What Does Your Credit Score Start At?

You start with no credit score at all and get to build it over time.

Credit scores issued by the most popular credit-scoring models in the U.S. begin at 300. However, this is unlikely to be your first credit score unless you are irresponsible with your finances. You typically start building credit after you get your first credit product, be it a credit card or a student loan.

Making your payments on time is one way to build your credit score. Depending on how well you utilize your credit, your credit score may get to anywhere from 500 to 700 within the first six months. Going forward, getting to an excellent credit score of over 800 generally takes years since the average age of credit factors into your score.

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MoneyGeek's Takeaways

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The base credit scores of the most popular credit-reporting models start at 300.

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Starting with a score of around 300 is possible only if you’ve managed your finances poorly.

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You may start to build a credit history or improve your score without using any type of credit.

What Credit Score Do You Start With?

As someone who’s never taken any form of credit, you, in all likelihood, have no credit score at all. This is because your credit score depends primarily on your payment history and credit utilization. These factors are not established until you obtain your first credit product.

Just how quickly you get your first credit score depends on the credit-scoring model. While calculating a VantageScore score is possible soon after your first credit account appears on the report, getting a FICO credit score requires that the account should be at least six months old. In both cases, the base credit score is 300. However, the starting credit score of most people is typically higher because scores of around 300 are associated with very poor management of credit.

Do You Need Credit to Get a Credit Score?

It’s not necessary for you to get credit to start building your credit history. Some companies such as Experian, eCredable and LevelCredit give you the ability to report your qualifying utility, phone, online streaming services and rent payments to credit bureaus.

  • Experian Boost helps add eligible bill payments to your Experian credit report.
  • eCredable reports eligible bill payments to TransUnion.
  • LevelCredit reports rent payments to TransUnion and Equifax and eligible utility and other bill payments to TransUnion.

What Credit Score Does an 18-Year-Old Start With?

Credit scores don’t miraculously appear when people turn 18 years of age. However, this is how old you need to be to apply for your first form of credit. Besides, there is no default credit score. Those over 18 years old get to build their credit in different ways. These include getting student or secured credit cards, becoming authorized users on others’ credit cards, making payments toward student loans while still in college and getting their utility/phone/rent payments to reflect on their credit reports.

By demonstrating good credit habits, 18-year olds may expect their credit scores to get to around 500 within the first six months. However, poor management of credit may result in significantly lower scores.

What Is the Usual Starting Credit Score?

While VantageScore and FICO scores start at 300, it’s unlikely that you’ll start with such a low score. Credit scores at the bottom end of the scale demonstrate serious lapses in how one uses credit, and getting to this stage at the beginning of one’s credit history is highly improbable. Instead, depending on how well you manage your credit, your first credit score might be around the 500 mark.

The age of your oldest form of credit plays a role in your credit score. However, working on other aspects can even get your initial credit score to be around 700. For instance, while making timely payments toward your first credit card helps to improve your credit score, factors such as the amounts you owe, the mix of credit you have and your applications for new credit also play a role.

How Are Credit Scores Calculated?

FICO and VantageScore credit-scoring models rely on data retrieved from credit reports to come up with credit scores. Both assign varying levels of importance to different aspects that go into generating your credit score.

Credit-scoring Models

FICO

FICO relies on five categories, and each is assigned a fixed percentage value.

  • Payment history: 35%
  • Amounts you owe (credit utilization): 30%
  • Length of credit history: 15%
  • New credit: 10%
  • Credit mix: 10%

VantageScore

VantageScore does not assign fixed percentages but relies on varying levels of influence.

  • Payment history: Extremely influential
  • Duration of credit history and mix of credit: Highly influential
  • Percentage of available credit you’ve used (credit utilization): Highly influential
  • Total balances you owe: Moderately influential
  • Recent credit inquiries and behavior: Less influential
  • Available credit: Less influential

How Long Does It Take to Get a 700 Credit Score?

While getting an excellent credit score cannot happen overnight, it is possible to get a good credit score of around 700 in less than a year, provided you follow the right steps. These include:

1

Pay all your bills on time and never miss a payment.

2

Reduce your outstanding balances to bring down your credit utilization ratio (the amount you owe compared to your total available credit).

3

Don't apply for or open new credit accounts frequently.

4

Don't apply for different types of credit just to improve your credit score unless you’re sure of making timely payments and keeping your outstanding balances low.

5

Go through your credit reports every six months and dispute inaccurate information.

6

Keep your oldest credit card account active as it increases the length of your credit history.

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What Is the Perfect Credit Score?

The perfect credit score, either through the FICO or the VantageScore model, is 850. According to a report released by FICO, around 1.6% of people in the U.S. who were scorable had perfect FICO scores (of 850) in April 2019. This number stood at 0.85% in April 2009. Hawaii held the honor of being the state with the highest percentage of people with perfect credit scores on both occasions.

While there is no fixed path to getting a perfect credit score, people who fall under this bracket tend to demonstrate a few similar traits.

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    Lengthy credit histories

    Most people with perfect credit scores have well-established credit histories. The average age of their oldest accounts stands at 30 years.

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    No missed payments

    People with perfect credit scores have no mention of missed payments, collections activity or any other type of negative information in their credit reports.

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    Low credit utilization ratio

    FICO suggests that people with perfect credit scores maintain an average credit balance of around $13,000, which does not include mortgage balances. However, their average credit utilization ratio stands at just 4.1%.

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    Minimal inquiries for credit

    Those with credit scores of 850 tend to get new credit once in a while, but not too often. The FICO report suggests that while around 10% of people from this bracket had at least one inquiry in the preceding year, around 25% of them had opened at least one new credit account during the same period.

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Many people wrongly assume that carrying a balance on their credit cards and paying interest helps their credit score. This is untrue. Make it a goal to pay off your credit cards in full each month to avoid paying interest. -- Lee Huffman, credit card expert at BaldThoughts.com

Other Questions You May Have About Credit Scores

Credit scores can seem confusing, especially for those who have no credit or are just starting to build credit. Looking through answers to other commonly asked questions about what credit score you start with and what you can do to improve it going forward can help.

Next Steps

Now that you know what your credit score is when you first start, consider taking steps to build your credit in the near future. If you’re unable to qualify for a regular or a student credit card, applying for a secured card might serve as an effective alternative. You may also start building your credit by getting your bill and rent payments to reflect on your credit reports.

Compare & Review Credit Cards

Experts at MoneyGeek use data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to monitor and analyze the spending trends of consumers across the U.S. while also keeping an eye out for new credit card offers and changes in APRs and fees. They do this with the aim of simplifying how our readers look for credit cards based on individual requirements.

Learn More About Credit Cards

The editorial team at MoneyGeek remains well-informed about the latest financial trends so that it may answer your questions quickly and factually. You may ask us practically any question surrounding how you might improve your credit score, how to build credit as an immigrant, how credit cards work, what types of credit cards you might qualify for and what your rights are as a cardholder.

About the Author


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Rajiv Baniwal has been writing about different financial topics for over 15 years. Meticulous in his research, he makes sure he provides accurate and up-to-date information. His areas of expertise include mortgages, personal loans, credit cards, insurance and international money transfers.


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