans or credit cards, and if you are approved, you may face higher interest rates and less favorable terms. Improving your credit score can help you move into a higher credit category and qualify for better financial products.

4. Which credit report is the most important?

All three major credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—play a significant role in your financial life by providing credit reports to lenders. Each agency's report may contain slightly different information, as not all creditors report to all three bureaus. Consequently, it's essential to monitor all three reports for accuracy.

While all three reports are important, some lenders may prefer one agency's report over another, depending on their policies and the region. As a result, it's beneficial to have a good credit history across all three bureaus.

Petko Plachkov
CEO (joint) at Bright Money
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