Understanding Your Credit Score

Jennifer Dier, December 15, 2016

Have you noticed that there seems to be a never ending supply of television commercials touting “Free Credit Score” web sites? It’s easy to find out what your credit score is, but do you know how that score is actually determined?

Anatomy of a Credit Score

Your credit score is a snapshot of your creditworthiness at a given point in time. Used by mortgage lenders, car loan lenders, credit card companies, landlords, cell phone companies, and even potential employers, your score is the key to your financial life.

Also known as a FICO® score, your credit score is based on information from your credit report and calculated according to your rating in five general categories:

Understanding Your Credit Score


The Credit Bureaus

A person’s credit performance is generally thought to be an indication of his or her future behavior. The three credit reporting agencies – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion – collect information from creditors, lenders, utilities, debt collection agencies and the courts (such as bankruptcy) that a consumer has had a relationship with. This information is aggregated into the consumer reporting agency’s data files, and made available on request for the purposes of assessing credit risk, credit scoring, employment consideration, or leasing an apartment.

Credit scores can vary among the three reporting agencies, and not all financial institutions use the same credit bureau data. That’s why it’s important for you to regularly monitor your credit score and credit history. Federal law requires the credit bureaus to provide a free credit report to consumers once a year; www.annualcreditreport.com is the only web site authorized to give free annual credit reports from all three credit bureaus to consumers.


Checking the reports from all three credit bureaus should be a priority on your financial to-do list, and we make it easy with the identity protection and credit monitoring services that are included with our Connect and Priority Checking accounts. 

What’s a Good Credit Score?

The median FICO is 720 out of a possible 850. The riskiest consumers have scores below 600, and higher scores are better and generally translate to lower interest rates. 

There are actions you can take if you want to improve your credit score:
1. Develop healthy repayment habits:
Pay your bills on time.
Get current with missed payments.
Understand that paying off a delinquent loan won't remove it from your report.
Contact your creditors or a credit counselor if you're having trouble.

2. Manage your debt:
Keep balances low.
Pay off debt rather then moving it around.
Don't close unused credit cards.
Don't open unneeded credit accounts.

3. Be smart about credit:
Check your credit report.
Don’t open new accounts one after the other if you’re new to credit.
Apply for and open only necessary accounts.
Use credit cards – but manage them responsibly.
Remember that closing an account doesn’t make it go away.1

Credit is a powerful and useful tool, and it’s a financial necessity in today’s fast-paced world. Our bankers are ready to guide you in starting and building a good credit history, and we can also give you advice and options to help improve your credit score and get out of debt faster. Stop by a financial center today and let's talk.

Did you find this information useful? Share with your friends, and subscribe to Insights for regular updates and news about smart money management delivered directly to your inbox.  

This information is for educational and illustrative purposes only.