If you’re wondering, “What is my starting credit score?” We’re here to help. First, you should know that there’s a misconception that consumers start at the bottom of the credit ladder and move their way up. There can be an element of truth to this, but often it’s more nuanced than that. In fact, there is no one “starting credit score” that people must climb their way up from. Scores can be all over the map, due to a multitude of reasons, many of which we’ll break down here. Read on and you’ll be well on your way to becoming an expert in all things credit scores.

What is a Credit Score?

A credit score is a three-digit number summarizing your credit risk, based on your credit data. A credit score helps lenders evaluate your credit profile and influences the credit that’s available to you, including loan and credit card approvals, interest rates, credit limits and more.

If you never use credit or loans, you likely do not have a credit score. You’re what’s referred to as “unscorable” — a term that means credit reporting bureaus don’t have enough information on your repayment history to determine your credit score.

What Does “Credit Invisible” Mean?

Being credit invisible means that none of the three major credit bureaus — TransUnion, Experian and Equifax — has a credit history on you.

That can be because you have never obtained any credit or loan products using your name, you pay for everything in cash, you don’t have a credit card or you don’t have access to credit.

An estimated 26 million — 1 out of 10 — Americans are known as “credit invisible.”

Even though it’s technically not possible to have a credit score of zero, when you are credit invisible, the result could effectively be the same should you apply for credit: You might be denied.

What Goes Into Your Starting Credit Score?

Quite a few pieces of important information can go into your starting credit score. That’s because the credit reporting bureaus may now have enough information to score you, but they still don’t have a lot of information to work with. What the credit reporting bureaus want to see is a longer credit history.

One way to help your credit score is to keep making on-time payments. Another is to diversify the types of credit you have. For example, if you have just one credit card, getting another or getting a different type of credit service, such as an installment loan, shows that you are capable of handling different types of credit services responsibly.

Be careful, though — getting too much credit too soon can be a sign to potential lenders that you’re high risk.

Try to establish good behaviors from the outset — they will build a strong foundation for you going forward.

Is it Important to Keep My Outstanding Debt Low for a Solid Starting Credit Score?

It can be – another important component when it comes to your starting credit score is your credit utilization ratio. After paying your bills on time, lenders want to see that you are not using too much of your available credit. The less you can use of your credit (while still using your credit), the better.

When you’re just starting out in the world of credit, your best bet for building a healthy credit score is to establish responsible credit habits such as timely payments and low utilization.

Does My Credit Score Start at Zero?

The short answer is no: There’s no such thing as a credit score of zero. Most in the U.S. start at 300, and sometimes higher, depending on the scoring system — so you can’t have a credit score of zero. Some credit scores, such as Bankcard and Auto scores, can range from 250-900.

Does My Credit Score Start at 300?

Not always. Before your information appears in a credit bureau file, your credit history simply doesn’t exist yet. Once you start to get approved for credit products such as credit cards and loans, you begin to build a credit history.

Until you meet a minimum criteria, you just won’t have a score, and the credit bureaus will communicate this to lenders

What are Some Credit-Building Tips?

There are many ways to build up your credit score. Applying for a no-fee credit card can be a good place to begin, which can include a secured credit card (like a Discover it® Secured Card), or becoming an authorized user. There’s more info on both of these options below, but here are some other things you can do.

First, start by checking your score regularly. Discover offers a free Credit Scorecard — you don’t have to be a customer and it won’t negatively impact your credit. That way, you can keep on top of your score, and dispute any errors you find.

Once you have a credit card, it can help your credit score to pay in full and on time. According to creditcards.com, your payment history accounts for 35 percent of your credit score. So paying your credit card balance in full by its due date is one of the most important steps you can take to build a strong credit history.

Another thing you can do to help your credit score is to keep your debt-utilization ratio low. The term refers to the percentage of your available credit that you spend, and the lower the better. Here’s how it works: If your credit limit is $5,000 and you spend $2,500 before you pay your monthly bill, that’s a debt utilization ratio of 50 percent. You can keep the ratio low by asking for more credit, paying your bill more often and charging less on your card.

What Can I Do to Get Noticed by Lenders?

There are a number of ways to “turn the spotlight” on yourself, so that lenders know you’re serious about starting your credit history. Among the most effective are applying for a secured credit card or becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card.

How Can I Apply for a Secured Credit Card?

A secured credit card, such as a Discover-It Secured Card, is different than a credit card because you provide a deposit to the lender as collateral once you’ve been approved for the account. With this type of credit product, your payments and credit card information may be reported to the credit bureaus, and consistent responsible use of the account can work in your favor to help build your credit history.

How Can I Become an Authorized User on Someone Else’s Credit Card?

If you can become an authorized user on an account of someone with a good credit history (perhaps a close family member such as a parent), that’s a great first step. Of course, this arrangement requires a great deal of trust because if the primary account holder fails to make on-time payments each month, it will likely have a negative impact on your credit score.

What’s the Bottom Line?

You now know a lot more about your starting credit score — including that it can’t be zero, and being credit invisible won’t help much if you’re interested in applying for credit cards or other loans. The good news is that whatever your initial score is, there are several ways to build a positive credit history.

Originally published August 21, 2017

Updated June 28, 2019

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