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Is Your Credit Score Good Enough for the Best Rates? — Dollars and Sense

Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Here’s the good news: Americans have better credit scores now than we have in the past few years. But there’s bad news, too: credit standards are now so high that it may not matter much.

FICO scores range from 300 to 850, and are typically affected by paying your bills on time, not applying for new credit lines and keeping your existing balances low.

Research from Fair Isaac Corporation, the company behind your FICO score, indicates the percentage of people with excellent credit scores is the best it’s been in four years, while the number of Americans with lousy scores has fallen to pre-recession levels.

Although it’s encouraging that consumers seem to be spending more responsibly, the problem is that there are still a lot of people stuck in a sort of “no man’s land” of credit — their scores aren’t terrible, but they also aren’t top-notch. And since the criteria for getting the cheapest credit has risen so much since the economy took a nosedive, those folks are often saddled with higher interest rates.

Many borrowers now require a FICO score of 720 or more for the best rates on a credit line. While many people now have scores exceeding 800, the number of people with credit scores between 700 and 749 has fallen to about 16 percent — a historic low.


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