For a score with a range between 300-850, a credit score of 700 or above is generally considered good. A score of 800 or above on the same range is considered to be excellent. Most credit scores fall between 600 and 750. Higher scores represent better credit decisions and can make creditors more confident that you will repay your future debts as agreed.
Credit scores are used by lenders, including banks providing mortgage loans, credit card companies, and even car dealerships financing auto purchases, to make decisions about whether or not to offer your credit (such as a credit card or loan) and what the terms of the offer (such as the interest rate or down payment) will be. There are many different types of credit scores. FICO® Scores* and scores by VantageScore are two of the most common types of credit scores, but industry-specific scores also exist.
What Is a Good FICO® Score?
One of the most well-known types of credit score are FICO® Scores, created by the Fair Isaac Corporation. FICO® Scores are used by many lenders, and often range from 300 to 850. Generally, a FICO® Score above 670 is considered a good credit score on these models, and a score above 800 is usually perceived to be exceptional.
What Is a Good VantageScore?
Scores by VantageScore are also types of credit scores that are commonly used by lenders. The VantageScore was developed by the 3 major credit bureaus including Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. The latest VantageScore 3.0 model uses a range between 300 and 850. A VantageScore above 700 is generally considered to be good, while above 750 is considered to be excellent.
Why Credit Scores Matter
Credit scores are decision-making tools that lenders use to help them anticipate how likely you are to repay your loan on time. Credit scores are also sometimes called risk scores because they help lenders assess the risk that you won’t be able to repay the debt as agreed.
Having good credit is important because it determines whether you’ll qualify for a loan. And, depending on the interest rate of the loan you qualify for, it could mean the difference between hundreds and even thousands of dollars in savings. A good credit score could also mean that you are able to rent the apartment you want, or even get cell phone service that you need.
Think of your credit scores like a report card that you might review at the end of a school term, but instead of letter grades, your activity ends up within a scoring range. However, unlike academic grades, credit scores aren’t stored as part of your credit history. Rather, your score is generated each time a lender requests it, according to the credit scoring model of their choice.
Credit Scores Do Not Consider the Following Information:
- Your race, color, religion, national origin, sex or marital status (U. S. law prohibits credit scoring formulas from considering these facts, any receipt of public assistance or the exercise of any consumer right under the Consumer Credit Protection Act.)
- Your age
- Your salary, occupation, title, employer, date employed or employment history (However, lenders may consider this information in making their overall approval decisions.)
- Where you live
- Certain types of inquiries (requests for your credit report). The score does not count “consumer disclosure inquiry,” which is a request you have made for your own credit report in order to check it. It also does not count “promotional inquiry” requests made by lenders in order to make a “preapproved” credit offer or “account review inquiry” requests made by lenders to review your account with them. Inquiries for employment purposes are also not counted.
Minimum Credit Scores
There is no minimum credit score needed to apply for most loans or credit cards. However, you are less likely to qualify for a loan or credit card and less likely to receive favorable rates when your credit score is low. If you are trying to qualify for a conventional loan or credit card with a low credit score, you may wish to wait until your credit improves, so you can ensure you get the best rates possible.
Some mortgage servicers such as the FHA provide general guidelines for those with credit scores on the lower end:
- FHA mortgage loans require a minimum of 580 or higher with a 3.5% down payment.
- For FHA applicants under 580, qualification for a loan is still possible, but a 10% down payment would be required along with meeting other requirements. See FHA’s site for more information.
What to Do If You Don’t Have a Credit Score
In some cases, you might not have enough credit history to have a credit score. Depending on your age, there are several ways to establish credit.
If you are under 21, you must have a cosigner or be able to demonstrate that you have an adequate source of income to pay back any credit that is extended. With responsible usage, a parent cosigning a credit card (or adding you as an authorized user to one of their accounts) is a great way to help establish a positive credit history.
For others, the best way to establish credit may be to work with your bank or credit union to open an account with a small credit limit to get you started. Opening a secured credit card is another way to get started building your credit. Then, with time and good account management, a good credit history (and scores) will be within your reach.