FIVE FACTORS that account for the vast majority of any FICO credit score.
1 Thirty-five percent of your credit score is based on how you have repaid your credit obligations. Points are added for people who always pay their bills on time; points are subtracted for those with some late payments, nonpayments, "restructured" payments — when the creditor agrees to take less than what's owed — and bankruptcies. The more credit that you have used, and paid consistently, the better your score. Naturally, the most serious credit faux pas take away the most points — a bankruptcy is going to harm your score much more than a few 30-day late payments.
2 Thirty percent of a score is based on your debt-to-available-credit ratio. The lower that ratio, the higher your score. For instance, if you have a $100,000 home equity line and four credit cards, each with $5,000 limits, your total available credit is $120,000. If you've borrowed a total of $5,000 on the credit cards and $10,000 on the home equity line, your debt amounts to $15,000, or 13 percent of your available credit.
If, however, you have just $20,000 in available credit and have borrowed $15,000, you have a 75 percent debt-to-available-credit ratio. That makes you look overextended and will result in a much lower credit score.
The moral of this story: Consolidating your debt onto one or two cards and canceling the unused cards could hurt your score by reducing the amount of credit you have available and, thus, boosting your ratio. Unless there's a compelling reason to cancel — such as having to pay annual fees to hold those unused cards — don't.
3 Fifteen percent of your score is based on the amount of time you've managed credit. If your credit file lists experiences, from student loans to credit cards, that go back decades, you'll score better than somebody whose oldest credit experience was what was reported last month. minmax_bound="true" />
Ten percent of your score is based on how many different kinds of credit
you have handled in the past. Someone who successfully paid a mortgage, a home
equity loan, a car loan and credit cards will score higher than someone who has
only one kind of loan.
The good news: Repaid debts usually remain on your file for many years, Watts said. So you don't get penalized for responsible behavior such as paying off your car loan.
5 The final 10 percent of your score is based on new
credit applications and consumer-initiated credit "queries."
Each time you apply for credit, a credit query hits your file. If you have a lot of those inquiries in a short period, this portion of your score suffers, Watts said. That's because people who apply for vast amounts of credit in a short stretch are eight times as
likely to file for bankruptcy, he said.