What Is a Good Credit Score? Understanding Credit Score Ranges and Why They Are Important

Do you know what credit score range is considered a good credit score? Find out how to get a good credit score and how your credit score affects your ability to borrow money at favorable rates.
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You have seen the commercials and heard the radio jingles, so by now, you know that a good credit score is important. But what is a good credit score? Generally, anything around 700 or above is considered a good FICO credit score.

But that is not the end of the story. The reality is that a good credit score doesn’t guarantee a loan or mean that you are in good financial shape.

A good credit score just gives the lender another piece of information to help determine your credit worthiness. Your ability to get a loan depends on many factors, including your credit report, your credit history, amount of available credit, credit utilization, and other factors.

Many lenders even use specific types of credit scores for certain loans. For example, the FICO 8 score is often used by mortgage companies to determine one’s ability to qualify for a mortgage.

Expert Tip: Get a free copy of your credit score.

Table of Contents
  1. Two Credit Scoring Models: FICO® and VantageScore
    1. What is a Good Fico® Credit Score Range?
    2. What Is a Good VantageScore?
  2. Why You Need a Good Credit Score
  3. What is a Good Credit Score by Age?
  4. What Affects Your Credit Scores?
    1. Payment History – 35%
    2. Credit Utilization Ratio – 30%
    3. Length of Credit History – 15%
    4. Credit Mix – 10%
    5. Recent Inquiries and Newly Opened Accounts – 10%
  5. Effect of Credit Score on 30-Year Fixed Mortgage Rates
  6. How Your Credit Score Affects Auto Loans
  7. How Your Credit Score Can Impact Other Areas of Your Life
  8. What is a Bad Credit Score?
  9. Why None of Your Credit Scores are the Same
    1. Tweaking Credit Scores
    2. More Consumer Information Being Used to Build a Profile
  10. How to Improve Your Credit Scores

Two Credit Scoring Models: FICO® and VantageScore

Most of us think of FICO® when we think of credit scores. Fair Isaac Company pioneered credit scoring as we know it today, coming up with a complex formula to predict borrower behavior based on past credit users’ behavior.

Fair Isaac Company uses information in your credit report to come up with the FICO® score. But FICO® is more than just one score.

Indeed, Fair Isaac has several different scores that it markets to financial services providers to use when evaluating you. A depositor score rates your banking behaviors and a mortgage score that lenders can use to determine your default risk.

VantageScore is another credit score model created by the three major credit agencies. Unlike the FICO® score, which ranges from 300 – 850, the VantageScore ranges from 501-990.

Additionally, the VantageScore also includes a letter rating of A to F. According to the VantageScore website, this credit scoring model is slightly more friendly toward those who use credit irregularly.

The credit agencies claim that the VantageScore, which also gets the data for its scores from credit reports, can help provide an accurate look at those who may be penalized by the FICO score for not using credit as frequently.

What’s your FICO® Score? Find out now with a purchase of your Experian Credit Report for $1 with enrollment in Experian CreditWorksSM!

What is a Good Fico® Credit Score Range?

FICO® is the acronym for Fair Isaac Corporation and the name for the credit scoring model that Fair Isaac Corporation developed.

This proprietary mathematical formula determines your credit score. There are many different versions of credit scores, but the most commonly referenced is the FICO® credit score, considered the industry standard.

Your credit score is based on a weighted formula that includes your payment history, amounts owed, age of credit history, recent loans, and the types of credit you have. The FICO® credit scores range from 300 to 850, and a good credit score range is considered 700 – 850.

Here are more credit score ranges and their ratings.

FICO® scores predict the likelihood of someone falling 90 days behind on a bill within the next 24 months. FICO® does this using complex algorithms based on information in your credit report from each national credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.

Credit scoring models rank consumer credit behavior, so someone with a higher score is considered less likely to miss a payment than someone with a lower score. That means a higher score can help you secure better terms when applying for credit.

FICO® periodically releases new versions of its scores and creates different versions of its scores to work with each bureau’s databases, which is why there are many FICO® scores.

Score numbers will vary a bit, but generally accepted ranges are:

  • Good credit score: above 700
  • Average credit score: 680 – 700 (depending on the source)
  • Poor credit score: Below 620
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What Is a Good VantageScore?

VantageScore is one of many scoring models that look at the information in your credit reports and generate a number designed to communicate the likelihood you’ll pay your bills on time. You may have seen your VantageScore delivered through educational websites or your credit card statement.

It is similar and accepted as an industry-standard in many cases.

Since its creation, there have been four VantageScore credit score models. VantageScore versions 1.0 and 2.0 used a scale from 501 to 900, corresponding with letter grades from A to F.

The VantageScore 3.0 model introduced in 2013 adopted the 300 to 850 range. VantageScore 4.0 was released in April 2017 and uses a range of 300 to 850.

A score from 750 to 850 is considered excellent or super prime, while scores between 700 to 749 are considered good. Scores between 650 and 699 are considered fair.

Scores in the 550 to 649 range are poor, and 300-549 are very poor scores.

According the Experian, more than 60% of Americans have a VantageScore of Fair or better.

Why You Need a Good Credit Score

A good or bad credit score doesn’t guarantee a loan or necessarily prevent you from getting a loan. A good credit score will make it easier to be approved for a loan, allow you to have more available credit, and qualify you for lower interest rates when you are approved for a loan.

And low-interest rates can make a HUGE difference over the life of a loan.

How a good or bad credit score affects interest rates. Loans are available to almost anyone, even people with a poor credit score.

But the terms and size of the loan will vary widely. The difference will come from the required down payment or the interest rate you will have to pay.

Let’s look at some examples of how good and poor credit scores will affect your payment structure on a mortgage, then on an auto loan.

There is a substantial difference in monthly payments between high and poor credit scores, and the payments over the life of the loan should be enough to convince you that a good credit score is valuable!

What is a Good Credit Score by Age?

According to American Express, Americans’ average FICO® credit score rose to 711 as of July 2020.

By most lending standards, 711 is considered a “good” credit score. And anyone at any age, location, or income level can build a good – or even excellent – credit score.

Yet not all age groups, states, or income levels tend to have the same average scores.

FICO® pays attention to age when calculating your credit score, but not the way you might expect. The average length of your credit history matters, not how old you are in years.

By itself, your age is generally not a great indicator of credit score. It’s entirely possible for a young person to have a high score and an older person to have a low score.

AgeAverage FICO Score
20-29662
30-39673
40-49684
50-59706
60+749

What Affects Your Credit Scores?

There are five variables used to calculate a FICO score. Each one is weighted differently, producing an overall score when combined. Those variables are:

Payment History – 35%

Older accounts have made more payments, increasing a person’s scores if those payments were consistently on time, or decreasing them if too many were made late.

Credit Utilization Ratio – 30%

As our incomes grow, it can affect how high a credit limit we receive. The lower your credit utilization ratio, the greater the chance it will positively affect your credit score. For example, if you have $10,000 in total credit and use $5,000 of it, your utilization ratio is 50%.

Length of Credit History – 15%

Account age increases over time. That’s part of the reason why you should keep your oldest accounts open. It works in your favor.

Credit Mix – 10%

Credit agencies like to see that you can responsibly handle various types of debt. When you’re young, you might only have a credit card account, while a 40-year-old might have a car loan, mortgage, personal loan, and several credit cards.

Recent Inquiries and Newly Opened Accounts – 10%

You’ll see a ding in your credit score when you open a new account because the lender makes a “hard inquiry” into your account. A hard inquiry will stop affecting your credit score in a year.

Get matched with credit cards based on your FICO® Score

Effect of Credit Score on 30-Year Fixed Mortgage Rates

The score ranges and interest rates below come directly from the MyFICO website. There are three examples given for credit score ranges and interest rates, one is for auto loans, and the other compares credit score and interest rate ranges for 15 and 30-year mortgages.

The example below is from the 30-year fixed mortgage at $300,000:

FICO® scoreAPRMonthly Mortgage Payment
760-8504.645%$1,546
700-7594.867%$1,586
680-6995.044%$1,619
660-6795.258%$1,658
640-6595.688%$1,739
620-6396.234%$1,844

Comparing good credit mortgage rates and bad credit mortgage rates. Using the numbers above, you will notice there isn’t a big difference in the monthly payment from the top credit score to the second tier credit score range of 700-759 (anything over 700 is generally considered a good credit score range).

Once you drop into the lower tier credit score ranges, you will see a large monthly difference in your payments. But thinking in terms of monthly payments can be an expensive way to think, especially when you consider that this is for a 30-year mortgage.

Even with the best credit score, making minimum payments on a 30-year mortgage means paying $256,564.15 in interest over the life of the loan. Paying 6.234% interest over the life of a 30-year mortgage equates to paying $363,851.12 in total interest.

To put it another way, that monthly difference of $298 equals a difference of over $107,000 over the life of the loan.

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How Your Credit Score Affects Auto Loans

Using the same concept we used above, let’s examine how your credit score range affects your monthly auto payments. The MyFICO website references a 36-month fixed-rate auto loan for $25,000.

FICO® scoreAPRMonthly Auto Payment
760-8505.715%$757
700-7597.354%$776
680-6999.380%$799
660-67913.196%$845
640-65918.039%$904
620-63918.680%$912

Comparing good credit auto loan rates and bad credit auto loan rates. As you can see, the monthly difference between the good and poor credit score ranges is $155, or over $5,500 for the life of the loan.

How Your Credit Score Can Impact Other Areas of Your Life

Some other companies or industries may also check your credit history or credit score. Here are some ways they may use your score:

Employers: Whether it’s right or wrong, employers believe that financial health is a good determinant of whether a potential employee will steal. Reviewing a credit history has become standard in background investigations, especially if they are security related, because bribes may tempt someone in difficult financial shape.

While bankruptcy can’t be a factor in a hiring decision, everything else is fair game.

Insurance companies: It’s unclear why insurance companies use credit in their decisions, but the fact they do is obvious.

The lower your credit score, the higher your premiums will be. For whatever reason, their actuaries have determined that lower scores mean more claims.

Landlords: Landlords check credit scores and histories because they’re essentially “lending” the rent value each month. If you’re unable to meet other obligations regularly, you might not be able to make rent, and that’s a problem.

This same logic applies to service contracts, like cable or cell phone service.

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What is a Bad Credit Score?

Have a poor credit score? Credit scores under 620 are often considered sub-prime loans and come with more risk to the lender. Borrowers with credit scores in this range often pay substantially higher interest rates.

If you fall below the subprime loan cutoff limit, it may be best to try and improve your credit score before applying for a loan. You may find it easier to obtain a loan, and the terms will likely be better.

Remember, not all is lost. As mentioned above, you can almost always find someone to give you a loan if you need one.

You will see a difference in terms of the loan, though. You may be required to pay a larger down payment or higher interest rates to get the loan you seek.

Why None of Your Credit Scores are the Same

Many people are surprised when they look at their credit scores and see that they don’t match up. A credit score may differ across different credit bureaus, and those scores are often slightly different than what you see when you get your free FICO credit score.

Sometimes the difference is more than a “little.” In some cases, your might find that your credit scores vary by up to 20 points — or more.

Why is this? The answer is that credit scoring models differ across agencies and financial institutions.

Tweaking Credit Scores

One of the reasons that each agency comes up with a different score for you is that not all agencies have the same information reported to them. But, on top of that, each agency also tweaks the FICO score (except Experian, which does not use the FICO score).

But credit agencies aren’t alone in tweaking the formula. Many lenders and insurers emphasize certain factors more or less in their scoring models and consider other information.

The result of this is that your credit score can vary widely, depending on what information the institution figuring your score has and what information is emphasized more in their only variations of credit scoring formulas.

More Consumer Information Being Used to Build a Profile

Lenders and other financial services providers rely on more than a simple score model. Credit score systems are becoming increasingly complex, and some creditors are also striking out on their own to do additional research.

The Fed has decided that lenders can use “income estimates” from credit bureaus to verify your income. Some lenders check what you say about money on your social media profile. On top of that, creditors can pinpoint exact purchases made with debit and credit cards.

This information can be used to construct consumer profiles that financial services providers can use. It is even possible that ever-evolving credit scoring models will begin to take some of this data into consideration.

How to Improve Your Credit Scores

Your credit score plays an essential role in your ability to obtain a loan, the amount of available credit you can carry, and the interest rates you pay. It’s never too soon or too late to work on improving your credit scores.

Here are some things you can do to make that happen:

Review Your Credit Reports. You need to know what might be working for or against you, and the best way to do that is to check your credit history.

Pull a copy of your credit report from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion and familiarize yourself with what’s in each.

Get a Handle on Bill Payments. Avoid late payments at all costs. You will pay a horrible price for late or non-payment of your existing obligations.

Aim for 30% Credit Utilization or Less. Pay your credit card balances in full each month if you can. If not, aim for a total outstanding balance at 30% or less of your total credit limit.

Then start reducing that down to 10% or less, which is considered ideal for improving your credit score.

Limit Your Requests for New Credit and Hard Inquiries. Hard inquiries include applications for a new credit card, mortgage, auto loan, or another form of new credit. The occasional hard inquiry is unlikely to have much of an effect.

But several in a short period can damage your credit score.

Make the Most of a Thin Credit File. Having a thin credit file means that you don’t have enough credit history on your report to generate a credit score. However, there are ways to fatten up a thin credit file and earn a good credit score using Experian Boost or UltraFICO.

Keep Old Accounts Open and Deal with Delinquencies. The older your average credit age, the more favorably you appear to lenders.

Consider Consolidating Your Debts. If you have several outstanding debts, it could be advantageous to take out a debt consolidation loan from a bank or credit union and pay off all of them.

Use Credit Monitoring to Track Your Progress. These services monitor changes in your credit report, including paid-off accounts or a new account you’ve opened.

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is The Military Wallet's founder. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over six years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the Illinois Air National Guard.

Ryan started The Military Wallet in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about personal finance and investing at Cash Money Life.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free Personal Capital account here.

Featured In: Ryan's writing has been featured in the following publications: Forbes, Military.com, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, Reserve & National Guard Magazine (print and online editions), Military Influencer Magazine, Cash Money Life, The Military Guide, USAA, Go Banking Rates, and many other publications.

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  1. Sunman says

    Hey Ryan,

    I’m coming off have poor credit because of neglected credit cards I started using as a teenager. After they were maxed out I just paid the minimum then eventually stopped doing that and for years was strictly cash and carry.

    Two years ago I checked my credit score and of course it was about 520. Since then I’ve paid off all my bill (many were ‘settled’ – not sure of that has an adverse effect or not) – now debt free, but my score has flatlined around 650 and the dings are not going to be off my credit score for another 4 years.

    I just got a credit card to stimulate my activity, but I’m wondering what else I can do to get my credit built up faster. Any advice I would greatly appreciate.

    Thanks

    -S

  2. Markus says

    I just recently ( with in the last 90 days) paid off the last and only 2 bad items of my debt but it has not dropped off my credit history. I have called each of the credit bureaus (Equifax & Experian) and all of the stated that even if you have paid them off they can still stay on your report for the full seven years. I thought it was kind of strange I had one other creditor on my report, paid it off and it dropped off with in 30 days. What can I do to get paid/closed items off my report.. The credit bureaus won’t even let me dispute it…

    By the way none of the bad items are on my Trans Union report..

    • Ryan Guina says

      The only time you can dispute a record on your credit report is when the record is an error. If the record on your report is true, then you can’t have it removed. Items usually remain on your credit report for 7 years, whether the item is good or bad. The report will typically show the line of credit, the available balance, the date it was opened, the payment history, and several other factors. All of these details are used to help create your credit score. As time goes on, the older elements make up a much lesser part of your score. So for now, the best thing to do is to continue having a good credit record. That will help you improve your score.

  3. Garen says

    Hey Ryan,

    Recently, I bought a townhouse (well rented one) and I talked with the leasing manager. The funny thing is we got to talking and guess a lot of leasing agents don’t really pull your “score”. In fact, they just check your credit report over the last 2-3 years. As long as there are no negative marks, bankruptcies, ect they will accept you, but if there are more than 5 marks they will just require a bigger deposit prior to moving in. It might be different from city to city or state to state. They all have their own rules and regulations.

    It might be a good idea to talk with your lender to see if they go by your credit score along because you could have a sub-par credit score or lack of credit but no marks which would allow you to get accepted.

  4. Leon Rupp says

    I recently applied for a refinance on a mortgage loan. The credit scores were as follows:
    Transunion 820
    Equifax 701
    Experian 678
    why such a difference in scores????
    The only blotch on my credit is a $19 disputed bill from trash service.

    • Ryan says

      I’m not sure, Leon. I would get a credit report from each of the bureaus (you can get one free credit report each year from each of the bureaus). Then compare each report to the others and make sure they are all accurate. It’s possible there is some erroneous or outdated information on one or more reports which is bringing your score down. You should also contact the credit bureaus to inform them about the bill that is in dispute. It’s possible that is bringing your score down, and having that removed could improve your credit score. Best of luck.

  5. Ross says

    Pat’s comment hits on exactly what I think about every time I read an article about credit scores. It’s called a CREDIT score for a reason, that reason being that it’s simply an indicator of how reliable of a person you are. I for one am all for employers checking credit scores, as I think it typically speaks volumes about a person’s character, like how trustworthy and responsible they are and how well they honor their obligations.

    My only caveat to this opinion would be a situation where a person has never missed a payment and has been financially responsible, but just doesn’t have much of a credit history.

    • Glendon Cameron says

      I owned a company that hired MANY folks with bad credit, and many turned out to be great employees, I don’t see how a credit would determine how many people would fair in a job. It all depends on the job, finance, accounting, banking, I totally understand why your credit is interest, if you can’t handle your own money how can you handle a customers.

      Many employers are checking your credit to see if you have any convictions, liens, garnishments which are on your public records section. Insurance companies in my opinion use credit scores to jack up your rates, how does your credit score bear on your driving record, your home owners insurance ???

      If you are debt free, it is incredibly easy to have a high score! Keep four cards with high limits that you use once or twice a month and pay those card off every month, then you are good to go!

      • Ross says

        Glendon,

        I’ve never owned a business with employees before, so obviously you have more of an insight than I do.

        I would just think that if I were interviewing people to work for me and represent my company, I would want to find out as much as possible about that person (especially if it’s for some type of financial position like you mentioned), and I really think that a person’s credit history says at least a little something about a person’s character.

        I agree about how easy credit-building is with no debt. Just as long as the balance is paid off every month and not forgotten about.

  6. Pat S says

    Credit scores make a difference, even if you aspire to live debt free. Even employers are using credit scores to screen potential applicants these days.

  7. The Penny Hoarder says

    I do find it frustrating that the 3 credit bureaus never have the same information and thus different scores. They have created a monopoly out of the industry and yet I’m always surprised at how awful their reliability is.

  8. john nyikos says

    i have my son as a authroize user on some credit cards how does thst effect his credit score and if i take him off will that effect his score? thank you

    • Susan says

      Hey John,

      If your son is just an authorized user of your credit card it doesn’t affect his credit at all. If he is trying to build credit himself he needs to open his own account. The only person’s credit score that can be affected is your’s.

      • Jim says

        Not true I was able to build a fico score of 770 as an authorized user on my parents account just by purchasing and paying off what I had purchased without any other ways of building credit such as other cards or other bills

      • Paul says

        Jim, that is not correct. A credit card is assigned to one person’s social security number and can only be reported on that person’s credit report. It would be illegal for them to report that credit card on your credit report whether they reported favorably or not. Don’t believe me? Ask for a copy of your credit report and see for yourself… that card will not be listed on your report. Your credit score went up for other reasons, not from being a signer of your parent’s credit card.

  9. mike flori says

    On 5-23-2010 I checked my three credit scores from Transunion, Experian, and Equifax and found my scores range from 828 – 848 although they listed my credit grade as a “B” and not an “A”. Does this mean the scale has changed and these scores are now only average? They showed a scale ranging from 501 – 990 with anything above 900 an “A”. From what I recall, an 850 score was at the top of the scale previously.

    • Ryan says

      Mike, the FICO credit score range goes up to 850. It seems like you checked your credit score using the VantageScore credit scoring system. VantageScore is a credit score system run by the three major credit bureaus. It utilizes the same data that the FICO score uses (based on your credit report), but hte score ranges are different. Most lenders still use the FICO system, so be sure to check with your lender before applying for a loan.

  10. Glendon Cameron says

    One way to avoid a bad credit score is to use credit sparing at best. The only thing I finance now is real estate and no I am not rich. It just take learning how to save. Regardless of how good your score is, those bills must paid.

    Paying bills = paying interest

    interest=lost buying power!

  11. Kevin Khachatryan says

    You’re entitled to one free credit score a year that shows the areas that affect your credit, both positively and negatively.

    Another good resource is creditkarma.com… check it out, it grades your credit and tells you what to do to improve.

    • Ryan says

      It’s actually one free credit report from annualcreditreport.com. You can read more about that topic here: free credit report from annualcreditreport.com.

      Most companies don’t give away a free copy of your credit score unless you sign up for one of their credit monitoring trials. CreditKarma.com gives an approximate score based on factors from the credit reporting agencies, but it is not the FICO credit score. However, it can give you a good idea if you don’t need to know your exact score.

  12. fredct says

    The employer, IMHO, has a vested interest in knowing your score, especially if you handle money such as in retail or finances. Someone deeply in debt would be more tempted to steal or embezzle.

    Likewise, if you work in a job that has access to ‘company secrets’ someone deeply in debt would be more easily bribed to give away that information. That’s the same logic as to why the government checks you for clearance jobs. It may not be quite as life and death, but it is very important for the company. If KFC hires someone who sells their secret blend of herbs & spices to pay off their credit cards debt (a silly, but relevant example), the company is in trouble.

    Auto insurance is more of those ‘who knows why but it works’ things. People with high credit scores tend to have lower rates of claims. It could be because they have better financial resources and won’t claim as many little things. It could be because someone who is responsible with money is more likely to be ‘responsible’ with other things in life, such as driving. It could be something else, or it could be some combination of all of them. It’s not really ‘fair’, but it works and that’s why it’s widespread.

  13. John Hunter says

    It does seem like those using credit scores are stretching the sensible use of them. Once problem is I highly question the ability of most companies to think of it as one factor. I would not be surprise all sorts of them have some arbitrary cutoff numbers. Even when it is useful it is only one measure and a fairly odd one in many ways (like that it pays no attention to the assets you have).

    Once insurers figure out that low credit scores correlate with poor insurance risk it is certainly understandable that they want to use that factor in their decisions. It may not seem “fair.” Many things about insurance are not fair. Plenty of young drivers are responsible, safe and accident free. But since many people of that age are irresponsible and accident prone all young people must pay more for care insurance.

  14. Hank says

    The military also uses credit scores to determine what type of security clearance (secret, top secret, etc.). Being too much in debt limits the type of job you can hold, whether you can go to OCS and become an officer, your security risk “to steal” secrets, and how much pressure you might be under to give up those secrets. If you are severely in debt with bad credit, you may not be allowed to continue in the military, join to begin with, and your job prospects are severely limited.

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