The average FICO® Score☉ in the U.S. rose to 711 in 2020, according to Experian data from October. That’s an eight-point increase from 2019 and is the most significant spike since 2016 when the average FICO® Score grew by four points from the prior year.
Credit scores have been on the rise for the past decade (the average FICO® Score increased in nine of the past 10 years), but this year’s increase stands out—first because the average FICO® Score has typically increased by one or two points each year, and second because consumers have faced significant financial and other challenges this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
As part of our ongoing look at credit scores in the U.S., Experian analyzed consumer credit and debt data to understand how scores have changed and to identify potential reasons scores are increasing. Read on for our insights and analysis.
Drops in Delinquency, Utilization Likely Driving Score Growth
The standout growth of the average FICO® Score in 2020 can likely be attributed to shrinking debt, decreased credit utilization and a drop in delinquencies (late payments). Since the onset of COVID-19 in January 2020, consumer debt management has trended in a positive direction.
FICO® Scores are calculated using information from consumer credit reports. And when features of consumers’ credit profiles improve, their scores typically do as well. Not all changes will have an immediate or visible impact, but improvement in key areas of credit reports will.
- Payment history: Payment history is the most important factor in your credit scores and shows whether you have paid your credit accounts on time.
- Amounts owed: How much debt you owe is the second most important category, including how much of your available revolving credit you are using each month.
- Length of credit history: The length of your credit history is based on how long you have had credit accounts open. A more established credit history usually helps credit scores.
- Credit mix: Your credit mix is based on how many different types of credit accounts you have, including mortgages, credit cards, auto loans and installment loans.
- New credit: This category looks at how many hard inquiries you have, as well as how many times you have applied for credit in the past 12 months. In addition, this category includes other credit activities in the recent past such as reducing balances, paying off installment loans, closing accounts and new accounts being added. Inquiries are only one small part of the puzzle when it comes to credit scores.
Since 2019, consumers have seen record improvement in utilization rates, debt amounts and number of delinquencies. The most significant changes between 2019 and October 2020: