- Your credit score range is more important than the exact number.
- Moving from one range to the next can make meaningful differences in your ability to get credit — and your personal finances.
- Lenders typically use a combination of the range in which your credit score falls and their own analysis of your credit history when deciding whether to lend you money.
IN THIS ARTICLE
- What does your credit score mean?
- Who generates your credit score?
- What are the different credit score ranges?
- What types of credit may be available in each credit score range?
- Do lenders lower their rates for every point increase in credit score?
- How do credit score ranges affect your interest rate?
- Ways to improve your credit score and jump to a higher range
- Learning the nuances of credit score ranges
- Frequently asked questions
Credit Score Ranges Explained
You may already know that most major credit scores range from 300 to 850, and that your score falls somewhere between those numbers. But this may lead you to ask, is there really a difference between a score of 636 and 637? The answer is, not really. What’s more important are the 40 point ranges of scores between 300 and 850 and how they relate to your credit access and cost.
What does your credit score mean?
In technical terms, a credit score measures the likelihood that the individual will default on any debt in the next two years. That means the higher your score, the lower the odds are that you will fail to repay your debts. Hence, a higher score gives you more credit access and lowers the cost of the available credit for you.
Who generates your credit score?
The two most widely used consumer credit scoring models are the FICO Score and VantageScore. The FICO Credit Score is calculated by Fair Isaac Corporation and used by the majority of lenders when making lending decisions. The VantageScore system is a FICO competitor and was created by a partnership of the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
Your credit score is a three-digit number that represents your creditworthiness at a moment in time based on information in your credit report. Both FICO and VantageScore use the same top and bottom points in their scoring, but the way they divvy up the ranges between them differs a bit. In either case, however, the higher the number, the lower the perceived credit risk is to the lender.
What are the different credit score ranges?
Both FICO and VantageScore have credit score ranges that label your three-digit credit score from very poor to excellent credit. We don't find those good credit-bad credit labels to be particularly helpful by themselves. What's more helpful, in our opinion, is for people to understand how their credit score translates to the types of credit or interest rates that may be available to them. For that reason, we designed a better reference.
The following chart is your guide to understanding how credit score ranges can impact both access and cost of credit.
What types of credit may be available in each credit score range?
Here is a simple summary of the credit available in each range.
- 300 - 499: Possibly no credit available, may have access to secured credit cards or payday loans.
- 500 - 539: Few credit options available, probably only secured credit cards or payday loans.
- 540 - 579:Secured credit cards and short-term emergency credit options will be available, these will likely come with high-interest rates.
- 580 - 619: Typically considered the minimum range for a mortgage. Limited access to auto loans and standard credit cards, but will come at higher costs.
- 620 - 659: Credit cards with fees and low limits are likely an option. You can get a mortgage or auto loan with these scores, although higher interest rates will be expected. Expect requirements for higher down payments or an offer of lower credit limits.
- 660 - 699: A wide range of credit is generally available, although some lenders may not offer certain products. Expect higher fees and interest rates than the best rates. For mortgages or auto loans, this may mean an additional 2 to 5% on the interest rate from the best scores, for personal loans or credit cards, the difference may be more.
- 700 - 739: Most types of credit will be available, and interest rates will be competitive.
- 740 and above: All types of credit at the best rates are generally available and only be limited by your income.
Do lenders lower their rates for every point increase in credit score?
Probably not. We say probably because we don’t know exactly how each and every lender works. Instead, lenders typically use a combination of the range in which your credit score falls and their own analysis of your credit history. A single point change in credit score isn’t really meaningful. But a change of 40 points is meaningful. (That’s why we built Score40). By breaking down credit scores into 40-point ranges, you can better understand what different lenders see and the choices they make.
How do credit score ranges affect your interest rate?
Credit access will be extremely limited for borrowers who fall in the 500-539 credit score range — and if they qualify for financing, they’ll likely face very high interest rates, less attractive terms and added fees. On the other hand, borrowers whose credit score falls in the 700-739 range will likely be approved for credit — and get offers with competitive interest rates and favorable terms.
To illustrate the difference a credit score makes, here are two real-world examples:
- Say you’re applying for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage and your credit score is right around 650. You’d likely be offered an APR that’s 2-4 percentage points higher than the best interest rate, currently 4.5%, according to a FICO calculator that compares credit score ranges, loans, terms offered and current interest rates.
- Alternatively, if your credit score was at least 700, you may qualify for the lowest available rate, currently at 3.7% — or less. That difference means you could end up saving a meaningful amount (in this case, an extra $51,684 in interest) over the loan term.
- Let’s say you’re hoping to buy a $26,000 new car and finance it with a 60-month auto loan. If your credit score was 580, for example, the current interest rate you’d be offered on that loan if you qualified could be a very high 16%.
- Alternatively, if your credit score was 690 or more, the interest rate on the same loan could drop to 5% — or even less. That higher score would save you nearly $8,500 in interest paid over the life of the loan.
You can use a tool like FICO’s Loan Savings Calculator to estimate how much you could save based on the different credit score ranges.
Ways to improve your credit score and jump to a higher range
Doing things such as paying down debt, paying bills on time and building a credit history over time can help improve your score. That’s because the credit rating agencies take into account important factors such as payment history, the percent of the credit limit being used (or utilization), credit mix and how long accounts have been open.
How much these factors can improve your credit score can vary person-to-person, but here are a few guidelines that our research has shown:
- Reducing your credit utilization usually improves your credit score about 5 to 15 points for every 10% decrease in utilization.
- Bringing your accounts current and keeping them current for just a few months can improve your score by 30 points or more.
- Making one year’s worth of on-time payments on all your accounts can be a very positive jump — up to 100 points if you were recently past due.
Learning the nuances of credit score ranges
Moving up into a higher range of credit scores can make a meaningful difference in your financial life. The higher your credit score climbs, the better your odds of qualifying for the financing at more favorable terms. That said, it’s also not necessary to think you have to strive for an absolutely perfect score. Aim for a range that will help you reach the level of credit you need at a cost that’s affordable.
Frequently asked questions
What is the average credit score?
What elements impact your credit score the most?
Many calculations go into a credit score, but the most important factor is payment history. In fact, it makes up 35% of the FICO Score. In addition to having a track record of on-time payments, amounts owed (30%), length of credit history (15%), new credit (10%) and credit mix (10%) also factor into the credit score equation.
Does checking my credit score lower it?
Checking your own credit score does not impact the score, nor cause lower scores. Doing so is considered a soft inquiry, which has nothing to do with approving or issuing credit. A hard inquiry into your credit file is used to make a decision as to whether to extend credit to you at your request, so it can temporarily impact your credit score and will appear on your credit report.