Try searching for “average credit score” and you are likely to get different answers from just about every website you visit. Here’s why…
Going through the page one results on Google for the above term reveals that virtually every listing cited information that was either (a) incorrect, or (b) misleading.
The problem originates with the score being used…
- FICO – This is without a doubt the gold standard of credit scoring. When people talk about credit scores, this is what they are referring to in a generic sense (or at least, intend to be talking about). Unfortunately, FICO has become very secretive about their process and greatly restrict how their scores can be used.
- PLUS Score – This is a scoring model developed by Experian, and it’s geared solely toward consumers (it’s not used by creditors). Instead of running on a 300-to-850 scale like FICO, it runs on a 330-to-830 scale.
- VantageScore – This scoring model ran on a scale of 500 to 990 until 2013, at which point it switched to a 300-to-850 scale to match FICO (which is a clear indication of how powerful the FICO brand has become). It was developed a few years ago by the major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to compete with Fair Isaac’s industry-leading FICO formula. However, VantageScore hasn’t really caught on and lenders use it far less than FICO.
Rather than identifying an average credit score as being a PLUS Score or VantageScore, almost all websites are using these scores interchangeably, without mentioning what type of score their data is using.
Here’s the straight dope…
What is the true average credit score in this country? Well, that’s really not even a question you should be asking. Why? Because those with ultra-low scores (due to a bankruptcy, foreclosure, etc) are going to have scores significantly lower — these drag down the average number big time. It’s like asking what’s the average income in the US – the number of unemployed will totally skew the numbers (not to mention the throngs of millionaires).
If you want a better gauge of where you fit in, then you should be looking at the median credit score. Several years ago, FICO reported the median score as 723, but has been pretty silent on that front since. The median means it’s exactly in the middle: 50 percent of people have a lower score, 50 percent have a higher score. This will give you a much better idea of the credit score average for Americans and removes the massive bias of outliers.
As an alternative, let’s use the VantageScore, which Experian reports on each year. The VantageScore is not the same thing as a FICO score — and Experian reports the averages by metro area, rather than state. However, this information is still a good way to measure performance of geographic areas relative to each other.
As of November 2014 (the last time Experian annually updated its Experian’s “State of Credit” data), the national average VantageScore was 666. Remember, Vantage scores run from 300 (worst) to 850 (best). Here’s a list of the metro areas with the best scores, and those with the worst (as of November 2014).