Karen Haywood Queen
- 5 min read
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Although a credit score of 700 may not allow you to fill your wallet with high rewards credit cards named after precious metals and gems, you’re well on your way to that goal if you keep building good credit habits. You haven’t reached the credit mountaintop, but you can see the summit.
FICO credit scores, the industry standard for sizing up credit risk, range from 300 to a perfect 850—with 670 to 739 labeled “good,” 740-799 “very good” and 800 to 850 “exceptional.” A 700 score places you right in the middle of the good range, but still slightly below the average credit score of 711.
“A 700 score is not bad,” said Rod Griffin, senior director of consumer education and awareness at Experian. “It’s a little below average, considered prime or low prime. You likely would not get the best interest rates offered. You probably wouldn’t see the premium cards, not the diamonds or the golds.”
What can you do with a 700 credit score?
Instead of focusing only on whether a 700 score is good or not, consider whether it will allow you to reach your goals, said Victoria Sechrist, certified financial trainer at The Financial Gym.
“For example, some mortgage refinance lenders are requiring a minimum of 700,” Sechrist said. “Some credit card issuers say they want people with 720-plus to get their top tier cards. That doesn’t mean you can’t get approved for credit cards or a mortgage refinance; it just means you may have to shop around more to find a lender with lower credit requirements. If you’re looking for a personal loan or a 0 percent balance transfer credit card to refinance higher interest debt, then 700 should be good enough for you to qualify.”
In the 700 club, your credit limit will likely be close to the average credit limit of $4,200, said Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate. That limit can vary based on income and other debt.
With an average credit score, expect to pay around the average credit card interest rate of 16 percent, Rossman said. That’s better than the 20 percent or 25 percent those with lower scores will pay, but not as nice as the 7 percent or 10 percent people with scores of 740 and higher might achieve.
What credit cards can you get with a 700 credit score?
Although the prestige credit cards with rewards creeping up to 6 percent are probably still out of reach, a 700 score will put you into a better rewards bracket than those with a 600 score who qualify only for credit builder cards with minimal rewards, Rossman said.
“Today, a 700 credit score has you in the ballpark,” Rossman said. “But other factors are going to tip the balance as to whether you get approved or not.”
Lenders will take a hard look at your income, your debt-to-income ratio, late payments and recent debt.
“Somebody who has opened a bunch of credit cards is going to look risky,” Rossman said, as is “somebody who has run up a bunch of debt.”
Rossman said a consumer likely would qualify for a card like the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card, with 1.5 percent cash back and no annual fee, and the Citi® Double Cash Card, which offers 1 percent cash back when you spend and 1 percent back when you pay for your purchases.
Overall, Citibank and Bank of America tend to be a little more lenient in issuing premium cards, Rossman said, compared to American Express, Chase and Discover.
Factors in your favor include your relationship with the issuing bank—if you have a checking account or mortgage at that bank, for instance.
Even if you have a very good or excellent credit rating, issuers may turn you down if they see you’re adding lots of new cards. For example, some credit card issuers such as Chase may turn you down if you’ve opened five or more credit cards in the past two years.
2 quick ways to raise your credit score
1. Add rent and utility payments to your credit report
The good news is there are legitimate free and low-cost ways to improve your credit score—no magic tricks required.
Experian offers a free service, Experian Boost, that allows consumers to add to their credit history payments not traditionally reported to credit reporting agencies, including bills for cell phones, utilities and streaming services.
“They give us permission to access their checking, savings or credit card accounts for those payments and we add those payments to their credit reports,” Experian’s Griffin said. “That is one of the most empowering things we’ve seen for people—it places the choice in their hands.”
People with scores of less than 680 are increasing their credit scores an average of 19 points, Griffin said. (That puts them just within reach of our 700 club.) In general, consumers see an average increase of 13 points, he said.
Experian’s data has shown that adding these payments does not skew credit scores inaccurately, but instead helps lenders identify new customers who are actually good credit risks, Griffin said.
Similar programs include
- eCredable Lift, which reports your phone and utility payments to credit reporting agency TransUnion for $25 a year
- Experian RentBureau, which allows consumers to add on-time rent payments to their credit history
- A free app called Perch, which reports payments for streaming services and rent
2. Lower your credit utilization ratio
Reducing your credit utilization ratio will raise your score. That means paying down your credit card balances so they make up a small percentage of your overall available credit.
“Just because a lender says you can borrow a certain amount, does not mean that you should,” Sechrist said. “You should keep your utilization rates under 35 percent. For example, if your monthly credit card limit is $10,000, then you’d want your balance to be under $3,500 at all times.”
Another way to lower your credit utilization ratio, even if you pay your entire balance every month, is to make your payment early or make an extra payment in the middle of the month, Rossman said.
“Even if you pay your bills in full, you still might have a high credit ratio,” Rossman said. “Your balance is reported on the statement date, so bring your balance down before the statement comes out.”
While it may be tempting to close credit cards you’re not using, think twice—especially if there’s no annual fee, Sechrist said. Those cards can help keep your credit utilization ratio low, and if you’ve had them a long time, help you maintain a long length of credit history.
700 no longer above average, even in the pandemic
Back in 2005, a 700 score would have marked you as above the average, which was 688, according to the FICO blog. Since then, average credit scores have been trending up, but usually only a couple of points a year. From 2019 to 2020, that average score jumped eight points. The COVID-19 pandemic has made both consumers and lenders more cautious.
“Scores have actually improved throughout the pandemic,” Griffin said. “Payments have remained steady. We’ve seen a decrease in utilization rates and a decrease in delinquencies. We’re seeing things continue to be positive.”
Banks tightened standards across all three consumer loan categories—credit card loans, auto loans and other consumer loans—over the first quarter of 2020, on net, according to an April 2020 report by the Federal Reserve.
“In the time of the pandemic, things have changed, but the worst fears have not been realized,” Rossman said. “A year ago, I would have said if you were at 670 or above you could get approved by most credit cards. Now it’s more like 720 or above. A year ago, fears skyrocketed, but the worst fears have not been realized.”
The bottom line
Whether a credit score of 700 is your goal or you’re aiming even higher, keep practicing and building good credit habits. Since average credit scores are trending up, this is one time when you definitely want to keep up with the Joneses.