What Credit Score Do You Start With?

Posted by Frank Gogol

Many new or aspiring borrowers wonder what credit score do you start with. This is a good question since before you can get a loan or access to credit, lenders will look at your credit score to assess your level of risk.

Do you get assigned a credit score when you turn 18 years old? Or do you start at zero and have to build your score up? If so, how do you go about doing this? 

Below we take a look at what credit score do you start with. We also give you some tips to make sure your credit score stays in tip-top shape. So, if you’re new to the credit game, read on. 

Does Your Credit Score Start at Zero?

If you haven’t had any credit before, you won’t have a credit score. But having no credit score is not the same as having a zero credit score. 

Because your credit report doesn’t have any information for lenders and credit bureaus to analyze, your credit score actually doesn’t exist. You will only get a credit score when there is data to analyze. Usually, you will get a credit score after your first 6 months of having credit. There will be 6 months’ worth of data to analyze, and credit bureaus can assign you a score based on that data.  

But this still doesn’t answer what credit score do you start with. The credit score you start with will depend on how you deal with your first credit. Provided you don’t kick off your credit journey with lousy credit habits, your first credit score will probably be in the middle ranges. 

What Your First Credit Score Means

You can get lots of detail about what your credit score means and how it works here. Basically, your credit score is an indication to potential lenders what the risk is you will default on your repayment. 

Your score is based on your credit history, so by looking at your credit history, a lender can assess the risk. If you have a bad payment history, there is a good chance you will continue in those habits, so your credit score will be low, and your risk to the lender will be high. 

How is a Person’s First Credit Score Calculated?

Now you understand the credit score you start with is based on the credit history you build up in the first few months of having credit. But what exactly is taken into account? 

Your credit score is calculated using five essential factors

1. Your payment history. This is definitely the single most critical factor in your credit history. This is whether you pay your bills on time or whether you have many missed payments. This makes up about 35% of your credit score. Missing a few payments in a row could have a detrimental effect on your credit score. 

2. Your credit utilization. Credit utilization is how much of your available credit you have used. Your credit utilization is expressed as a ratio that is calculated by dividing the amount of credit you’ve used by all your available credit. Ideally, you want to keep your credit utilization under 30%. Having a good credit utilization ratio also goes a long way in having a good credit score, as this generally makes up 30% of your credit score.

3. The length of your credit history. This is how long you have been using credit. The calculation is made looking at the age of each specific account you have and the average age of all your open accounts. Usually, longer credit history means a higher credit score (provided you don’t do anything to negatively affect your score). The more information a credit bureau has on you, the more accurate information they can base the credit score on, and generally, the higher the credit score. 

4. Your credit mix. There are two main types of credit you can have – installment credit and revolving credit. Installment credit is things like personal loans and student loans where you borrow a specific amount and then pay it off with installments. Revolving credit gives you a specific maximum limit you can spend. There is always a minimum payment, but you can choose to either pay it back in full or carry the balance over and just make the minimum payment. Credit cards are prime examples of installment credit. Your credit mix counts about 10% towards your credit score. 

5. New credit. Another 10% of your credit score is made up of the number of new credit accounts you’ve opened recently and how many hard inquiries are listed on your credit report. When you apply for new credit, a lender will make a hard inquiry on your credit score to assess your credit report. Too many hard inquiries in short timeframes after each other will damage your credit score as it shows increased risk.

How Can I Check My Credit Score? 

It’s vital to know what your credit score is. Firstly, you want to make sure there aren’t any mistakes that crept in on your report. If there did, you must contact the credit bureau to have it fixed asap. Also, knowing your credit score helps you understand what lenders see when you apply for credit. 

You can get one free credit score from all the major credit bureaus like Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Different bureaus will use different models with varying weights to the factors we discussed above to determine your credit score. So, your credit score might not be precisely the same at each credit bureau, but it will generally be in the same range. 

How to Build a Good Credit Score

You want to start your credit journey on a positive note and keep it that way. So, to help you out, here are some tips to help you build a good credit score. 

The first and most important tip is to always pay your bills on time. If you miss too many required payments, it will definitely harm your credit score.

If you have more than one credit card, use your cards responsibly. Don’t max them out. Keep your credit utilization under 30% on each card and also across all your cards in total. 

You can also use loans to build your credit. If you have something like an existing student loan, just keep making timely payments, and it will automatically contribute to a positive credit score. If you don’t have an existing loan, consider applying for a small loan so you can start creating a record of on-time payments. 

And finally, as we mentioned above, you should always check your credit report to make sure there aren’t any mistakes on it. Errors sometimes slip in, and if you’re not aware of it, it could ruin your excellent credit score for something you didn’t even do. 

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Conclusion

Now you know what credit score do you start with. Fortunately, you don’t have to start from zero and work your way up. Your credit score will reflect after the credit bureaus could collect a few months of credit data. If you manage your credit well, you can start your credit journey on a firm footing and only build it up to be better and better from there. 

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