What Affects Your Credit Scores?

Learn about the different factors that can impact your credit scores

You might know that credit-scoring companies use the information from your credit reports to calculate your credit scores. But what kinds of information are your scores based on? And how does that information impact your scores?

Read on to learn about what does and doesn’t impact your credit scores.

Factors That Affect Your Credit Scores

There are a few different factors that affect your credit scores:

  • Payment history
  • Debt
  • Credit age
  • Credit mix
  • New credit applications

How they affect your scores depends on the credit-scoring model and the company doing the scoring.

As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) explains, FICO® and VantageScore® are the two credit-scoring companies that provide some of the most commonly used scores. So let’s take a look at each of the different factors and how they can affect your scores from FICO and VantageScore. 

Payment History

Payment history is a key part of your credit history. It shows how well you’ve done with making payments on time.

Both FICO and VantageScore put a lot of weight on payment history when calculating your credit scores. In fact, it’s the No. 1 scoring factor at FICO and accounts for 35% of your FICO score.

Why does payment history get so much attention? Because it can be a strong indicator of how you might handle payments in the future. And falling behind on payments could lead to negative information—which includes things like late credit card payments and charge-offs—that can negatively impact your credit.


Credit-scoring models consider how much unpaid debt you currently have across all of your accounts. And they pay close attention to your credit utilization ratio—a ratio that reflects how much of your available credit you’re using.

Your credit utilization ratio is typically expressed as a percentage. According to the CFPB, experts recommend keeping your credit utilization below 30% of your total available credit. That’s because a low credit utilization ratio could be a sign that you’re using your credit responsibly and not overspending.

Credit Age

Your credit age shows how long you’ve had your accounts open. “A longer credit history will always have a positive effect on FICO scores,” according to FICO.

That’s because, as the CFPB explains, “Credit scores are based on experience over time. The more experience your credit report shows with paying your loans on time, the more information there is to determine whether you are a good credit recipient.”

Credit Mix

Your credit mix is made up of the different types of credit accounts you have. It takes into account both your revolving credit—like credit cards, personal lines of credit and home equity lines of credit—and your installment loans. Auto loans, mortgages, student loans and personal loans are all examples of installment loans.

Your credit mix is important because it shows how much experience you have with handling different types of credit. But keep in mind that a diverse credit mix won’t help your credit scores if you don’t use your credit responsibly.

New Credit Applications

This factor takes into account how many times you’ve recently applied for credit. The effect on your scores might be minor, but a lot of new hard credit inquiries could still give a negative impression to lenders.

“Credit scoring formulas look at your recent credit activity as a signal of your need for credit. If you apply for a lot of credit over a short period of time, it may appear to lenders that your economic circumstances have changed negatively,” says the CFPB.

How FICO Views Credit Score Factors

FICO is clear about how it weighs each of those factors. Payment history makes up 35% of FICO’s scoring, and debt accounts for 30%. Credit age makes up 15% of the score. And credit mix and new credit account for 10% each.

How VantageScore Views Credit Score Factors

While VantageScore doesn’t give percentages, it’s clear about what’s crucial to its scoring. VantageScore says your unpaid debt is extremely influential. Credit mix is highly influential. Payment history is moderately influential. And credit age and new credit are less influential.

Factors That Don’t Affect Your Credit Scores

While many factors affect your credit scores, some things have no effect at all. These include things like:

You might be wondering: Does paying bills affect your credit scores? The answer depends on the type of bill, whether your payments are reported to the credit bureaus, and how the scoring model considers that information.

Does Having a Credit Application Denied Hurt Your Credit Scores?

Getting denied for a credit card doesn’t affect your credit scores directly. However, applying for credit may lower your credit scores—usually by just a few points, according to FICO—because it triggers a hard inquiry. That’s why the CFPB recommends applying only for the credit you need.

Want a better idea of whether you might be approved before you trigger a hard inquiry? Pre-approval or pre-qualification can help you find out whether you might be eligible for a credit card or loan before you even apply.

With Capital One’s pre-approval tool, for example, you can find out whether you’re pre-approved for some of Capital One’s credit cards before you submit an application. It’s quick and only requires some basic information. And checking to see whether you’re pre-approved won’t impact your credit scores, since it only requires a soft inquiry.

Monitor Your Credit for Free With CreditWise From Capital One

It’s important to regularly monitor your credit if you’re trying to maintain your credit or improve your credit scores. Monitoring your credit can help you see exactly where you stand—and how much progress you’ve made.

One way to monitor your credit is with CreditWise from Capital One. CreditWise gives you access to your free TransUnion® credit report and weekly VantageScore 3.0 credit score anytime. And using it won’t hurt your scores. You can even explore the potential impact of your financial decisions before you make them with the CreditWise Simulator.

CreditWise is free and available to everyone—even if you’re not a Capital One customer.

You can also get free copies of your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus—Equifax®, Experian® and TransUnion. Call 877-322-8228 or visit AnnualCreditReport.com to learn more. Keep in mind that there may be a limit on how often you can get your reports. You can check the site for more details.

Learn more about Capital One’s response to COVID-19 and resources available to customers. For information about COVID-19, head over to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Government and private relief efforts vary by location and may have changed since this article was published. Consult a financial adviser or the relevant government agencies and private lenders for the most current information.

We hope you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment or financial advice or to indicate that a particular Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.

Your CreditWise score is calculated using the TransUnion® VantageScore® 3.0 model, which is one of many credit scoring models. It may not be the same model your lender uses, but it can be one accurate measure of your credit health. The availability of the CreditWise tool depends on our ability to obtain your credit history from TransUnion. Some monitoring and alerts may not be available to you if the information you enter at enrollment does not match the information in your credit file at (or you do not have a file at) one or more consumer reporting agencies.

The CreditWise Simulator provides an estimate of your score change and does not guarantee how your score may change.

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