Your credit worthiness is most often expressed in terms of a score from 300 to 850. These scores are computed by a patented algorithm - a complex mathematical equation that considers 40 components of your credit history. Scores 760 or above are considered golden and the median American credit score is 723. The average score, however, is variously quoted by different sources as somewhere in the upper 600s.
Although the specifics of how your score is formulated are very complex, below are the generalities:
Your payment history generally makes up 40% of your score, while credit utilization is 20%. The length of your credit history contributes 21%, and total amount of recently reported balances 11%. Finally, new credit accounts are responsible for 5% while your available credit makes up 3%.
Source: transunion.com, U.S. General Services Administration, and bankrate.com.
How to get your credit report
Thanks to a U.S. federal law, you're entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies - Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Although these reports are free, you'll have to pay to get your actual credit score.
The cost can vary: For example, Experian charges $14.95 (at the time of publishing)
To order your free credit reports: