At a Glance
Your credit score is an important measure of your financial health and sets the terms for important decisions like loan approvals. But what does your credit score start at? Generally, it starts out at something called a “blank slate,” with a base score of 300. From there, different factors like payment history and length of credit history play into how this number can climb over time. For instance, timely payments help enhance your score, while missed or late payments hurt it. Knowing where your credit starts off is the first step to taking control and improving your overall score.
In this article, you’ll learn:
of adults never check their scores. Don’t be like these people–regularly checking your score is crucial to your long-term financial health.
What is your credit score, and how is it calculated?
A credit score is a numerical representation of a person’s creditworthiness. It indicates how likely an individual is to pay back debts and how responsible they are in managing credit. The most commonly used credit score is the FICO score, which ranges from 300 to 850. The higher the score, the better the creditworthiness of the individual.
The credit score is calculated based on several factors, including:
- Payment history: It reflects whether the individual has paid their debts on time or has any missed or late payments.
- Credit utilization: It measures how much of the individual’s available credit they are using.
- Length of credit history: It shows the duration of the individual’s credit history.
- Credit mix: It considers the different types of credit accounts the individual has, such as credit cards, loans, and mortgages.
- New credit: It indicates how often the individual is applying for new credit and opening new accounts.
The credit bureaus consider each of these factors when calculating your credit score, and different weights are given to each factor. A high credit score indicates that the individual is responsible in managing credit and has a good credit history, while a low credit score suggests a poor credit history and a higher risk of defaulting on debts.
Learn more: How is Your Credit Score Calculated?
What is your starting credit score?
Your starting credit score can vary depending on several factors, including whether you have any credit history, how much credit history you have, and whether you have any negative marks on your credit report.
If you have no credit history, you may not have a credit score at all. In this case, you may need to start building credit by opening a credit account, such as a credit card or a small loan, and using it responsibly over time.
If you have a limited credit history, your credit score may be lower than someone with a longer credit history, but it can still be a good score if you have used credit responsibly.
On the other hand, if you have negative marks on your credit report, such as late payments or accounts in collections, your credit score may be lower than someone who has a clean credit history.
It’s important to remember that credit scores are constantly changing based on your credit activity, so even if you start with a lower score, you can improve it over time by using credit responsibly and paying your bills on time.
At what age does your credit score start?
In the United States, you must be at least 18 years old to apply for credit on your own, so your credit score can start at age 18 or after. When you apply for credit, such as a credit card or a loan, the lender or creditor will report your credit activity to the credit bureaus, which will then generate a credit report and score based on that activity.
If you have never applied for credit, you may not have a credit score, as there is no credit activity to report. However, even if you don’t have a credit score, it’s important to establish a credit history by using credit responsibly. This can include opening a credit card, making small purchases, and paying your bills on time. By doing so, you can build a positive credit history and achieve a good credit score over time.
Some credit card issuers may allow minors to become authorized users if they have a parent or legal guardian co-sign the application or if the parent adds the minor as an authorized user. Being an authorized user on a credit card can help you build credit, as the account activity, including on-time payments and low credit utilization, is reported to the credit bureaus and can be included in your credit report.
How to check your credit score?
Here are a few different ways you can check your credit score:
- Credit bureaus: The three major credit bureaus in the United States are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You can request a free copy of your credit report from each of these bureaus once per year through AnnualCreditReport.com. However, you may need to pay to access your credit score.
- Credit card issuers: Some credit card issuers provide free access to your credit score as a benefit of having the card. Check with your credit card issuer to see if they offer this service.
- Credit monitoring services: There are various credit monitoring services available that provide access to your credit score and report, often for a fee. These services can also alert you to changes in your credit report or score.
- FICO Score Open Access: FICO Score Open Access allows you to access your FICO credit score for free if your lender participates in the program. Check with your lender to see if they participate in FICO Score Open Access.
- Credit counseling agencies: Credit counseling agencies can also provide access to your credit score and report. They may also provide advice on how to improve your credit score.
How to build and maintain your credit from the beginning?
Building and maintaining good credit from the beginning is an important step to achieving financial stability. Here are some tips to help you build and maintain good credit:
- Open a credit account: To build credit, you need credit accounts that report to the credit bureaus. One way to start building credit is to apply for a credit card or a small personal loan. If you are a student, you may also be able to apply for a student credit card or student loan.
- Use credit responsibly: Once you have a credit account, it’s important to use it responsibly. Make sure to keep your balances low and pay your bills on time. This will help establish a positive credit history and improve your credit score.
- Monitor your credit report: Regularly check your credit report to ensure that there are no errors or fraudulent accounts. Errors or fraudulent accounts can negatively impact your credit score, so it’s important to report them and have them removed.
- Don’t apply for too much credit at once: Applying for too much credit at once can negatively impact your credit score, so it’s important to only apply for credit when needed.
- Be patient: Building good credit takes time. Establishing a positive credit history and achieving a good credit score can take several months or even years. Be patient and use credit responsibly to build and maintain good credit over time.
If someone has no credit history or has not used credit before, they may not have a credit score or have a very low score. This is because credit scores are based on a person’s credit history and behavior, and if there is no credit history to evaluate, there is no score available.
However, having no credit or a low credit score is not necessarily bad, as it simply means that there is no information available to assess creditworthiness. This can present a challenge when applying for credit, as lenders and creditors may be hesitant to extend credit to someone with no credit history.
To start building credit, someone with no credit can consider opening a credit account, such as a credit card or a small loan, and making timely payments. Over time, this can help establish a positive credit history and lead to a higher credit score. It’s important to use credit responsibly and avoid taking on more debt than can be comfortably managed to build and maintain a good credit score over time.
No, your credit score does not start at zero. Instead, credit scoring models typically have a minimum score range of 300 to 850, depending on the model being used. If you have never taken out a loan or credit card, or if you have not used credit in a long time, you may not have a credit score or may have a very low score. This is because a credit score is based on your credit history and behavior; if you have not used credit, there is no history from which to generate a score.
An 18-year-old who is just starting to build credit will likely have a limited credit history and may not have a credit score or have a very low score.
To have a credit score, you typically need to have at least one credit account open for at least six months and have the account reported to one of the major credit bureaus. If an 18-year-old has never had a credit account, they won’t have a credit score until they open one.
When an 18-year-old first opens a credit account, such as a credit card or a loan, they may have a lower credit score due to their limited credit history. However, as they use their credit account responsibly and make on-time payments, their credit score will gradually improve.
No, your starting credit score is not permanent. Your credit score is dynamic and can change over time based on your credit behavior and history.
When you start building credit, you may have a lower score because you don’t have much credit history. Your score can improve over time as you use credit responsibly and make timely payments. On the other hand, if you miss payments, max out your credit cards, or apply for new credit frequently, your score can drop.
The lowest credit score possible can vary depending on the credit scoring model being used.
The most commonly used credit scoring models are FICO and VantageScore. FICO scores range from 300 to 850, with 300 being the lowest possible score. VantageScore 3.0 and 4.0 also have a range of 300 to 850. A credit score of 300 is extremely rare and would indicate a history of serious credit problems such as bankruptcies, defaults, or high delinquent accounts.
Learn more: Lowest Possible Credit Score