What the History Part of Your Credit Score Really Measures

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Your credit history can be one of the more confusing parts of a credit score. Even if you practice good credit habits, your age can seem to work against you. But beyond waiting patiently to graduate to expert level, is there anything you can do to boost your score?

The good news is that your credit history only makes up 15% of your overall score, so being young or new with using credit won’t put you at a gigantic disadvantage. But age alone isn’t the only factor contributing to this piece of the pie. “It’s not quite as simple as how long you’ve had credit,” said Matt Schulz, chief industry analyst at CompareCards. “There is some nuance to it.”

FICO scores, for example, take three things into consideration when calculating this part of your credit score, according to the MyFICO blog:

  1. How long your credit accounts have been open, including the age of your oldest account, the age of your newest account, and an average age of all your accounts.
  2. How long specific credit accounts have been open.
  3. How long it has been since the account has been used.

Not only do lenders want to know how long your accounts have been open—they also want to make sure you’re using each and every one of them properly. “It’s really all about giving lenders more data points to help them make the decision,” said Schulz.

Brent Weiss, CFP and cofounder of Facet Wealth, said that when people don’t start using credit because they’re afraid of getting in debt, they can end up at a scoring and history disadvantage. He recommends getting a credit card with a low limit as soon as you can so you start building your history, whether you’re young or you’re simply new to using credit. “Think about it as an empowering tool,” he said. “You have to start creating that credit history and making sure you’re getting your payments in on time.”

Since the majority of your score is controlled by your on-time payments and how much of your available credit you’re using, it makes the most sense to focus on good habits in those areas rather than try to finagle your history “There aren’t any major shortcuts,” Schulz said. “It’s about doing the right thing over and over again.”

While being an authorized user on someone else’s account can boost your score, having accounts in your own name makes a bigger impact, Schulz said.

If you close a credit account in your name that had good payment history, it will stay on your report for 10 years. If you’re no longer someone’s authorized user, that history disappears right away. You may see your score drop by a few points, but your score won’t take a nose-dive without that authorized status if you’ve been working on building your own good credit.

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