Back in the late 1950’s, a company named Fair Isaac came up with a way to assign a number to consumers that would reflect their credit worthiness which we know today as the credit rating. It is a three digit number that tells prospective lenders if you are a good credit risk or a bad credit risk. Your credit rating makes the difference between whether or not you can get a line of credit or a loan.

The credit rating is a snapshot of everything you’ve ever done regarding the use of credit and your payment history. Fair Isaac Company (FICO) compiles all of this information and then applies a complicated mathematical formula that calculates your credit rating. The formula is not public knowledge and this is done with the blessing of the Federal Trade Commission.

The average credit rating for an American today is 720. Basically, the higher your credit rating is, the more credit worthy you are and the less problem you’ll have obtaining credit and loans. However, there are also many, many people with credit scores that fall below the 630 mark which means they are a credit risk and are likely to be denied credit just because of this rating.

Now lenders often know that things happen in life that can’t be avoided. If your low credit rating is due to excessive medical bills or life-altering events that reflect poorly on your credit report, you may be able to talk with them and provide documentation and still get approved. That’s why it’s important to monitor your credit report and attach notes to explain anything that reflects poorly against you.

It’s vital that you keep your credit rating as high as possible. That can be done by simply paying your bills on time, not overspending, not carrying a lot of credit card debt, and being sensible when it comes to buying things on credit. You should also check your credit report on at least an annual basis to make sure there are no mistakes on it. One error can bring your score down dramatically.

While some don’t like the idea of their whole financial history being scaled down to one three digit number, but in the financial world, the credit rating does rule the awarding of credit. If you want to buy a home or a car or even secure a line of credit on a credit card, you will have to have a credit rating of at least 675 if not higher.

Take steps today to raise your credit rating. Then when you need important things in life, you’ll have no problems.