What information in a person's credit report do scoring models consider when computing a credit score?

Personal Finance February 23, 2013|Print

Scoring models usually consider the following factors:

* Have you paid your bills on time? You can count on payment history to be a significant factor. If your credit report indicates that you have paid bills late, had an account referred to collections, or declared bankruptcy, it is likely to affect your score negatively.

* Are you maxed out? Many scoring systems evaluate the amount of debt you have compared to your credit limits. If the amount you owe is close to your credit limit, it’s likely to have a negative effect on your score.

* How long have you had credit? Generally, scoring systems consider the length of your credit track record. An insufficient credit history may affect your score negatively, but factors like timely payments and low balances can offset that.

* Have you applied for new credit lately? Many scoring systems consider whether you have applied for credit recently by looking at “inquiries” on your credit report. If you have applied for too many new accounts recently, it could have a negative effect on your score. Every inquiry isn’t counted, however. For example, inquiries by creditors who are monitoring your account or looking at credit reports to make “prescreened” credit offers are not considered liabilities.

* How many credit accounts do you have, and what kinds of accounts are they? Although it is generally considered a plus to have established credit accounts, too many credit card accounts may have a negative effect on your score. In addition, many scoring systems consider the type of credit accounts you have.For example, under some scoring models, loans from finance companies may have a negative effect on your credit score. 

To improve your credit score under most systems, focus on paying your bills in a timely manner, paying down outstanding balances, and staying away from new debt.

We would like your feedback on this Personal Finance Frequently Asked Question.