The world of consumer credit has been pretty bleak in the years since the economic crisis. But things are definitely looking up. According to Fair Isaac Corporation, or FICO for short, the average FICO score is 695 — the highest it’s been since 2005. Almost 20 percent of consumers are scoring 800 or above, a slight increase over six months earlier. And fewer consumers are coming in below 550.
Basic money management, or how not to be broke: Pay your bills on time, pay down that credit card debt and seriously, do you really need those $300 boots? Everyone’s heard it. Now people are actually doing these things.
“People have been saving money, putting money in the bank, and being more careful about their use of money,” says Ed Mierzwinski, consumer advocate with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. Also, he says it’s a lot easier now to know what’s going on with your credit. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been pushing banks and creditors to give away credit scores for free. This week, American Express joined other big card companies in making FICOs available to cardholders.
“And that may be helping to educate more consumers,” Mierzwinski says.
But there could be something else boosting credit scores. Since the economy tanked, a lot of people have given up on credit.
“The economy was so poor for so long that people were reluctant to take on debt, to engage in credit use,” says Rod Griffin, director of public education at Experian.
A lot of credit card dropouts are millennials.
“I don’t know if this is young adults seeing their parents go through some type of financial trauma, or if it’s just them being a little more risk averse,” says Carly Urban, assistant professor of economics at Montana State University.
Griffin points out that millennials’ reluctance to use credit cards might work against them. It’s hard to build good credit when you don’t use credit.
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