How Your Credit Score Is Calculated

Here's the formula for success no matter which model lenders use.

Your credit score—the three-digit number that creditors use to evaluate the risk when they lend you money—helps determine which loans or interest rates you qualify for and how much you’ll pay. Landlords, utilities and cell-phone companies may also check your score before doing business with you.

Dozens of credit scores may be attached to your name, including versions tailored to specific industries, such as auto lending. However, the two big consumer credit scoring models—FICO (which is used by the majority of lenders) and VantageScore (a newer model created by the three major credit bureaus)—value similar behaviors when calculating your score, even if they weight those factors differently. Both grade your creditworthiness on a scale of 300 to 850, with a score of 750 or above generally considered good enough to qualify for the best rates. You can check your VantageScore free at and your FICO score at Discover’s Credit Scorecard (see Best Places to Check Your Credit Reports and Credit Scores for Free).

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Miriam Cross
Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Miriam lived in Toronto, Canada, before joining Kiplinger's Personal Finance in November 2012. Prior to that, she freelanced as a fact-checker for several Canadian publications, including Reader's Digest Canada, Style at Home and Air Canada's enRoute. She received a BA from the University of Toronto with a major in English literature and completed a certificate in Magazine and Web Publishing at Ryerson University.