Pie chart showing FICO score percentages

Breaking Down Your FICO Score

You may know your credit score, but understanding how you are graded can be a tool to help you raise your score in the future, and avoid repeating the mistakes you made in the past.

A FICO credit score is named after the Fair Isaac Corporation, which provides the algorithm for assigning this value. It is a numerical estimate of a consumer’s ability to repay borrowed in full and on time. The score is based on six main categories related to credit use.


Pie chart showing FICO score percentages

Payment history and amounts owed weigh the heaviest in the categories that determine your FICO score.


Based on the percentages provided by myFICO, the consumer division of the Fair Isaac Corporation, and the scale of 300-850, here is the range of points within each category, how your activity is measured and how you can improve each individual category.

Payment History

Payment history is worth about 298 points of your total credit score. It shows if you’ve made late payments or skipped payments, as far as 7 to 10 years ago. This category relates details on accounts sent to collections, bankruptcies, liens, judgments and other delinquencies. Positive information in this category will related to the number and type of accounts that are paid on time.

Examples of accounts reflected in this category include:

  • Retail cards
  • Installment loans
  • Student loans
  • Auto loans
  • Mortgage loans

You may be able to improve the score based on payment history by catching up on missed payments and making an effort to pay bills before they are due. If you cannot handle payments, contact your creditors to negotiate an affordable plan.

Amounts Owed

Using some of your available credit regularly does not have a negative impact on its own. However, using all the credit you have available –maxing out your credit cards—will have a negative impact. Amounts owed makes up about 250 points of your total credit score. The financial term which describes this is credit utilization, based around the concept of evaluating the proportion of credit that is in use compared to how much is available. Lenders view a low amount of available credit as a possible risk.

When you close an old account you reduce the amount of credit you have available, which can cause your score to drop.

Boost your credit utilization ratio by making more than the minimum payment you owe and reducing the total balance on your cards. It may help to set your own limit — one that’s well below the credit maximum — and avoid going over that.

Length of Credit History

Lenders want to see that you have been able to manage credit use for a significant amount of time. Length of credit history is about 128 points of your total credit score. It reflects when your oldest account was opened, when your most recent account was opened and when your last activities on all accounts occurred.

Part of building you credit history length is simply opening and account and waiting. After six months, your most recent accounts should be included in your credit report. Make sure to use your new and old accounts from time to time, and pay them off right away.

New Credit

Lenders have noticed that consumers that open several credit accounts in a short period of time present a greater risk. Some consumers with newer accounts, especially if there are multiple new accounts, will have fewer points here. New credit makes up about 85 points of your total credit score. This category reflects how many times you have recently applied for credit and the balance of recent accounts.

As you consider opening new accounts, make sure to avoid applying for multiple loans or credit cards that you will not qualify for. Also, applying for credit frequently, instead of occasionally, can damage your score.

Protect your new credit by ensuring you responsibly make payments on new accounts and only use a portion of the available credit.

Type of Credit

While owning every type of credit card is not a necessity, it can be beneficial to have a few different kinds of credit available, demonstrating that you can use credit wisely for multiple purposes. This category makes up about 85 points of your credit score. Types of credit include retail accounts, installment loans, traditional credit cards and mortgages.

Remember, diversifying credit types should not mean having some accounts you pay off regularly, while others go ignored. Approach all accounts responsibly. If you choose to close an account, understand that it will not be removed from your history.

Making Sense of Your Credit Score

All of the major credit bureaus, Transunion, Experian and Equifax, use the formula created by the Fair Isaac Corporation to calculate FICO scores. However, each credit bureau will show a different FICO score for you.

Because of certain factors, like lenders reporting your credit incidents to only one bureau and bureaus weighing actions slightly differently, your score will likely differ from bureau to bureau. In addition, the scores can change daily, as credit bureaus may receive new information from creditors at any time.

Credit scores between bureaus often vary as much as 40 points. If there is a larger discrepancy between scores, you should obtain a copy of your credit report to make sure that it is up to date and accurate.

Lenders may also look at your Vantage score, which is also sold by the credit bureaus and uses a differently formula to provide credit risk information on a scale from 501 to 990.

How to Improve Your Credit By Rearranging Your Budget

A set-it-and-forget attitude is an efficient way of thinking when it comes to some things like your coffee maker, automatic payments and your alarm clock. But with budgeting, it’s not always the case.

Even if you’ve mastered the art of personal finance, revisiting your budget at least twice a year will ensure you’re saving as much as possible, becoming debt-free and staying financially secure. Best of all: Rearranging your budget can actually boost your credit.

Make Higher Payments Toward Your Debt

Reworking your budget allows you to figure out where you may be overspending, and then reallocate that money toward your debt.

For example, are you overspending on dining out? Are you using that gym membership that’s costing you a fortune? Weigh your necessities versus the luxuries that could be hurting your credit.

Plus, if you’ve accrued large amounts of debt over time or you’ve come close to maxing out your credit cards, you may have a high credit utilization ratio, which is the percentage of your credit limit you actually use. For example, if your credit limit is $5,000 across all cards, and you have $3,500 in outstanding credit card debt, your utilization ratio is 70 percent.

A general rule to live by is to keep your utilization ratio around 30 percent or less. By re-evaluating your budget, you can put more money toward your debt, lowering your outstanding balance and utilization ratio – as long as you stop using the cards completely.

Stay Updated with the Latest Tools

When you sit down to examine your budget, research new tools that have been designed to help you streamline the way you manage your finances

Here are a few that can help save you money, and make bill and account management easier.

  • Expensify: A mega timesaving app that is a must-have for business travelers. The tagline is “Expense Reports That Don’t Suck,” which is something I think most people who work in a corporate environment can relate to. When you’re traveling, all you have to do is take a picture of the receipt you want to save and then upload it to Expensify. The app will be able to automatically identify the merchant’s information, date and amount of the purchase.

Be More Financially Aware

Even the savviest budgeters should re-examine their budget at least twice a year to ensure that nothing has changed, like a job, promotion or layoff, that could affect their spending. Plus, sitting down to adjust your budget is also a good time to rethink your retirement savings strategy to ensure you’re contributing enough to your 401(k) and other retirement savings funds.

Percentage credit card ownership by level of college student

Unconventional Ways of Building, Improving Your Credit History

Young people coming out of college find themselves in a credit conundrum: How to build a credit history when they are deep in student loan debt.

Many are not carrying credit cards — a traditional method of building credit — because their student loan debt averages about $35,000 and that’s a hefty load already on their budding credit reports. Student debt also forces many to postpone life events that build credit like buying houses, applying for car loans or getting married, a 2013 survey by The American Institute of CPAs shows.

Here’s what many recent college graduates – and a lot of other people in debt – don’t know: There are non-traditional ways out of this personal finance dilemma. These are paths that credit companies and banks all acknowledge as credit-building.

Young Borrowers Letting Go of Credit Cards

The hefty weight of that student loan debt keeps many young people fresh out of college from applying for credit cards. In fact, a 2013 study by Sallie Mae and Ipsos shows credit card ownership among college students dropped from 42 percent in 2010 to 35 percent in 2012. Among those cardholders, nearly three-quarters claim they owe a balance of less than $500.


Percentage credit card ownership by level of college student

The Sallie Mae/Ipsos report shows that sophomores experienced the largest drop in credit card ownership in 2012. The only group of college students that increased their ownership of credit cards in 2012 were seniors, but not by much compared to previous years.


Non-Traditional Credit Reporting

Alternative credit bureaus like Payment Reporting Builds Credit (PRBC) are putting a creative spin on the credit building process and boosting a potential borrower’s creditworthiness by tracking on-time monthly payments for insurance, cable, telephone and rent bills.

The PRBC reports positive payment data to certain lenders to show you are responsible in other financial areas of your life and not just a debt carrier.

Traditional credit bureaus like Experian, Equifax and TransUnion generally only track loan and credit card activity which measures a borrower’s debt. Information about on-time payments isn’t reported to these traditional bureaus unless you are delinquent and that hurts your credit score.

Generally smaller and non-traditional banks subscribe to the PRBC.

Experian Considers Other Factors to Show Creditworthiness

Chicago-based WilliamPaid is a payment processing company that makes automatic rent payments for renters. The company partnered with Experian in March to let users add their rent history to their credit reports to build credit.

Rent is often someone’s largest monthly payment and proving they can pay this amount on time can raise their profile.

When individual renters — many of them without bank accounts — sign up for the service, the company draws the rental funds from sources like prepaid debit cards and credit cards. WilliamPaid pays the account holder’s landlords and rental property owners with those funds at the same time every month.

WilliamPaid collects that on-time payment data and reports it to Experian, if the user chooses that option.

Jeff Golding, president and co-founder of WilliamPaid, calls the service a “game changer.”

“Experian is the largest credit bureau in the world, so when a traditional lender, not a niche lender, is looking to give someone a loan, they are going to pull [credit information] from the big three,” Golding said. “It’s helping people in a certain credit space go from zero to 60 in a much faster manner.”

WilliamPaid is held to strict government requirements under the FTC’s Fair Credit Reporting Act. For example, if the company is late sending a member’s rent payment, they are required by law to fix the problem —not the consumer.

Spend Your Own Money to Build Credit

Another unconventional method of building credit is paying for it yourself.

Secured credit accounts from banks essentially function as a debit card and a credit card wrapped in one. Instead of asking for a credit extension, you must provide the money up front to the lender. That deposit often becomes your credit limit. Unlike a debit card, your activity with a secured credit card is reported to credit bureaus.

Sometimes people with thin credit histories can be approved for small personal loans that help build credit through timely monthly payments. You can repay that loan with the same borrowed funds plus a little more out of pocket to cover interest.

Think of it as a small price to pay right now for what you’re ultimately trying to accomplish.

Make What You Owe Work for You

Think about common expenses as unconventional sources.

Debt management is important for building or improving any sort of credit. The types of debt people are turning to is changing the credit building process. Rent and utilities can now get you to the next level with potential lenders when you don’t have much else to show them.

Number of credit card disputes reported by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

How Do You Dispute a Credit Card Charge?

A credit card issuer shocked an Orlando woman recently when it called asking about unusual activity on her account — several hundred dollars’ worth of groceries and home improvement items recently purchased at multiple local businesses.

While she sometimes shops at the stores mentioned by her credit card company, in this case she wasn’t the customer.

She was the victim.

The woman immediately refuted the charges and received the best customer experience of all.

“Both companies removed all the charges,” she said. “[It] took maybe 10 minutes. I imagine they could make the process more complicated if they wanted to, but I’m glad it was pretty easy to deal with.”

Despite anecdotal evidence of increased identity theft and credit card fraud, credit card issuers say chargebacks aren’t that common. Less than 1 percent of Visa’s $2.07 trillion in transactions from September 2011 to September 2012 resulted in disputes, according to a January report in The New York Times. MasterCard reports a similar percentage.

None of the major credit-card issuers provide a breakdown of reasons, but Visa shows that most chargebacks arise from customer disputes, fraud, processing errors, authorization issues and other types of identity theft.

While money typically ends back in your account after a dispute, the hassle of sifting through paperwork to find receipts and spending valuable time on the phone with credit card issuers can seem like a Ping-Pong match that never ends.

Before you start the process, you should learn how a chargeback works, the laws that protect you and how to protect yourself from questionable charges before they make a negative mark on your credit report.

Why Do People Dispute Charges?

Disputing credit card charges involves many factors and can get a little messy.

The main players in the dispute process include you (the cardholder), the credit card issuer, the merchant that received payment, the merchant’s bank, details of each specific purchase and the federal laws that protect consumers.

Credit card charges are disputed for a variety of reasons:

  • You did not receive goods or services purchased.
  • You did not make an ATM withdrawal that was reported on your monthly statement.
  • You were charged for a cancelled service.
  • You failed to receive a credit promised by a merchant.
  • You were charged an incorrect amount.
  • You were charged twice for the same transaction.
  • You did not authorize a charge.

The Fair Credit Billing Act of 1975 entitles you to dispute these types of charges, provided certain requirements are met and the mistake is reported to the credit card company within 60 days from when the questionable billing statement is mailed. Although your personal liability is limited to $50, many larger companies will waive this cost as a courtesy.

If the dispute is successful, your credit card company will complete a chargeback, where the amount originally paid to a merchant is returned to your account. Merchants often have to pay the credit card company a fee when this occurs.

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, which oversees a portion of the nation’s debt-collection industry, also handles its fair share of credit card disputes. If your credit card issuer does not resolve the dispute or if you disagree with the issuer’s decision, you can submit a complaint to the CFPB. They will provide you with a tracking number and alert you on how the issuer is handling the complaint.


Number of credit card disputes reported by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

The CFPB database shows the agency has handled 19,433 credit card complaints since March 22. Records show most credit card disputes end with the consumer getting their money back.


 

Steps to Disputing a Credit Card Charge

While every case is different, here’s a guide to understanding the dispute process. There are a couple rules of thumb here.

First, this is going to take some work on your part. You have to make the calls, write the email, pen the letters. It’s your credit and your money, so this is your assignment. Accept it and move forward with the process.

Second, document everything. Keeping your trails of sent and received emails is easy. It gets tough when you have to remember to write down the date and time of phone calls and when you have to keep copies of letters you write.

One tip: remember to write down the names of people you talk to. You never know how valuable it can be when you can say, “Yeah, well, I talked to Nicole on the afternoon of March 11 and she told me to do exactly what I did.”

OK, here’s the process.

Evaluate the Charge

First, you want to determine any possible reason the charge may have been made in error. Did you forget making the purchase? Do you recognize the name of the merchant? Did you save a receipt from the purchase? You want to make sure there is a case for disputing the error. The more thorough you are in researching the error, the better your credit card company will be able to present your case to a merchant.

As you prepare to address the charge, make sure you organize the information you want to go over. Gather your account number, amount to dispute, time and place charge occurred, date of the billing cycle which includes the charge and the reason for the dispute.

Contact the Merchant First

Before contacting your credit card company, seek to resolve the issue by speaking with the merchant. Record the name of the person you speak with, as well as the date of the phone call. If the person on the line cannot help, ask to speak with a manager. If a merchant does not provide a solution, move on to your next step.

Contact the Credit Card Company

Call the number on the back of your credit card to speak directly with the issuer. You can typically report the charge by phone, mail or filling out a form on your issuer’s website. Be sure to act quickly as you have 60 days from when the billing statement was sent out to call in the dispute. Some disputes can be addressed over the phone, while others require an exchange of emails with the company until it completes its investigation. If you choose to dispute the charge over the phone, follow it up with a letter to the credit card company.

Mail Dispute Paperwork

To view a sample of what a dispute letter should look like, visit the Federal Trade Commission website. If you are physically mailing the credit card company, make sure that you use the specific billing dispute address provided on their website.

Stay on Top of Regular Minimum Payments

Don’t skip your monthly minimum payments. You don’t want to add late payment charges or credit score dents to the situation. Remember that during the investigation you are not responsible for the disputed cost or the interest associated with the charge. If an amount is in dispute the creditor cannot report that charge as late to a credit bureau or charge interest on the amount.

Wait for Them to Investigate Your Dispute

If you sent a written letter rather than calling, the company should mail you a written confirmation that they received your notice within 30 days. That notice means your credit card company is investigating your claim and could take up to 90 days or two billing cycles to complete the process.

For smaller disputes, your credit card company may simply refund the charge, rather than conduct an investigation. Usually these refunds can be completed immediately.

Appeal if Necessary

If your dispute is denied, which occasionally happens, you can request an explanation and appeal the dispute. However, you only have 10 days to make your appeal. Another option is to report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau or the Better Business Bureau.

There are some exceptions to the process.

For example, disputing charges you already submitted a payment for are difficult to remove. If it is a claim about the quality of goods and services, there are some restrictions.

If you pay with a debit card, the credit act does not apply, but you do have rights based on other consumer protection laws. You may also have signed a pre-existing contract with a merchant not to dispute charges.

Always read the fine print in lending agreements for major services and consider whether you should work with credit card issuers with these types of caveats.

Protecting Yourself from False or Incorrect Charges

In some cases, merchants and credit card companies are not responsible for these errors. If you suspect identity theft or fraud, alert your credit card company and consider applying for a new card number.

You can protect your account and prevent multiple fraudulent charges from sneaking through by making certain that your credit card company has your updated phone number and email address. The easier it is to contact you, the sooner the matter can be resolved.

Creating a paper trail will also help your case. Your argument is much stronger when you’re holding the actual receipt that shows your purchases. Your credit card company can also validate your signature to help recognize fraudulent activity.

If your card is the next to get hit, know your rights and eliminate that charge as soon as possible.

FICO Score Factors

What is a Good Credit Score?

What is a good credit score?

That’s probably the single most common question consumers ask, and the one most frequently asked of lenders and credit experts.

As much as we’d like to provide you with an absolute answer to that question, the reality is that it isn’t always clear.

Much depends on both the type of loan you’re applying for, as well as the specific lender. Though there are general guidelines as to what is a good credit score, each lender has its own standard. And it’s possible that you won’t qualify for approval, even if you meet a lender’s credit score guidelines.

As you’re about to learn, the information contained in your credit report can be just as important as your overall credit score. That’s why it’s important to know as much as possible about credit scores, and credit in general, before applying for a loan.

But with that said, we’re going to provide some general parameters on what is considered a good credit score.

Table of Contents:

  • What is a Good Credit Score?
  • Why It’s Important to Have a Good Credit Score.
  • Your Credit Is More Than a Credit Score
  • How To Get A Good Credit Score

What is a Good Credit Score?

Let’s go to the official source of FICO Scores, myFICO.com.

According to the information they provide, credit scores range between a low of 300 and a high at 850, though they can range from 250 to 900 for specific lending categories.

According to their information, credit score ranges are as follows:

Credit Category Credit Score Range Likelihood of Delinquency
Exceptional 800 or higher 1%
Very Good 740 to 799 2%
Good 670 to 739 8%
Fair 580 to 669 28%
Poor 579 and lower 61%

Before looking for an answer to the question, what is a good credit score, the “official” answer would be 670 or higher.

But it’s important to understand that though 670 and above may be what myFICO determines to be a good credit score, interpretation of credit scores is highly subjective.

Each lender – in any specific loan category – will have its own guidelines as to what constitutes good credit.

For example, one lender may consider good credit to be 660 and above.

A second may determine 680 or higher, while a third may set the limit at 700.

An even more discerning lender may set the threshold at 720.

As much as we’d love to say there’s a specific credit score range that determines exactly what is considered a good credit score, there’s no definitive answer – at least not in all cases.

Get Your Free Credit Report Today

Why it’s Important to Have a Good Credit Score

Look at the table above, spending a few seconds scanning the “Likelihood of Delinquency” column. This is the whole reason credit categories and credit score ranges matter to lenders.

Likelihood of Delinquincy and Interest Rates

As you can see, credit scores of 800 or higher, known as an “Exceptional” have only a 1% likelihood of delinquency. That is why those who fit in this range are very likely to be approved for just about any type of loan they may apply for. And because the likelihood of delinquency is so low, they’ll also get the very best interest rates and terms.

But moving down to the “Very Good” category range, the delinquency rate only increases to 2%. People in this credit score range are also very likely to get any loan they apply for. And while they may not get the very best rates a lender has to offer, they’ll get something very close. And sometimes they’ll even get the best rates available, depending on the type of loan.

But moving to the third category, “Good,” notice that the delinquency rate increases to 8%. Though that’s still a reasonable rate, it’s not nearly as good as the Exceptional and Very Good categories, where the likelihood of delinquency is close to nonexistent.

This increased delinquency rate is the reason why someone with a credit score of 690 – while being highly likely to be approved for the credit requested – will pay a higher interest rate than someone with a score of 760 or 820.

And as you can see, the delinquency rate jumps dramatically in the “Fair” and “Poor” credit categories. Since high delinquency rates can easily turn into defaults, lenders will not only charge higher rates, but they’re also much more likely to decline credit applications for borrowers in these ranges.

Your Credit is More than a Credit Score

Most consumers naturally focus their attention on their credit scores. It’s become a convention because your score represents your credit profile in a single number. In addition, since it is a number, it’s measurable. If it rises, you’re headed in the right direction. But if it falls significantly, it can have an impact on your personal finances.

But while lenders may focus closely on credit scores, it’s not always the whole picture.

Credit scores are simply a numeric representation of your total credit profile. But lenders may also do a drill down into the details of your credit.

History of Bankruptcy

For example, let’s say your credit score is 690 and well within the range of credit scores accepted by a particular lender you want to make an application with. But if your credit report reveals you had bankruptcy five years ago, the lender may still decline your application. If the lender has a “no bankruptcy” policy, they won’t approve your application, even if you meet the credit score guidelines.

History of Late Payments

Other lenders may be even more specific. For example, if you had a 60-day late payment within the past two years, they may decline your application, even though your credit score meets the stated criteria. This can happen because lenders may establish criteria, such as no more than two 30-day late payments within the past two years. Because of the 60-day late payment, your application may not be approved even with what’s determined to be an acceptable credit score.

It’s not always possible to know what the secondary credit criteria is before applying for a loan. But it may be worth it to do some investigating before submitting a credit application, particularly if you have any of the above delinquency information showing in your credit report.

How to Get a Good Credit Score – Or at Least a Better One

Once again, turning to the official source, according to myFICO.com, your credit score is calculated based on the following five factors.

FICO Score Factors

Let’s discuss each of these factors individually, since each plays a part in determining your credit score.

Payment History

This the most important single factor, at 35%. The obvious best way to make this factor work in your favor is to make all of your payments on time.

If you do have a history of delinquent credit, take steps to improve it. First, get a copy of your credit report and look for any information that may be inaccurate so that you can dispute it with the creditors and, if necessary, directly with the credit bureaus.

If you have past due balances or collections, pay them off as soon as possible. Though the negative information will remain on your credit report, a paid past-due or collection is always better than an open, unpaid one. As well, once you pay it off, you’ll be on your way to having it gradually age-out of your credit score (older past-due and collection accounts have less impact than more recent and current ones).

Amounts Owed

This one is probably the most confusing for most consumers. Basically, it’s the amount you owe on loans and credit cards compared to either the high credit limit or the original loan balance. This is frequently referred to as the credit utilization ratio.

It’s generally recommended that you keep it at less than 30% to maintain good credit (for example, you owe less than $6,000 on credit limits and original loan balances of $20,000 or more). But excellent or exceptional credit is usually reserved for those with a ratio below 10%. At the opposite end of the spectrum, a credit utilization ratio of 80% or more is considered a predictor of future default.

To improve this ratio, pay down your loans and credit card balances while keeping each open and active. That will help you to improve your credit utilization ratio, and also your credit score.

Length of Credit History

Though only 15% of your credit score calculation, it can still be significant. Your credit score calculates the average age of all your credit accounts. The longer the average, the better your credit score. An average credit history over five years will fetch a higher score than one less than three years. But only time can improve this factor.

New Credit

New Credit is closely related to Length of Credit History. After all, new credit reduces the average age of your credit accounts. Too much new credit can hurt both the New Credit and Length of Credit History factors, which collectively constitute 25% of your credit score.

To get the upper hand in this category, apply for new credit only sparingly. For most consumers, that will probably mean no more than one or two new credit sources per year.

This is also the category where inquiries come into play. The credit scoring models consider inquiries to be a negative factor since they indicate you’re actively seeking new credit. And since new credit is a potential risk, inquiries can lower your credit score if only by a few points each.

Fortunately, inquiries age-out after only a few months. For that reason, be careful to apply for new credit no more than every few months – even if you don’t accept all the credit you’ve applied for.

Credit Mix

Fortunately, this factor accounts for only 10% of your credit score calculation. But if you’re trying to increase your credit score to the next credit category, it shouldn’t be ignored.

The credit scoring models give more favorable consideration to those with a mix of credit. The best scoring impact will be for those who have a mortgage, an auto loan, and several credit cards. It’s an indication that while you can responsibly manage multiple credit types, you’re not too heavily reliant on any one type.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, if your credit report shows five open credit lines, and all five are credit cards, this factor will work against you. It’s an indication you’re relying too heavily on a single credit type, and probably the riskiest one at that.

If your credit report shows too many of the same types of financing, mix it up with a different type. Having an auto loan alongside several credit cards is a solid mix.

So, What is a Good Credit Score?

Hopefully, you can appreciate why we recommend against generalizing about what is considered a good credit score. While there are definitely some loose guidelines that can give you a rough idea, the specifics are where it gets a bit fuzzy.

No matter what you read or believe to be the standard of good credit scores, always remember it depends on the rules set by each individual lender. Find out what those credit score guidelines are, as well as any component factors like major derogatory factors or significant delinquencies.

Armed with that information, you’ll dramatically increase the likelihood of being approved for whatever financing you apply for, and at the best possible rate. In between now and then, do whatever you need to do to move your credit score up to the next category. It can be the difference between paying a higher interest rate and a lower one, and sometimes between approval and denial of your application.