When Does Your Credit Score Start?

You may have wondered in the past: when does your credit score start? The subject is often unclear – does it start as soon as you obtain a line of credit, or before? Does everyone start with the same score, or is every score unique from the get-go? Maybe you thought that everybody starts at 300 – the lowest possible score – or maybe everybody starts with a perfect 850, the highest possible score. In fact, neither is the case. It is important to realize that your credit score starts only after you obtain credit, and, from the start, is tethered to your reliability in paying back debts.

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When Does Your Credit Score Start?

When does your credit score start? It’s a reasonable question and one that’s often left unaddressed. The short answer? After you first obtain a line of credit. That may seem intuitive, but it’s a little more complicated than that. When you first obtain credit, that line of credit will appear on your credit report within a few days. However, a credit score is not immediately calculated. Before your credit score can start, you must have a line of credit open for at least six months. Similarly, your score will not update if an account has not been utilized within the past six months.

Prior to obtaining a line of credit (in the form of a credit card, an auto loan, a mortgage, or some other means), you are what is referred to as ‘unscorable.’ So, when does your credit score start? In short, six months after you first obtain credit and cease to be unscorable. When your credit score is first calculated, after that first six months, it is likely to be extremely low (generally around 500), even if you have been flawlessly keeping up with payments. That is because one of the primary factors in your score – namely, your payment history – is minimal. As such, while the answer to the question (when does your credit score start?) is simple, the reality is that your score will not be particularly strong right away. As you build up your financial history, provided you make payments on time and meet the other criteria required to maintain a good credit score, your score will go up.

You can use this tool, which asks you some simple questions about yourself and your goals and then provides you with a free action plan, to help formulate your credit-building strategy.

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Is Your Credit Score Tied to Your Age?

When trying to figure out the answer to this age-old question – when does your credit score start? – some might assume that your credit score starts as soon as you turn 18. This is not the case. In theory, an individual could go his or her entire life without starting a credit score, if he or she does not open a line of credit for six months or more. The only thing turning 18 does, in terms of your credit score, gives you the ability to open a line of credit in your own name – you CAN start your credit score at 18, but it’s not automatic. Still, many people start building credit when they’re young, even if it happens to be bad credit. Generation Z, the generation of individuals born in 1996 or later, average 1.29 credit cards per person, demonstrating that even these young people are building credit. (A lot of it happens to be bad credit, as the generation’s average credit score is 631, which is generally considered poor, but it’s credit nonetheless.) So, for many people the answer to the question, “when does your credit score start?” is at a young age, upon obtaining a credit card or two.

You can check if your credit score has started, and what it is, from any one of the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax®, Experian®, and TransUnion®), or sign up for an online service to check, track and improve your credit score.

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