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understanding your credit score

There are numerous factors involved in determining a single credit score. Here's how to optimize them.

Payment History

Your payment history will comprise about 35 percent of your overall credit score. Lenders want to know if they are loaning you money that you are a reliable payer, and you are making most of your payments in a timely manner. While a one-time late payment will have an impact on your payment history, if it is an unusual occurrence, it will not take long to regain your standing.

Amount Owed

Lenders get nervous when they see someone who has a high amount of debt. Typically, they will first review how much debt you have in relation to your total income. Then they review the different types of debt you have.

Secured debt is debt that is backed by collateral (i.e., vehicle loans or mortgages), and unsecured debt has no collateral (i.e., credit cards or personal loans). The more unsecured debt you have, the more risk you are for lenders. Try to limit your unsecured debt by paying off credit cards each month, if possible.

Lenders will also review how much of your available credit you’re utilizing. For example, if your credit card has a limit of $10,000, you should aim to not spend more than 25% of that limit (i.e., $2,500), if possible. If you go over that amount, do your best to pay off the balance in a timely manner.

The amount you owe will account for about 30 percent of your credit score.

Length of Established Credit

Well-established accounts benefit your credit score more than new accounts. Overall, how long you have had credit lines will account for about 15 percent of your overall credit score. Lenders tend to get nervous when someone suddenly starts applying for numerous loans or new credit cards. This category of your score usually increases as your credit accounts age provided you are making your payments on time.

Types of Credit

Lenders will review your current mix of credit cards, installment loans, and mortgage loans. While it is not necessary to have all these different types of credit to raise your score, having more types of credit provides lenders with a better picture of your credit history.

By demonstrating you’re able to manage different types of credit responsibly, lenders will view you as a lower risk than someone that has never had, for example, a credit card. The types of credit you maintain makes up about 10 percent of your credit score.

New Credit

It’s a common thought that checking your credit score or applying for loans will lower your credit score. However, if there is any impact on your credit score, it will be minimal. What lenders are concerned about is when you start applying for multiple loans or credit cards in a short period of time.

For example, if you apply for multiple credit cards in a short period of time, lenders will likely assume you’re having financial problems and view you as a higher risk.

It’s also important to not open many new accounts at once because it will lower the average age of your credit accounts, which affects your score.

Overall, new credit accounts for about 10 percent of your credit score.

Monitor Your Credit

Members should be aware of all factors that can impact their credit score. It is also important to remember there is no “single” good credit score. Lenders may depend on numerous types of scoring to determine whether you qualify for different types of loans, and each lender usually has their own tier when determining which scores they deem approvable.

Not only should you make sure you are making your payments on time, but you should also be aware of all factors that are impacting your credit score. Obtain your Free Credit Report at to review your history and correct any mistakes or possible fraud.

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