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Controlling credit scores can feel like solving a Rubik's Cube, you need all the moving parts in line to produce the desired outcome.  But which piece do you move first?

Disclosure first: I do not provide credit counseling.  The information on this page is intended to provide general knowledge.  It was sourced directly from the website of Equifax®.

What is a credit score?

What is a credit score?

A credit score is a three digit number, typically between 300 and 850, which is designed to represent your credit risk, or likelihood you will pay your bills on time.  A credit score is calculated based on a method using the content of your consumer file.  

The way your credit score is calculated and the contents of your consumer file may vary between each of the three national Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs) - Equifax®, Experian®, and TransUnion®.  This is because not all creditors report to all three agencies.

How are credit scores calculated?

How are credit scores calculated?

The main factors involved in calculating a credit score are: 

  • The number of accounts you have

  • The types of accounts

  • Your used credit vs. your available credit

  • The length of your credit history

  • Your payment history

There are many different scoring models and here is a general breakdown of the factors the models consider:

  • Payment History: 35%

Your credit history includes information about how you have repaid the credit you have already been extended on credit accounts such as credit cards, lines of credit, retail department store accounts, installment loans, auto loans, student loans, finance company accounts, home equity loans and mortgage loans for primary, secondary, vacation and investment properties.


In addition to reporting the number and type of credit accounts that you’ve paid on time, this category also includes details on late or missed payments, public record items and collection information. Credit scoring models look at how late your payments were, how much was owed, and how recently and how often you missed a payment. Your credit history will also detail how many of your credit accounts are delinquent in relation to all of your accounts on file. So, if you have 10 credit accounts (known as “tradelines” in the credit industry), and you’ve had a late payment in 5 of those accounts, that ratio may impact your credit score.


Your payment history also includes details on public record and collection items, including bankruptcies, foreclosures, wage attachments, liens, judgments and any delinquencies that have been reported to collection agencies.


The scoring model will take all of this information into account, which is why the payment history section account may have the biggest impact in determining your credit score.

  • Used credit vs. available credit: 30%

A key part of your credit score analyzes how much of the total credit line is being used on your credit cards, as well as any other revolving lines of credit. A revolving line of credit is a type of loan that allows you to borrow, repay, and then reuse the credit line up to its available limit.

Also included in this factor is the total line of credit. This is the maximum credit limit you could charge against a particular credit account, say $2,500 on a credit card.

Credit scoring models take into account how much you currently owe compared to the original amount of the installment loan. How you manage monthly payments is important.


  • Type of credit used: 15%

Your credit score reflects the different types of credit accounts, or “trade lines,” you have, including revolving debt (such as credit cards) and installment loans (such as mortgages, home equity loans, auto loans, student loans and personal loans).

The other key factor is how many of each type of tradeline you have. Creditors like to see that you’re able to manage multiple tradelines of different types and the credit score algorithm reflects this.


  • New credit: 10-12%

Your credit score also reflects how many new credit accounts you have opened compared with the total number of “tradelines” in your credit file. Credit score models take into account how many recent requests for credit you have initiated, as indicated by inquiries by creditors to credit reporting companies. (These inquiries are known in industry jargon as “hard pulls,” of your credit.)

Your credit score does not take into account requests a creditor has made for your credit file or credit score in order to make a preapproved credit offer, or to review your account with them, nor does it take into account your own request for a copy of your credit history (known as “soft pulls” of your credit).

Your credit score will factor in the length of time since creditors made credit file inquiries.


  • Length of credit history: 5-7%

This section of your credit history details how long your credit accounts have been established. The credit score calculation includes both how long your oldest and most recent accounts have been open. In general, creditors like to see that you’ve been able to properly handle credit accounts over a period of time.

Credit score models look at how long different types of accounts have been established, how recently each credit account has been used, and whether there has been a judgment or public record item listed on your credit history.

How do I check my credit score?

How do I check my credit score?

There are a few ways you can check your credit score:

  • Purchase a credit score directly from a national credit reporting agency (CRA) or other provider;

  • Consult your financial institution or credit card lender to determine if they offer a credit score; or

  • Use a credit score service. (each of the three credit bureaus offer services for varying costs)

If you want to obtain your credit report, here are two important things you should know:

  • Federal law requires each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies (CRAs) - Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – to give you a free credit report every 12 months if you ask for it; and

  • You can request a free copy of your credit report by visiting

Additional Information

If you would like additional information regarding credit scores, please visit the sites for Equifax®, Experian®, or TransUnion®.

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