A new report by credit-scoring service Experian shows that the average American consumer is slightly better off compared to last year, at least in terms of their credit score.
But have you ever wondered what is the average credit score, and where you fall within the mix, particularly for your age group?
This Article Will Cover
- What Is The Average Credit Score Overall?
- Generation Z: Age 18-20
- Millennials: Age 21-34
- Generation X: Age 35-49
- Baby Boomers: Age 50-70
- Silent Generation: Age 70-Plus
- What Are Perfect Credit Cards For Each Age Group?
- How To Build A Perfect Credit Score At Any Age
What Is The Average Credit Score Overall?
First, some overarching data: Experian’s State of Credit report shows that the average credit score is now 675, up slightly from 673 a year ago. However, that still trails the average credit score of 679 back in 2007, just before the Great Recession attacked.
To put that into context, the highest FICO score you’re looking at is 850. A TransUnion credit score tops out at the same level — as do credit scores for Experian and VantageScore 3.0.
Though reliance on debt is widespread across America, debt usage does track certain demographic trends. As the Experian report shows, some cohorts are managing debt better than others.
Generation X, for instance, struggles with debt, while the younger Millennials and the older Baby Boomers both show positive improvements. That makes some sense. Gen X is in the midst of raising kids and upgrading to bigger houses and bigger cars, and spending on bigger family vacations … so it makes sense their reliance on credit means
Meanwhile, Gen Z, the youngest adult-aged generation, has the lowest average credit score. But, again, that makes sense. They’ve not been using credit long enough to really build a track record that would lead to the highest credit scores.
And that raises a good point. People often want to know: What is a perfect credit score by age?
There’s no such animal. Your credit score is your credit score, regardless of age. Creditors don’t think, “Oh, she’s 35, so a perfect credit score for her 725, but her 27 year old brother gets a perfect credit score at 680.” Age is largely irrelevant.
That said, here’s a look at each generation.
Generation Z: Age 18-20
Average credit score: 634
Like I said, Gen Z is just now establishing credit and only a small portion is of an age where they can even apply for a credit card. They really haven’t had enough time as a group to build good credit … or to screw it up.
At the moment, they have, on average, 1.44 credit cards per person, less than half the U.S. average. And with just under $2,050 in credit-card balance, they have less than a third of the average American’s credit-card debt.
Honestly, they need more time in the financial system before their statistics are meaningful.
Millennials: Age 21-34
Average credit score: 638
Millennials are in a tough spot, but they seem to know it.
They’re the first generation expected to live worse than their parents. Among generations with a meaningful credit history, they have the worst average credit score the largest percentage of late payment.
But good news: Their average credit score is up four points from 2016, the most for any generation. So, the Millennials are moving in the right direction. That may reflect the fact that they have the fewest number of credit cards, on average, and they carry the lowest balances.
Generation X: Age 35-49
Average credit score: 658
The X’ers are just the opposite of Millennials. They’re living equal to or better than their parents, a fact reflected in them carrying the largest average credit-card balance, the largest amount of non-mortgage debt and the largest mortgage balance (by a long shot).
They carry an above-average number of credit cards and they have a high rate of late payments – only marginally below the Millennials.
Still, they’re making gains. Their average credit score is 658, up 3 points from a year ago.
Baby Boomers: Age 50-70
Average credit score: 703
Boomers are the first generation that truly grew up with debt and credit cards.
Which helps explain why they carry the largest number of credit cards – 3.53, on average.
With average credit card balances of $7,550, they’re only slightly less spend-happy than their X’er children. They do have much smaller mortgage balances, but that’s almost solely a function of having an extra two decades of paying on their mortgages.
They also have a much higher percentage of late payments, and much higher average credit score at 703, well above the national average. That means they’re just shy of what is considered excellent credit, which ranges from 720 to 850.
Silent Generation: Age 70-Plus
Average credit score: 729
They saved democracy from fascism, shaped the middle class as we know it, and matured as a frugal generation that learned to always honor its debts.
That’s why these folks have the highest average credit score at 729 – well into the “excellent” range. It’s also why their late-payments and their non-mortgage debt is way below any other generation (Z’s aside, since they’ve not been in the system long enough).
What Are Perfect Credit Cards For Each Age Group?
Gen Z: Just Starting Out
Journey Student Rewards from Capital One: For those starting out and who have “average credit.”
Capital One Secured Mastercard. You’ll have to pay a security deposit for this card, depending on your credit score. After making your first five consecutive monthly payments, your credit line will be to increase.
Millennials: Beginning Your Career And Family
HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard:
Gen X: Established And Looking For Benefits
Capital One Venture Rewards Card: 2
Citi Premier Card: 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the
Boomers: Looking To Retire And Enjoy Life
Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard: 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months. 2x miles on everything. Get 5% miles back when redeeming.
Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Card: solid cash bonus after spending the minimum amount required. Great
How To Build A Perfect Credit Score At Any Age
First off, some of the factors impacting your credit score are beyond your control. Others, however, you can control, so let’s focus on those.
1) Payment History Is Paramount
Paying your bills on time is the primary factor shaping your credit score. Miss a payment – or worse, let your payments lag by 30 days or more – and your credit score suffers. So, be like the Silver Generation and honor your debts on time to build a perfect payment history.
2) Avoid Bankruptcy, Judgments, Collections, And Foreclosures
Credit bureaus scour court record and other public records. Thus, issues such as bankruptcy, judgments, collections, and foreclosures will show up and will make it impossible for you to attain a perfect credit score … or, likely, even a high credit score.
3) Be Savvy About Using Credit
Just because you have a $20,000 credit limit doesn’t mean you can carry $20,000 in debt with no impact to your credit score.
To calculate your score, credit agencies look at your “credit utilization” – how much debt you have relative to your credit limit. Anything over about 30% credit utilization begins to erode your credit score.
4) Don’t Apply For Too Much Credit
Every time a sales clerk offers you a 10% discount if you sign up for that store’s credit card, your credit takes a hit. That’s because the company providing that credit card pulls your credit report to check if you’re a worthy risk.
That’s a small ding on your credit report because it tells the rating agency you’re taking on potentially more debt. One or two of those every now and then isn’t so bad, and ultimately it means more available credit which, if you use your credit cards wisely, means a lower credit-utilization rate.
But applying for lots of these cards in a short period can really lower your credit score. So unless the offer is truly amazing, just say no.
5) Don’t Cancel Your Cards
Ok, yes, if you really do not need a card, you can cancel it … unless it’s your oldest card or the one with the highest available line of credit.
How long you’ve had credit available to you is a big factor in your score. If you close the credit card you’ve had the longest, you’re effectively erasing a part of your credit history, and that can impact your score negatively.
Likewise, if you close the card with the highest available credit line, it instantly increases your credit utilization rate – possibly above 30%. So be cognizant of that before you close a credit card.
6) Diversify Your Credit
Credit agencies also look at “credit mix,” or revolving credit vs. installment credit.
Revolving loans are credit cards and lines of credit that you can dip into whenever you need, up to your available limit.
A mortgage, car loan or student loan is installment credit since you’re paying off the debt in installments.
Credit agencies like to see a mix of both to show that you can manage both types of debt.
6) Check Your Credit Report Routinely
There’s a lot of free access to credit reports these days, so make use of it.
Credit-card companies and credit agencies are not infallible. Indeed, data show that roughly 20% of credit files contain an error. By checking your credit report regularly, you can catch errors that impact your credit score and have them corrected quickly.
The Wrap Up
Obtaining a perfect credit score isn’t your goal. But striving for the highest credit score you can is.
By using these tips, no matter your age, you can push your score well above the average credit score for your age group, which can save you a bundle of money when you go to get a mortgage or a car loan, or for other financial services that rely on credit scoring.
And we want to know: How’s your score relative to your age group?
Leave us a comment below.