What’s the Most Important Factor of Your Credit Score?

Quick Answer

Payment history is the most important factor of your credit score, making up 35% of FICO® Scores.
A couple talk to each other as they point at a notepad with next to their laptop.

At Experian, one of our priorities is consumer credit and finance education. This post may contain links and references to one or more of our partners, but we provide an objective view to help you make the best decisions. For more information, see our Editorial Policy.

You may know you have a credit score—and likely several scores—but do you know how your scores are calculated? Your credit score may seem like it's the result of a mystical mathematical formula, but the factors that go into calculating your credit score are pretty straightforward.

The most important factor of your FICO® Score , used by 90% of top lenders, is your payment history, or how you've managed your credit accounts. Close behind is the amounts owed—and more specifically how much of your available credit you're using—on your credit accounts. The three other factors carry less weight. Here's what you need to know.

Payment History Is the Most Important Factor of Your Credit Score

Payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO® Score. Four other factors that go into your credit score calculation make up the remaining 65%.

Keep in mind that there are as many as 28 versions of the FICO® Score, meaning you may have one score that's used to determine whether your credit card application is approved, another score for a mortgage application and yet another score for an auto loan application. When calculating these various scores, FICO weighs your payment history on your credit accounts most.

Why is payment history more important than the other factors? A lender wants to protect itself from risk. Therefore, it wants to know whether you've made timely payments on current and previous credit accounts. According to FICO, research shows payment history is typically the No. 1 predictor of whether you'll pay your debts on time, thus the heavier emphasis on this factor.

What Bills Affect My Payment History?

Several kinds of bills affect your payment history. These include:

  • Credit cards, including Mastercard, Visa, American Express and Discover cards
  • Retail credit cards from stores
  • Installment loans, such as auto loans and mortgages, that involve making regular payments for a set term
  • Accounts from finance companies

In addition to these accounts, FICO considers bankruptcies and collection accounts as part of payment history. Both can have a significant negative effect on your scores.

Bills from providers of phone, utility, cable TV and streaming services also may affect your payment history. In the past, these accounts would only impact your credit if they were sent to collections as a result of non-payment, in which case they'll stay on your credit report for seven years and negatively affect your score.

Today, these accounts can actually help improve your credit score, through Experian Boost®ø. With Experian Boost, you can allow Experian to securely access your online payment history for phone, utility, cable TV and certain streaming service providers. Then, on-time payments on authorized accounts will start showing up on your Experian credit report, and your FICO® Score may get a boost. Find out how paying a credit account in full affects your credit score.

How Long Do Late Payments Stay on Credit Reports?

Late payments can stay on your credit report for up to seven years. They can damage your credit score, but the effect on your score fades over time.

Not all late payments show up on your payment history, however. If you didn't make a credit card payment by the due date and instead made the payment a day late or a week late, you could be hit with a late fee by the card issuer, but your credit won't be hurt.

Why is that? Because credit card issuers won't notify the major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) about a late payment until a full billing cycle, or 30 days, has gone by.

The situation changes if the payment is more than 30 days late. In this case, the effect on your credit scores depends on how long your account was delinquent before you made a payment. So, a payment that's 60 days late will do more harm than a payment that's more than 30 days late but less harm than a payment that's 90 days late.

How to Improve Your Payment History

If you're looking to improve your payment history and potentially bump up your credit score, the simplest advice is to always pay your bills on time and be sure you've budgeted enough money to cover them. Other recommendations include:

  • Catch up on past-due payments. Bringing unpaid bills current will help your score over time.
  • Activate automatic bill payments. If you put your payments on autopilot, you reduce the chance that a bill will go unpaid.
  • Set up payment alerts. Many creditors let you create reminders to inform you when upcoming payments are due.

Other Factors That Impact Your Credit Score

While payment history ranks as the top factor in calculating your FICO® Score, it's important to be aware of the four other factors:

  1. Amounts owed (30%): The amount of available revolving credit you're using (also known as your credit utilization ratio) and how much debt you're carrying accounts for 30% of your score. If you're using too much of your available credit, it may be a sign that you're financially strapped and might end up defaulting on your debt. For the best scores, keep your credit usage on each of your individual revolving accounts and overall under 10%.
  2. Length of credit history (15%): Generally, a longer credit history can result in a higher score.
  3. Mix of credit types (10%): Managing different types of credit, such as credit cards, mortgage loans and personal loans, can help your score.
  4. New credit (10%): Opening several new credit accounts over a short period of time may signal risky financial behavior. It also reduces the average age of your accounts, which can lower your score.

The Bottom Line

Because payment history is the most important factor in your FICO® Score, paying all your bills by the due date can go a long way to helping you build a positive credit history over time. To ensure your payment history and other aspects of your credit are in good shape, check your free credit score from Experian and regularly review your free Experian credit report.

How Good Is Your Credit Score?

300 credit score301 credit score302 credit score303 credit score304 credit score305 credit score306 credit score307 credit score308 credit score309 credit score310 credit score311 credit score312 credit score313 credit score314 credit score315 credit score316 credit score317 credit score318 credit score319 credit score320 credit score321 credit score322 credit score323 credit score324 credit score325 credit score326 credit score327 credit score328 credit score329 credit score330 credit score331 credit score332 credit score333 credit score334 credit score335 credit score336 credit score337 credit score338 credit score339 credit score340 credit score341 credit score342 credit score343 credit score344 credit score345 credit score346 credit score347 credit score348 credit score349 credit score350 credit score351 credit score352 credit score353 credit score354 credit score355 credit score356 credit score357 credit score358 credit score359 credit score360 credit score361 credit score362 credit score363 credit score364 credit score365 credit score366 credit score367 credit score368 credit score369 credit score370 credit score371 credit score372 credit score373 credit score374 credit score375 credit score376 credit score377 credit score378 credit score379 credit score380 credit score381 credit score382 credit score383 credit score384 credit score385 credit score386 credit score387 credit score388 credit score389 credit score390 credit score391 credit score392 credit score393 credit score394 credit score395 credit score396 credit score397 credit score398 credit score399 credit score400 credit score401 credit score402 credit score403 credit score404 credit score405 credit score406 credit score407 credit score408 credit score409 credit score410 credit score411 credit score412 credit score413 credit score414 credit score415 credit score416 credit score417 credit score418 credit score419 credit score420 credit score421 credit score422 credit score423 credit score424 credit score425 credit score426 credit score427 credit score428 credit score429 credit score430 credit score431 credit score432 credit score433 credit score434 credit score435 credit score436 credit score437 credit score438 credit score439 credit score440 credit score441 credit score442 credit score443 credit score444 credit score445 credit score446 credit score447 credit score448 credit score449 credit score450 credit score451 credit score452 credit score453 credit score454 credit score455 credit score456 credit score457 credit score458 credit score459 credit score460 credit score461 credit score462 credit score463 credit score464 credit score465 credit score466 credit score467 credit score468 credit score469 credit score470 credit score471 credit score472 credit score473 credit score474 credit score475 credit score476 credit score477 credit score478 credit score479 credit score480 credit score481 credit score482 credit score483 credit score484 credit score485 credit score486 credit score487 credit score488 credit score489 credit score490 credit score491 credit score492 credit score493 credit score494 credit score495 credit score496 credit score497 credit score498 credit score499 credit score500 credit score501 credit score502 credit score503 credit score504 credit score505 credit score506 credit score507 credit score508 credit score509 credit score510 credit score511 credit score512 credit score513 credit score514 credit score515 credit score516 credit score517 credit score518 credit score519 credit score520 credit score521 credit score522 credit score523 credit score524 credit score525 credit score526 credit score527 credit score528 credit score529 credit score530 credit score531 credit score532 credit score533 credit score534 credit score535 credit score536 credit score537 credit score538 credit score539 credit score540 credit score541 credit score542 credit score543 credit score544 credit score545 credit score546 credit score547 credit score548 credit score549 credit score550 credit score551 credit score552 credit score553 credit score554 credit score555 credit score556 credit score557 credit score558 credit score559 credit score560 credit score561 credit score562 credit score563 credit score564 credit score565 credit score566 credit score567 credit score568 credit score569 credit score570 credit score571 credit score572 credit score573 credit score574 credit score575 credit score576 credit score577 credit score578 credit score579 credit score