Your credit score can have a significant impact on your life, determining what loans you qualify for, how much you pay in interest, and even sometimes what apartments you can rent or jobs you’re hired for.
Because your credit score can affect everything from buying a house to purchasing a car to qualifying for a credit card, it’s important to be aware of your credit score and take steps to improve it if possible.
If you’re wondering how your credit score compares to people who live in the same area, read on for a full guide to credit scores by state.
Average credit score by state
Average credit scores vary from state to state. Here is the full breakdown of average credit scores by state:
State Average credit score
District of Columbia 713
New Hampshire 729
New Jersey 721
New Mexico 694
New York 718
North Carolina 703
North Dakota 730
Rhode Island 719
South Carolina 689
South Dakota 731
West Virginia 695
Credit rating categories
Wondering what score you need to reach in order to have “good” credit? Credit scores range from 300 to 850, and scores 670 and above and considered good credit scores. 350-579 is considered poor credit, 580-669 is fair credit, 670-739 is good credit, 740-800 is very good credit, and 800-850 is excellent credit.
In general, a credit score above 670 will allow you to qualify for most types of financial products, including loans and credit cards. That said, borrowers with higher scores will qualify for better rates and products targeted to consumers with very good or excellent credit.
Does where you live affect your credit score?
While credit bureaus keep track of your address, where you live doesn’t actually affect your credit score. However, people living in different areas of the country may be more or less likely to have higher or lower credit.
Average state credit scores can be influenced by areas that are experiencing economic growth or depression, as well as areas where high-income or low-income Americans tend to be clustered.
Factors that affect your credit score
If your location doesn’t affect your credit score, then what does? Some factors that influence your credit score include:
- Payment history. Your payment history is one of the most important factors that affect your credit score. Making on-time payments will raise your credit score while making late payments or missing payments will lower it.
- Credit utilization. Your credit utilization is the ratio of your total revolving credit to your total revolving credit limits. You should try to keep your credit utilization below 30% in order to unlock a higher credit score.
- Account age. Your account age is another factor that affects your credit. The older your accounts are, the better it is for your credit score.
- Credit mix. Having a mix of different types of loans and credit cards is better for your score.
- Recent inquiries. Hard inquiries are triggered when you apply for a financial product like a loan or credit card. These inquiries can temporarily lower your credit.
How to improve your credit score
If your credit score isn’t where you want it to be, the good news is that there are plenty of steps you can take to improve your credit.
A poor credit score can happen for any number of reasons, whether you’ve experienced hard times financially or are just starting out and haven’t had time to build your credit history. Credit isn’t a reflection of your worth or money management skills; it’s just a way that lenders assess your risk level as a borrower and decide which financial products you’re eligible for.
Working to improve your credit score is a cumulative process that takes time, and there aren’t many quick overnight fixes when it comes to boosting your credit. The important thing is to have patience and to maintain a pattern of responsible borrowing and on-time payments in order to gradually raise your score. Here are some tips for improving your credit!
1. Understand your credit score
The first step to improving your credit is to know your credit score and understand what it means. You can access your credit score using a variety of free resources online. Many banks and credit cards also provide you with access to your credit score free of charge.
These resources often also indicate what factors are hurting and helping your score. For more in-depth analysis of your credit score, as well as continuous credit monitoring and identity theft insurance, you can use a paid service like myFICO. If your credit score isn’t where you want it to be, don’t panic! There are plenty of ways for you to improve your credit over time.
2. Get a handle on your finances
After you know what your credit score is, the next step is to get a handle on your finances. You should review the items on your credit score and make a note of any credit card balances, auto loans, personal loans, student loans, and other items that influence your score.
If you’re trying to pay down debt in order to improve your credit, it may help to review your finances to see where you can reduce expenses and to create a budget to help keep you on track.
3. Dispute inaccuracies
Credit reports can sometimes contain inaccuracies, especially if you have a common first and last name. You should be sure to review your credit report in order to make sure all of the information is accurate and up to date.
If you spot any errors on your credit report, you should dispute them as soon as possible. Disputing inaccurate information can help to raise your score by removing negative items on your report that don’t apply to you.
4. Make on-time payments
A history of on-time payments is one of the biggest factors that affect your credit score, so you should always try to make credit card and loan payments on time if at all possible. If you’re struggling to make on-time payments, you should get in touch with your lender to see if you can work out a payment plan that allows you to keep making monthly payments. Some lenders will even forgive your first late payment if you have a history of paying on time.
5. Reduce your credit utilization
After on-time payments, credit utilization is the second most important factor that affects your score. Your credit utilization represents the ratio of your revolving debt to your revolving credit limit.
In order to boost your score, you should try to keep your credit utilization under 30%, with under 10% considered ideal. For example, if your credit card has a limit of $1,000, you should try to keep your credit card balance under $300.
While your credit utilization represents the ratio across all of your revolving credit, it’s also a good idea to keep your utilization under 30% for each individual card.
6. Increase your credit limits
Another way to reduce your credit utilization is to increase your credit limits. For example, if you increase your credit utilization from $1,000 to $2,000 you can now carry a balance of up to $600 without moving above 30% utilization.
Some credit card issuers automatically raise your credit limit over time, but you can also ask your card issuer to increase the limit.
7. Pay down debt
While carrying a large amount of debt doesn’t always negatively affect your credit score, it can impact factors like your credit utilization and history of on-time payments. Plus, the more debt you carry, the more you’ll end up paying in interest, which can make it difficult to stay on top of your finances over time.
You should pay down outstanding debt when you can. If possible, you should try to pay off your credit card balances each month in order to avoid accumulating interest.
8. Limit hard inquiries
Hard inquiries happen when you apply for new financial products like loans and credit cards. Too many hard inquiries at once can lower your credit score because it makes you seem like a riskier bet to lenders. In order to avoid triggering a lot of hard inquiries, you should space out your applications for financial products and see if you can pre-qualify before applying.
9. Get added as an authorized user
If you have a family member with good credit, you might want to consider asking to be added to their account as an authorized user. Becoming an authorized user lets you use their credit card to make purchases, and it can boost your score by lowering your credit utilization and establishing a history of on-time payments and responsible borrowing.
If you do become an authorized user on someone else’s account, you should be sure to be respectful of their finances and refrain from using the card to make purchases without their permission.
10. Set up autopay
Ever missed a credit card or loan payment just because you lost track of what day it was? Setting up autopay for your accounts can help prevent you from missing payments. Some lenders even allow you to choose a specific time of the month to set up automatic payments.
11. Keep old cards open
Have old credit cards that you don’t use much anymore? Consider keeping them open! Keeping your oldest cards open can improve the age and mix of your accounts, which has a positive impact on your credit score.
12. Open a secured credit card
Whether you don’t have much credit history to begin with or are trying to build up your score after experiencing some financial setbacks, poor credit could prevent you from qualifying for new financial products like loans and credit cards.
That’s where secured credit cards come in – they’re a type of credit card that requires a security deposit, and even borrowers with less than stellar credit can qualify. Using a secured credit card can help you to establish a history of on-time payments and sustainably boost your score over time. The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card is a great card for borrowers looking to improve their credit. They don’t require a credit check, you can choose your own credit line, and your on-time payments are reported to all three credit bureaus.
13. Experian Boost™
While monthly bills like gas, electricity, and internet aren’t usually included in your credit score, Experian Boost™ allows you to add on-time utility payments to your credit report for free. These payments can help boost your score by establishing a history of on-time payments. In some cases, using Experian Boost can have an immediate positive impact on your credit.
14. Check your credit score on a regular basis
You’re doing all the things you’re supposed to be doing, but your credit score still hasn’t budged – what gives? The truth is that improving your credit is a gradual process, and there are few quick fixes.
Even if you’re making all the right financial moves, it can still take time to see improvements in your score. You should check your credit score on a regular basis in order to monitor any changes that occur and track your growth over time.
While the average credit score for Americans is 710, it’s more difficult for some Americans than others to achieve such a score, especially for those in a financially precarious position who are struggling to make ends meet.
Your credit score isn’t a reflection on you personally; it’s just an indication that lenders are more likely to let you borrow money. When you’re able to do so, working to improve your score can make it easier to qualify for financial products like loans, credit cards, and more.