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What Credit Score Do You Start With?

Last Updated: November 16, 2023
3 min read

Key points about: where your credit score starts

  1. Most credit scores range from 300 to 850.

  2. It takes at least six months after opening your first credit account such as a credit card or loan account to determine a credit score.

  3. Your credit score is determined by a set of factors including your payment history, credit utilization ratio, and the length of your credit history.

When thinking about building credit history, you may ask yourself: Where do I start? What is my starting credit score? The answer to those questions is unique to you. Believe it or not, everybody doesn’t start with the same credit score. People begin with different credit scores based on various reasons.

If you want to understand your credit score and set goals for your credit score, it’s important to learn more about what a credit score is.

What is a credit score and where do they start?

A credit score helps lenders evaluate your experience with credit and influences the credit that’s available to you, including loan and credit card approvals, interest rates, credit limits, and more.

A credit score is a three-digit number that represents your credit risk based on your credit data. For example, most FICO® Credit Scores range from 300-850—but you don’t necessarily start at 300, and your credit score doesn’t necessarily rise just because you’ve had credit longer. Credit scores are based on your credit history. Before your personal credit history (such as the number of accounts you have open, whether you’ve ever made a late payment, etc.) appears in a credit bureau’s file, your credit score simply doesn’t exist yet. A person who doesn’t yet have a credit history or score is referred to as “credit invisible.”

How do credit scores work?

Once you get approved for credit products such as credit cards and loans, you begin to establish a credit history, and the credit bureaus use that history to calculate your credit score.

In order for a FICO® Score to be calculated, your credit report must have:

  • At least one account opened for six months or more, and
  • At least one account that has been reported to the credit bureau within the past six months, and
  • No indication that you’re deceased.

The minimum scoring criteria may be satisfied by a single account or by multiple accounts on a credit file.

What goes into a credit score?

While different credit score models may weigh various factors differently, 90% of top lenders use FICO® Scores, including Discover.1

  • Payment History: 35%. Payment history is your record of whether you pay your credit accounts on time.
  • Amounts Owed: 30%. Also known as your credit utilization, this is the total amount of money you owe lenders, and how much of your available credit is in use.
  • Length of Credit History: 15%. The longer your record of repaying loans is, the more you’re seen as creditworthy to a potential lender.
  • New Credit: 10%. Applying for a great deal of credit at once may be seen as a sign of financial instability.
  • Credit Mix: 10%. Having more than one type of credit, such as a mortgage and a credit card, helps demonstrate your ability to manage credit.

How to start a credit score

Building a credit history starts you on your way to having a credit score. If you’re ready for your first credit card, it may help you build your credit history. If you have no credit history, it may be challenging to qualify for an unsecured credit card. But you may get approved for a secured credit card or, if you’re in college, a student card. Using these cards responsibly is a great way to build credit history and eventually qualify for an unsecured card.

How to stay on top of your credit score

To keep a good credit score, use credit smartly. Don’t max out the credit limit on your cards, and don’t apply for too much credit at once. Be sure to pay your bills on time every month and pay the balance in full whenever possible.

Did you know?

Once you get started with your first credit account, check your credit score regularly. As a Discover® Cardmember, you get a free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Score and important information behind it like credit utilization, number of missed payments, number of recent inquiries, length of credit history, and total number of accounts.1 Through December 2023, you can also request a free credit report weekly from the three major credit bureaus via

The good news is that whatever your initial score is, there are ways to build a positive credit history that could help your credit score. Now that you know more about your starting credit score, you can practice good habits that could result in staying on top of a good credit history and a good credit score. 

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  1. FICO® Credit Score Terms: Your FICO® Credit Score, key factors, and other credit information use the FICO® Score 8 model. They are based on data from TransUnion® and may be different from other credit scores and other credit information provided by different bureaus. This information is intended for and only provided to Primary account holders who have an available score. Your score, key factors and other credit information are available on and cardmembers are also provided a score on statements. Customers will see up to a year of recent scores online. Discover and other lenders may use different inputs, such as FICO® Credit Scores, other credit scores and more information in credit decisions. This benefit may change or end in the future. FICO is a registered trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation in the United States and other countries. If you prefer not to receive your FICO® Credit Score just call us at 1-800-DISCOVER (1-800-347-2683). Please give us two billing cycles to process your request. Discover Financial Services and Fair Isaac are not credit repair organizations as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. Discover Financial Services and Fair Isaac do not provide “credit repair” services or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history or credit rating.

  • Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.