The average credit score has fallen for the first time since 2013, according to FICO, the data analytics firm whose credit scoring models are used in 90% of lending decisions.

In October 2023, the most recent period for which data is available, the average FICO score was 717. That's a one-point decline from April of that year when it reached a record high of 718.

Introduced in 1989, FICO scores range from 300 to 850. Despite the downtick, a 717 is still considered a  "good" credit score (670 to 739). 

High interest rates and "persistent inflation" were cited as factors contributing to more missed payments and increased debt levels. On-time payments represent 35% of an individual's overall FICO score calculation and, as of October 2023, a little more than 18% of Americans were at least 30 days behind on one or more credit cards — a 4% increase from April 2023. Credit card debt hit $1.13 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2023, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, an increase of $50 billion from the previous quarter. 

A strong job market, slowing inflation and the removal of medical debt from information sent to the three main credit-reporting bureaus helped scores from sliding further, FICO said.

Credit cards for people with poor or fair credit

If your FICO score is less than average, there are still credit cards you can get approved for. One of the easiest cards to get is the Discover it® Secured Credit Card, which doesn't have any credit score requirements and, unlike most secured cards, earns rewards. Cardholders automatically earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants, up to $1,000 each quarter, and 1% cash back unlimited on all other purchases. As a welcome bonus, Discover will match all the cash you've earned after the first 12 months.

After seven months from account opening, Discover will automatically review your account to see if you can transition to an unsecured line of credit and return your $200 security deposit.

Discover it® Secured Credit Card

Learn More
On Discover's secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically. Plus earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

  • Welcome bonus

    Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    N/A on purchases

  • Regular APR

    28.24% Variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    New / Rebuilding

  • *See rates and fees, terms apply.

If you want to avoid a deposit, the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card is an unsecured card available to those with fair credit.

It has a modest $39 annual fee, but cardholders get a competitive 1.5% cash back on all purchases, with no limit on the amount of cash back you can earn. It also lets you monitor your TransUnion and Experian credit reports through CreditWise®.

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • Rewards

    Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, up to 6 months of complimentary Uber One membership statement credits through 11/14/2024

  • Welcome bonus

    None

  • Annual fee

    $39

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    29.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    $0 at the Transfer APR, 4% of the amount of each transferred balance that posts to your account at a promotional APR that Capital One may offer to you

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Average, Fair, or Limited

Terms apply.

Find the best credit card for you by reviewing offers in our credit card marketplace or get personalized offers via CardMatch™.

How to raise your credit score

FICO breaks its credit scores into five brackets:

  • Poor: 300 to 579
  • Fair: 580 to 669
  • Good: 670 to 739
  • Very good: 740 to 799
  • Excellent: 800 to 850

There are plenty of advantages to having a score that is good or better, like getting a lower mortgage rate or a credit card with competitive rewards. If you want to improve your score, there are a few easy ways to do it.

Your payment history is the largest factor in your FICO score, so paying bills on time and in full is the best way to prime your score. You can also ask your credit card company to increase your credit limit, which will lower your credit utilization ratio (but only if you leave the extra available credit untouched).

Experian Boost™ is a free service that links on-time utility, phone and subscription payments to your Experian credit report. Members also get free credit monitoring and a free copy of their FICO Score.

According to the company, users whose FICO scores improve see an average increase of 13 points.

Experian Boost™

Learn More
On Experian's secure site
  • Cost

    Free

  • Average credit score increase

    13 points, though results vary

  • Credit report affected

    Experian®

  • Credit scoring model used

    FICO® Score

Results will vary. See website for details.

How to sign up for Experian Boost:

  1. Connect the bank account(s) you use to pay your bills
  2. Choose and verify the positive payment data you want added to your Experian credit file
  3. Receive an updated FICO® Score

Learn more about eligible payments and how Experian Boost works.

Credit reports sometimes include errors that can erroneously lower your score. Experian IdentityWork℠ Premium reviews data from all three credit bureaus and informs users about score changes, new inquiries and accounts, changes to personal information and suspicious activity. It also provides regular updates on your basic FICO score.

Experian IdentityWorks℠

Learn More
On Experian's secure site.
  • Cost

    Basic: Free; Premium: 7-day trial, after $24.99 per month; Family: 7-day trial, after $34.99 per month

  • Credit bureaus monitored

    1-bureau credit monitoring, alerts and reports: Experian, with Basic plan only and 3-bureau credit monitoring, alerts and reports: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion®, with Premium and Family plans only

  • Credit scoring model used

    FICO® Score 8, with all plans

  • Dark web scan

    Yes, with all plans

  • Identity theft insurance

    Yes, up to $1 million with all plans

Terms apply.

*Identity Theft Insurance underwritten by insurance company subsidiaries or affiliates of American International Group, Inc. (AIG). The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.

Compare offers to find the best loan

Bottom line

While the average FICO Score in the U.S. has dropped one point to 717, that's still considered a good credit score that can access the best interest rates and credit cards with competitive rewards. If your score is less than average, there are several ways you can improve it.

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At CNBC Select, our mission is to provide our readers with high-quality service journalism and comprehensive consumer advice so they can make informed decisions with their money. Every credit monitoring article is based on rigorous reporting by our team of expert writers and editors with extensive knowledge of credit scores and credit products. While CNBC Select earns a commission from affiliate partners on many offers and links, we create all our content without input from our commercial team or any outside third parties, and we pride ourselves on our journalistic standards and ethics.

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*Results may vary. Some may not see improved scores or approval odds. Not all lenders use Experian credit files, and not all lenders use scores impacted by Experian Boost.

For rates and fees of the Discover it® Secured Credit Card, click here.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.