A credit score of 686 is a good credit score. It falls squarely in the middle of the five tiers of the FICO credit scoring model. These tiers are:
- Very Poor: 300 to 579.
- Fair: 580 to 669.
- Good: 670 to 739.
- Very Good: 740 to 799.
- Exceptional: 800 to 850.
As long as your score falls above 670, you can claim to have “Good” credit. This opens up a world of opportunities that are not open to those with “Fair” and “Very Poor” credit scores.
Nevertheless, you often won’t be able to experience the full spectrum of credit-related benefits unless you get your score up into the “Very Good” and “Exceptional” ranges. To do this, you must take the time to figure out what activities are helping your credit score as well as which ones are hurting it.
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Why Your Credit Score Is 686
Every credit score is uniquely derived from the past financial behaviors of its owner. Even so, there are many traceable factors, statistics, and behaviors that heavily influence every score.
If you want to improve your score, it’s important to start by understanding why your score is currently at 686 and why it isn’t higher or lower. Each of the following is a major contributor to your credit score.
Review each one and consider how your past activity in that area either helped or hindered you. That way you can begin to identify what activities you should continue to do and which areas of behavior you should amend.
Credit Utilization Ratio
Your credit utilization ratio is the percentage of your available credit that you’re actively using. If you’re using more than 30% of your available credit per account, it can hold back your score.
Your ability or inability to make payments consistently and on time is a huge part of your score. In fact, for the FICO model, your payment history accounts for a whopping 35% of your score — that’s more than any other factor on this list.
This is because paying back borrowed money on time and in full is a benchmark of whether a lender will let you borrow funds in the first place.
Credit Age and Mix
The average age of your credit is another item that the scoring models take into consideration. The older your overall credit, the more trustworthy you are, and thus the higher your score will be.
Additionally, the greater the variety of your various lines of credit — such as auto loans, credit cards, a mortgage, and student loans — the better. This shows you can responsibly handle multiple forms and lines of credit at the same time.
Inquiries and Derogatory Marks
Hard inquiries take place when a lender officially checks your credit report before giving you a loan. In moderation, these are not a big deal, and typically only last up to a year.
Derogatory marks are worse. They appear due to a financial shortcoming, such as missing payments, defaulting on loans, or even having items repossessed. A mark like this can stay on your report for years at a time, hurting your score all the while.
Finally, your overall quantity of non-revolving debt is very important. This is debt that you take out in single events, such as a car loan or buying a house. If you have a very large quantity of non-revolving debt, it can scare away potential lenders and lead to a lower score.
By studying your past behavior in each of these areas, you can begin to understand how your score is currently at the respectable (though not ideal) 686 level.
What Can You Do With a 686 Credit Score?
The good news is, even though it can still go higher, a good credit score of 686 generally enables you to see many different benefits, such as:
- An easier path to loan approval;
- Lower security deposits and interest rates;
- Higher borrowing limits;
- Greater negotiating power with lenders;
- The ability to refinances loans when the opportunity presents itself;
- A higher possibility of being hired when an employer checks your credit report;
- A greater chance to be approved when applying for an apartment;
- Access to exclusive rewards and benefits when applying for a credit card.
While having Good credit technically makes many of the above items accessible, some of them will still be limited. If you want to gain access to the even better benefits that come with stellar credit, you need to find ways to take your score from good to great.
How to Improve a 686 Credit Score
If you want to improve a credit score of 686, you need to start getting picky about your financial habits. You already have a decent score, so you probably don’t need to fix any glaring errors.
This means you’ll need to dig deep, analyze your behavior, and find ways to take your fiscal activity to the next level. You can do this by:
- Creating a financial plan: Planning for the future is an important way to keep your finances on track. This includes everything from short-term items like an emergency fund to long-term objectives like saving for retirement.
- Following a budget: Building, updating, and sticking to a budget is ground zero for good financial habits. It helps you stay in the black regardless of the current state of your finances.
- Pay down debt: The lower your non-revolving debt the better. Do your best to pay down any debt that you can.
- Keep using credit: It’s also important to continue borrowing and paying back money. Consistently and responsibly use your revolving lines of credit, such as your credit cards.
- Review your credit report: You can (and should) get a free copy of your credit report every year. When you do this, dispute errors that you find. Also, resolve derogatory marks and then send a forgiveness letter to try to remove the mark from the report.
By buckling down on your daily financial activities, you can set yourself up to improve your credit score. This may not happen overnight, but if you can do things like pay down debt, use your credit, and review your credit report, you will begin to see the positive impacts of these behaviors on your credit score over time.
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