What Credit Score Do You Start With?
Key Points About: Where Your Credit Score Starts
Most credit scores range from 300 to 850
It takes at least six months of an open credit card or loan account to determine a credit score
Your credit score is determined by things like payment history, amounts owed, and amount of new credit
When you start thinking about building credit, you may ask yourself: Where do I start? What is my starting credit score? The answer to that question will be unique to you. Believe it or not, everybody doesn’t start with the same credit score. People will start with different credit scores based on all kinds of reasons.
If you want to understand your credit score and set goals for your credit score, it’s important to learn 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.
Credit scores are based on your credit history. Before your personal credit history (such as number of accounts, on-time payments, etc.) appears in a credit bureau’s file, your credit score simply doesn’t exist yet.
A credit score is a three-digit number that represents your credit risk based on your credit data. For example, FICO® Credit Scores range from 300-850—but you don’t necessarily start at 300, and your credit score doesn’t always rise just because you have credit longer.
How do credit scores work?
Once you get approved for credit products such as credit cards and loans, you begin to build a credit history, and the credit bureaus will 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
The factors FICO uses to calculate your credit score include:
- Payment History: 35%. Payment history is your record of whether you pay your credit accounts on time.
- Amounts Owed: 30%. 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 are seen as creditworthy.
- 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 will start you on your way to having a credit score. If you’re ready for your first credit card, it may help you with building your credit. If you have no credit history, you may want to consider starting with a secured card, or if you’re in college, a student card.
How to stay on top of your credit score
Once you get started with your first credit account, check your credit score regularly. With Discover, cardmembers get a Credit Scorecard for free that includes your FICO® Credit Score.¹ You can also ask for a free credit report annually from the three major credit bureaus via AnnualCreditReport.com.
To keep a good credit score, use credit smartly. Don’t max out your credit 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.
You now know a lot more about your starting credit score, and the good news is that whatever your initial score is, there are ways to build a positive credit history — and keep a good credit history and credit score.
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