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Black Americans, Heres How You Can Increase Your FICO Credit Score

Having good credit is crucial in our society as it reflects your financial responsibility to employers, landlords, and lenders. Shockingly, an Urban Institute survey in 2017 revealed that merely 21% of Black Americans boasted a credit score exceeding 700. Moreover, obtaining a credit card required a fair credit score, yet in 2020, a staggering 72% of Black Americans were without one. Another survey disclosed that 54% of Black Americans either lacked credit history or possessed fair/poor credit, resulting in an average credit score of 677—fair but leaning towards the lower spectrum.

In 2019, my FICO credit score was stuck at 508, classified as poor. Fast forward to May 2024, and it proudly stands at 781, marking it as "very good." Allow me to share the journey behind this remarkable transformation and help you become one of the 21% as well.

I've Increased My FICO Score from 508 to 665

I increased my FICO score from 508 (December 17, 2019) to 665 (January 10, 2022) in approximately two years. Here's how I made this initial jump.

508 Credit Score

I worked as a security guard for Google in New York City. I mention this job title only in passing to express I did not have a very lucrative job. At the time, I only had a SERVE prepaid card because I couldn't get a bank debit card due to past mistakes I'd made. I wanted to improve my credit score, so I searched Google for solutions. That's when I came across Chime, a debit card tied to Stride bank. I signed up, received my debit card, and funded it within a week.

Two weeks later, I received an email from Chime offering me the Chime Credit Builder card, aka Chime Credit Card. This secured credit card helps users build credit by reporting their usage to all three major credit bureaus. Naturally, I decided to sign up for the Credit Builder card because it's the only card I really wanted. I initially funded my Credit Builder card with $200 - $500. When my balance was under $100, I'd add between $100 - $200 more. I used my Chime Credit Builder card to subscribe to Google's Gsuite Email service ($6) & Canva ($14). These were the only two payments I made with the card, with an occasional Grubhub/Door Dash delivery once a month.

It had been a year and a half since I paid attention to my FICO score. To be honest, I forgot about my goal of trying to increase my credit score. Then one day, I poked around in the r/personalfinance subreddit and noticed some Redditors were discussing how to improve their credit scores. That's when I decided to look up my score and saw that I no longer had a score of 508 , but I now a rating of 665.

665 Credit Score

I went back to the personal finance subreddit attempting to gather as much information as possible on how people were able to increase their scores. As I was browsing for answers a reoccuring theme kept popping up. Users kept suggesting that when you open a new line of credit, you're score will immediately drop (because the company will conduct a hard credit check) but then it will increase higher than it originally was

I decided to give this suggestion a try. I searched for "fair credit cards" in Google search engine. I would not recommend applying for another credit card until you're credit score is "fair. With the help of Nerdwallet and Wallet Hub I applied for a Capital One credit card and was approved. As mentioned in the subreddit my current credit score dropped immediately. However, after a month my score shot up to 728 (February 7, 2022).

728 Credit Score

How I've Increased My FICO Score From 728 to 781

Over time, I've increased my FICO credit score from 728 to its current level of 781. There wasn't a specific plan in place to achieve this; I simply continued paying my bills on time, and the extended credit history likely contributed to the improvement.

781 FICO credit score

However, in December 2023, I used 90% of my available credit on my card. The recommended utilization rate for good standing with FICO is 10%, so this high usage caused my credit score to drop significantly from 728 to the mid 600s. Within two weeks, I paid off the balance, and although I can't be certain, I believe this series of actions contributed to my score rebounding to around 770 and eventually reaching 781.

781 FICO credit score
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