Understanding Your Credit Score

According to Experian’s 2012 State of Credit study, the national average credit score increased from 749 to 750. In addition, the average credit scores of Pennsylvania residents are above the national average, ranging from 758-773 depending on the city.

Your credit score can help lenders measure your financial risk when applying for credit cards, credit lines and loans. Higher scores generally equate to higher credit worthiness.

Your BBB offers the following tips for understanding and boosting your credit score:

  • Pay bills on time. On average, more than one-third of your credit score is based on payment history. Bills that end up going to a collection agency can drop a credit score as much as 100 points. Consider activating an automatic electronic payment schedule with your bank so payments won’t be late. Pay credit cards before they’re due. Promptly pay traffic or parking tickets and library fines and keep all payment records.
  • Maintain low credit card balances. Generally, another one-third of your credit score is based on the amounts you owe; often expressed as a “credit utilization ratio,” it is the percentage of the credit limit used. Keep purchases down to less than 25% of the credit limit at any time, even if the bill is paid off in full every month.
  • Limit your number of credit cards, including retail store cards. Typically, the length of credit history accounts for 15% of your credit score. Opening several new cards within a short period of time can hurt your score by lowering the average age of open accounts. Lenders worry about those who borrow more money than they can repay.

In order to detect fraud and fix potential errors that can affect your credit score, monitor your credit reports for free on a consistent basis by using www.annualcreditreport.com. Free reports through this site from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion show credit transactions, but not your actual credit score, which you can pay a fee to receive. For more helpful tips on managing credit, visit www.bbb.org.

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About Caitlin Driscoll

I have been the Public Relations Director of the Better Business Bureau of Western PA since November 2011.