One silver lining of the pandemic is that people’s creditworthiness has improved.
Fueled by increases among people with lower credit scores, the average FICO credit score has had a relatively sharp uptick since the onset of the pandemic, rising to 716 in April from 711 in October and 706 in October 2019, according to FICO data released Tuesday.
The drivers of the increase? Pandemic-driven leniency for struggling borrowers, government aid, increased discipline, and fewer places to spend during the lockdown period. These factors led tofewer missed payments, lower consumer debt levels, and a smaller appetite to borrow, according to Ethan Dornhelm, a vice president of FICO Scores and Predictive Analytics.
“If you think the uptick in average FICO Score is coming from the prime, lower risk/higher scoring segments, guess again!” Dornhelm wrote in a blog post Tuesday that also noted the benefits of surging home prices and a rising stock market. The average score for consumers with scores between 550 and 599 in January 2020, for example, jumped 20 points between April 2020 and April 2021 while the average for those with scores between 750 to 799 was unchanged.
A credit score reflects your repayment track record, credit usage, and other metrics from your credit reports. FICO scores—a popular type of score FICO says is used by more than 90% of top lenders when making lending decisions—range from 300 to 850, and 670 to 739 is considered by lenders to be “good.” The higher average, particularly because it’s driven by improvement among lower scores, means Americans have a better chance of qualifying for better terms and interest rates on credit cards, mortgages, and other loans.
As of April, 15% of the population had a missed payment that was more than 30 days past due in the past year, down from 19.6% a year earlier, Dornhelm wrote.
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