RICHMOND, VA. (WRIC) — Your credit score is your ticket to big-time purchases like cars and homes. The better the score, the better the deal you can get when borrowing money — but small mistakes could make a big difference.

Your credit score says a lot about you and what you can afford. It’s a number, somewhere between 300 and 850. Obviously, the higher, the better.

The number represents your credit risk, or the likelihood you will pay your loans on time. Financial advisor Isaac Wright with Financial Dynamics & Associates says if you can’t reach 850, don’t worry.

“Anything north of 650 or higher will give you normally really nice rates on any offers for loans.”

Wright cautions that going below that number could make things very difficult for you.

“That could put you at a point where nobody wants to give you a loan because they realize that you may not be able to pay it back or you’re not willing to pay it back.”

You may have heard the term ‘FICO score’. FICO score and credit score are essentially the same thing. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a FICO score is a particular brand of credit score:

FICO stands for the Fair Isaac Corporation. FICO was a pioneer in developing a method for calculating credit scores based on information collected by credit reporting agencies. Today, other companies also have credit scoring formulas (“models”), but most lenders still use FICO scores when deciding whether to offer you a loan or credit card, and in setting the rate and terms. Banks may also use FICO scores when approving checking and savings account applications and setting the terms of those accounts.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Companies use credit scores to decide whether they want to offer you a mortgage, a credit card or a car loan. There are various formulas credit agencies use to calculate your score, including your payment history and the total debt you own.

And that’s an important factor here. Paying your bills on time will help raise your credit score. In fact, if you can pay it off faster, even better! But once a credit card is paid off, hold onto it.

“Do not close an old credit card right after the fact. If you pay it off, that line of credit you want to stay open again, because the ratio of how much credit you have available to how much you’ve actually used is a very critical component,” said Wright.

Experts stress you shouldn’t open too many new credit accounts in a short period of time because that makes you look risky. Also, do not run up your credit cards. You don’t want to go deep into debt, that won’t help you or your credit score.

Ultimately, don’t fret, because a low credit score can be easily fixed.

“It doesn’t take long to build a decent credit score, as long as you’re making your consistent payments and you don’t default on what you owe,” said Wright.

Government officials say, by law, you can get a free credit report each year from the three credit reporting agencies (CRAs). These agencies include Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Due to financial hardship resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, you can get a free credit report each week through December 2023. is the only website authorized by the federal government to issue free, annual credit reports from the three CRAs. You may request your reports:

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also has these suggestions:

1. Check your credit card or other loan statement

Many major credit card companies and some auto loan companies have begun to provide credit scores for all their customers on a monthly basis. The score is usually listed on your monthly statement, or can be found by logging in to your account online.

2. Talk to a non-profit counselor

Non-profit credit counselors and housing counselors trained by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development can often provide you with a free credit report and score and help you review them.

3. Use a credit score service

Many services and websites advertise a “free credit score.” Some sites may be funded through advertising and not charge a fee. Other sites may require that you sign up for a credit monitoring service with a monthly subscription fee in order to get your “free” score. These services are often advertised as “free” trials, but if you don’t cancel within the specified period (often as short as one week), you could be on the hook for a monthly fee. Before you sign up to try one of these services, be sure you know what you are signing up for and how much it really costs.

Where can I purchase my credit score?

You can buy a score directly from the credit reporting companies. You can buy your FICO credit score at Other services may also offer scores for purchase. If you decide to purchase a credit score, you are not required to purchase credit protection, identity theft monitoring, or other services that may be offered at the same time.