The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Sunday, July 14, 2024

What is the Average Credit Score in America?

Average Credit Score In America
John Ulzheimer

Written by: John Ulzheimer

John Ulzheimer
John Ulzheimer

John Ulzheimer is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring, and identity theft. The author of four books on the subject, Ulzheimer has been featured thousands of times in media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, NBC Nightly News, New York Times, CNBC, and countless others. With over 30 years of credit-related professional experience, including with both Equifax and FICO, Ulzheimer is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry. He has been an expert witness in over 600 credit-related lawsuits and has been qualified to testify in both federal and state courts on the topic of consumer credit. In his hometown of Atlanta, Ulzheimer is a frequent guest lecturer at the University of Georgia and Emory University's School of Law.

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Edited by: Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro
Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of editing and journalism experience to the CardRates team. She has written and edited for major news organizations, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the New York Times, and she previously served as an adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Florida. Today, Lillian edits all CardRates content for clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement.

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Reviewed by: Ashley Fricker

Ashley Fricker
Ashley Fricker

Ashley Fricker has more than a decade of experience as a finance contributor and editor, and has specialized in the credit card industry since 2015. Her credit card commentary is featured on national media outlets that include CNBC, MarketWatch, Investopedia, and Reader's Digest, among many others. She has worked closely with the world’s largest banks and financial institutions, up-and-coming fintech companies, and press and news outlets to curate comprehensive content and media. Ashley holds a bachelor's degree in multimedia journalism from Florida Atlantic University.

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Opinions expressed here are ours alone, and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by any issuer. Our articles follow strict editorial guidelines and are updated regularly.

Your credit scores aren’t something that you should just set on a shelf and forget about for any extended period. It’s important to keep an eye on the health of your credit — that includes your credit reports from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian and the various credit scores associated with each of those reports. 

And, just to see where you rank nationally, you may want to pay attention to how your credit scores stack up relative to the average FICO Score

Let’s cut to the chase. The average FICO score in the United States has reached a new all-time high of 716. And this is in the wake of a global pandemic

Now let’s take a deep dive into the average and how credit scores have changed over time as well as possible reasons why FICO scores have continued to trend upward for the past seven and a half years. 

The Average FICO Score — Now and Then

The FICO score came on the scene initially in 1989 with Equifax and then with all three major credit reporting agencies by 1991. By 1993, lenders were using specialized FICO scores in the credit card, auto, installment loan, and personal finance industries. 

Credit scores have influenced the ability of consumers to qualify for various financing products for more than 30 years. So it makes sense that consumers would want to learn as much as possible about how to earn and keep good credit scores.

The good news is that Americans have been doing well where credit scores are concerned for quite a while, despite all of the negative noise coming from a vocal minority. 

Since October 2013, the average FICO® Score has been on the rise in the United States — climbing from 690 to an all-time high of 716 in April 2021. 

The average FICO scores over the last 10 years:

Average FICO ScoreDate
716April 2021
713October 2020
708April 2020
706October 2019
706April 2019
705October 2018
704April 2018
701October 2017
700April 2017
699October 2016
699April 2016
696 October 2015
695April 2015
694October 2014
692April 2014
690October 2013
691April 2013
689October 2012
690April 2012
689October 2011
688April 2011

It’s interesting to note that between April 2020 and April 2021, the average FICO score increased a sizable eight points. This average point increase was more pronounced than previous year-over-year changes, and the trend also held steady across the country. 

In each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, the average FICO score increased between April 2020 and April 2021.

FICO Score Distribution

While the average FICO Score is 716 as of April 2021, it’s possible to earn credit scores that fall much lower or higher, depending on the details of your credit reports

The higher your credit score climbs on the scale, the lower your credit risk. Higher credit scores mean you’re more likely to qualify for financing products, including credit cards and loans, and that you’re more likely to receive better interest rates and terms

Below is a breakdown of how FICO score distribution has behaved in the United States over the past five years. Each of the values in the boxes/cells below equals the percentage of the scorable US population. The values may not add up to 100% across the horizontal axis because of rounding.

April 20213.
April 20204.
April 20194.
April 20184.
April 20174.76.88.510.013.217.11920.7

The upward shift in FICO scores has been the most noticeable among consumers who have lower credit scores. FICO notes that consumers in the 550-599 range experienced an average FICO score increase from 581 to 601 between April 2020 and April 2021. 

Why Credit Scores Are Improving

Any time the national credit score average changes, something is behind the shift. Here are several events contributing to the recent upward trend in consumer credit scores: 

  • Better access to credit reports and scores. It’s easier than ever before for consumers to access their credit information — whether it’s their credit reports or credit scores. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives consumers the right to free copies of their credit reports from all three major credit reporting agencies once every 12 months. Plus, the credit bureaus are giving consumers free weekly access to their credit reports on a voluntary basis in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many credit card issuers give customers free access to their credit scores each month as well.
  • More people are paying on time. Late payments have the potential to do serious credit score damage. Yet the percentage of the population with a 30-day (or worse) past due missed payment on their credit report was down in April 2021 compared with the previous year. In April of 2021, only 15% of consumers had a 30-day (or worse) late payment in the last year compared with 19.6% of consumers in April 2020. When fewer people have late payments and past-due accounts on their credit reports, it’s no surprise that credit scores rise in response to those good credit behaviors.
  • People are paying down debt. In April 2020, the average credit card utilization rate in the US was 33%. Fast forward to a year later, and that figure dropped to 30%. Average credit card balances also declined from $6,277 to $5,591 during that same time, according to FICO. Credit scores heavily emphasize how you manage your debts, especially your credit utilization ratio. So, when there’s a significant overall decrease in consumer credit utilization, it makes sense that credit scores would rise in response. 

In sum, credit scoring systems love to see less debt and fewer late payments on credit reports. When you achieve these two relatively common sense goals of proper credit management, it’s almost impossible not to have great credit scores.

Because your credit scores and reports play an important role in your overall financial health, reviewing your credit information frequently is important to make sure you keep your credit in the best shape possible. 

Make it a goal to check your credit reports at least once a quarter (or more often) to help avoid unpleasant surprises.