You pay your bills on time, you (barely) carry any debts, you keep the credit applications to a minimum (no churners here!) and you’ve got a nice mix of accounts going on your credit reports. Yet every time you check your credit, there’s one area that appears to be keeping you from that near-perfect record: Your credit history, per the little risk factors listed alongside your credit score, is just not long enough.
For someone just starting out in the world of credit, that may seem like a no-brainer. Credit history looks at the age of the information in your credit file (not your own age). So if you’ve only had your loans for a few years, why expect an A-plus performance? But for someone who has spent the better part of a decade as a dedicated credit goody two-shoes, it’s easy to wonder why you’re just not quite acing it.
The answer, as with many things credit-related, just depends.
What’s My Target?
Remember, there are lots of different credit scores out there, and while they all generally consider the same five factors when computing your credit — payment history, credit utilization, credit inquiries, mix of accounts and credit history — each may calculate those categories a bit differently.
Scoring systems “recognize how long a person has had a credit history and may calculate scores differently as a result,” Rod Griffin, director of education for the credit agency, Experian, said. “For example, the things that indicate risk for a person who has had a credit history for only five years are different than [they are for] a person that has used credit for 30 years. So, scores weigh the information in the credit report differently for each person.”
It’s important to note, too, that credit history considers not just the age of individual accounts but also the average age of your accounts, so if you have a few credit lines that are on the younger side, it could be affecting your overall performance.
Having said that, there are some parameters we can provide when talking about what constitutes a good credit history that lends itself to a good score. Per Barry Paperno, who blogs at SpeakingofCredit.com and worked at the major credit scoring model FICO for many years, an average credit age of 12 years and an oldest account of 30 years would put you among the FICO High Achievers (those with scores over 785).
According to Jeff Richardson, a spokesperson for VantageScore, another major credit scoring model, “based on some research we did a few years ago, those with Prime scores, on average, had a loan that is more than 15 years old.”
However, “some consumers have accounts that are substantially older than 30 years, and … the age of accounts is compared against consumers with similar age of accounts,” Richardson said. And, yes, those customers could theoretically be messing up the curve, depending on what model or algorithm is being used to compute your creditworthiness.
Maintain Your Good Habits
Of course, it’s important to not get too hung up on achieving a perfect score. First of all, believe it or not, you don’t really need one. Most credit-scoring models, including VantageScore and FICO, operate on a scale of 300 to 850, and anything over 750 will generally net you good terms on financing.
Moreover, you can hit that 750 mark without having credit for decades and decades. Credit history, after all, only accounts for 15% of most credit scores.
“That means 85% of the score is dependent on other factors,” Griffin said. “It is very possible for a person with a relatively short credit history to have credit scores as good as, or better than, a person who has used credit for 30 years or more.”
To build good credit in the long-term, just continue to make all your payments on time, keep your debt levels low, manage your inquiries and add a mix of credit accounts as your finances can handle them. And if credit history is bothering you and your score, “you may need to just be patient and allow that history to grow over time,” Griffin said. You can track your progress toward building good credit by viewing two of your credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.