Recent data from the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO), the leading standard for credit scores, indicates that economic gains consumers made during the COVID-19 pandemic are starting to wane.
Your credit score is one of the main indicators of your purchasing power. As it rises, it improves your standing among lending institutions. As it falls, the opposite occurs.
What Is the Average Credit Score Right Now?
The average credit score is 716, according to a blog post on FICO.com. This figure has held steady since April 2021; scores have “leveled off,” the post says.
Why Have Credit Scores Leveled Off?
Two primary factors have contributed to credit scores stagnating, according to the agency’s data.
More Missed Payments
A report from the New York Fed, a regional entity of the Federal Reserve, says that household debt ballooned to $16.15 trillion in the second quarter of 2022.
According to FICO, “Missed payments reported in the credit file are up slightly. As of April 2022, just over 15% of the population has had a 30+ day past due missed payment in the past year. This is up by a little over 1% compared to April 2021.”
The report goes on to note, “During the first year of the pandemic, the combination of government stimulus programs such as the CARES Act and payment accommodation programs offered by lenders helped millions of consumers stave off missed payments.”
Rising Consumer Debt
Consumer debt has risen slightly over the past year, although it remains below pre-pandemic levels, according to FICO.
“As of April 2022, the average credit card utilization was 31%. This is up from 30% as of April 2021, but still down from 33% as of April 2020,” the FICO blog post says.
Here’s a look at average credit scores since 2017:
|Month/Year||Average FICO Credit Score|
What Is a Good Credit Score?
“There are certain breakpoints where things get easier for you,” Clark says. “One that’s really important is being around a 680. That’s a point at which people look at you differently than when you’re below that.”
“If you can get up to around a 760, you’re going to get the same benefits, the same offers, that someone who has an 840 score is going to get,” she adds.
Tip: Don’t obsess over achieving an 800 credit score! Clark says, “Your goal is from wherever you are right now, to try to move that number up. But once you get to 760, just give it a rest. My credit score is somewhere around an 818. That’s higher than I need.”
How To Increase Your Credit Score
If your credit score is nowhere near those cited above, don’t worry. There are several ways to raise it.
Clark says the two biggest ways to increase your credit score are to:
- Make all of your payments on time.
- Keep your credit utilization rate low. (That’s the percentage of how much of your available credit you’re using.)
“Thirty percent of your available credit is where you want to be,” Clark says in his podcast. “So, in the example of $10,000 in credit, [you want to have] no more than $3,000 in use. If you go above 50%, your credit goes diving off a cliff.”