What Are the Credit Score Factors?

Question: What exactly are all the credit score factors I should consider when learning how to build credit?
Philip Tirone’s Answer: There are actually 22 criteria that go into determining a person’s credit score. These criteria can be organized in five credit score categories:
1. Payment History—The first of the credit score factors, your payment history, accounts for the largest percentage of your score: 35 percent. Do you pay your bills on time? How many late payments have you had? How severe are your late payments? How recent are your late payments?
This credit score factor takes a look at the answers to these questions. If you always pay your bills on time, your credit score is probably better than someone who rarely pays on time. If you have a lot of recent late payments, especially if they are more than 90 days old, your score is probably low.
This component considers your credit cards, mortgages, car loans and other installment loans, student loans, and retail credit card accounts. It also looks at the details of your late payments. Late payments within the past six months have the greatest impact on your credit score; late payments that are more than 24 months old have less impact on your credit score.
2. Outstanding Balances—This is the second-most important of the credit score factors, comprising 30 percent of your score. In short, the less you owe in relation to your limit, the higher your credit score.
Among other things, this criterion considers your “utilization rate,” which is the debt you carry on a credit card as a percentage of your credit card limits. Credit cards with balances that never exceed more than 30 percent of the limit provide for better scores.
This category of credit-scoring also looks at how much you owe on home loans, car loans, or other loans versus how much you originally borrowed. If you have a new loan, credit-scoring systems usually consider you riskier than someone who is five or ten years into a loan. Loans usually take about six months to “mature,” meaning they might harm your score at first, but after six months of on-time payments, your score will probably start to climb.
3. Age of Your Credit History—Credit-scoring is a lot like wine: the older the better! This is the third of the credit score factors, and it accounts for 15 percent of your score. The longer an account ahs been open, the better. This component looks at individual accounts, as well as the average age of your accounts.
4. Mix of Credit—The fourth of the credit score factors, this looks at the type of credit you have, accounting for 10 percent of your score. Credit bureaus respond best if you have a mix of credit. Ideally, you should have three to five credit cards, a mortgage, and an installment loan.
Contrary to popular believe, having too little credit can hurt your credit score because the credit-scoring models will not have enough information to determine whether you can responsible manage debt and high limits.
5. Credit Inquiries—This is the final of the credit score factors, and it counts for 10 percent of your score as well. Anytime you apply for credit, the creditor will run a credit check, which causes your score to drop slightly.
But keep in mind that inquiries into your own credit do not affect your score. Only inquiries by a lender or creditor will hurt your score, and the damage will be minimal. As well, inquiries stay on your report for only two years, and they affect your score for only one year.