Understanding the different credit score ranges

Credit scores can give lenders a general idea of how financially responsible you are. Anytime you need to borrow money—whether you’re buying a home, taking out a student loan or applying for a credit card—lenders might consider your credit scores.

You might have been told your credit scores need to be within a certain range to qualify for certain loans. But what are the credit score ranges? And how do they work? Keep reading to find out about the different credit score ranges.

Key takeaways

  • A credit score is a three-digit number that can help inform lenders’ decisions about things like applications, credit limits and interest rates.
  • The most common credit scores range from 300 to 850. 
  • That range breaks down into smaller ranges that you can use to gauge your credit health.
  • Credit ranges can vary based on the credit-scoring model used to determine them.

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What is a credit score?

Credit scores are three-digit numbers lenders may use to determine your creditworthiness, or how likely you are to repay your debts. A higher credit score can indicate to lenders that you’re at a lower risk of defaulting on payments, while a lower score may indicate a higher risk.

Credit scores are based on the information in your credit reports, such as your payment history, credit history and how much current unpaid debt you carry across all your accounts. They’re calculated by credit-scoring companies, like FICO® and VantageScore®, using complex formulas called scoring models. Because of this, you might have several different credit scores, even from the same scoring company. 

What are the credit score ranges?

Each credit-scoring company defines its own credit score ranges. FICO and VantageScore produce some of the most commonly used credit scores. Both companies’ credit scores typically range from 300 to 850, and each company breaks down that range into five smaller categories. But what scores fall into those categories, and even what they’re called, differs. Here’s a closer look at FICO and VantageScore’s credit score ranges.

FICO credit score ranges

FICO score ranges are calculated using a combination of data like payment history, total amounts owed, new credit and length of credit history. Here are the ranges according to FICO:

  • Poor: Less than 580
  • Fair: 580-669
  • Good: 670-739
  • Very Good: 740-799
  • Exceptional: 800-850
Infographic showing FICO credit score ranges.

Source: MyFICO.com

VantageScore credit score ranges

VantageScore—whose scoring models include VantageScore 3.0 and VantageScore 4.0—uses data points similar to FICO in calculating scores. But VantageScore weighs them differently. Here are the credit score ranges according to VantageScore:

  • Very Poor: 300-499
  • Poor: 500-600
  • Fair: 601-660
  • Good: 661-780
  • Excellent: 781-850
Infographic showing VantageScore credit score ranges.

Source: VantageScore.com

What do credit score ranges mean?

Credit score ranges give lenders an idea of how likely a potential borrower is to repay their debts. And knowing which category you fall into can give you an idea of the types of credit cards and interest rates you might qualify for. 

Here’s a general overview of score ranges and what they mean:

What is a bad credit score range?

According to FICO, a poor credit score falls below 580. VantageScore has very poor (300-499) and poor (500-600) categories. 

If you have a poor credit score—what might be considered a bad credit score—qualifying for new credit or getting a mortgage for a house might be more difficult. If you can qualify, you might not be able to get the most favorable loan terms.

What is a fair credit score range?

FICO and VantageScore differ slightly on what counts as a fair credit score. FICO rates a fair score between 580 and 669. VantageScore rates a fair score between 601 and 660. 

Having fair credit generally puts you near the middle of credit score ranges. It may give you more credit opportunities than poor credit, but improving your scores could help you get better terms.

What is a good credit score range?

FICO breaks down the good credit range into good (670-739) and very good (740-799). VantageScore rates good between 661 and 780.

Having a good credit score can help you qualify for more financial products like home and auto loans and credit cards with better interest rates.

What is an excellent credit score range?

FICO calls its highest range exceptional, and that applies to any score between 800 and 850. VantageScore rates any score from 781 to 850 as excellent. 

Excellent credit scores can help you get the best rates and terms on premium credit cards and loans, mortgages, and other lines of credit.

Factors that affect your credit scores

Each credit-scoring model uses a handful of factors to determine credit scores. But the importance of each factor might vary based on the version of the model or type of score. So it can be hard to pinpoint the impact of a single factor on your scores. That said, here are some factors that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says may affect your credit scores

  • Payment history: Payment history can show how reliable a borrower is when it comes to repaying debt.
  • Total amounts owed: This considers the amount of unpaid debt you have across all your accounts and includes your credit utilization ratio
  • Credit age: If you’ve had credit accounts open for a long time, it can indicate that you’re a lower risk to creditors.
  • Credit mix: Having a combination of credit accounts can show you have experience handling different types. It takes into account revolving credit, like credit cards and lines of credit and installment loans, like car loans and mortgages.
  • New credit applications: When you apply for new credit, it triggers a hard credit inquiry, which can have a small negative effect on your credit scores. If you open a lot of credit accounts in a short time, it can give lenders a negative impression.

Factors that don’t affect your credit score

These factors, among others, don’t affect your credit scores:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Marital status
  • Where you live
  • Where you were born
  • If you check your own credit reports and scores

How to check your credit scores

There are a few places you can go to view your credit scores, including: 

  • Your credit card issuer 
  • Credit bureaus like Experian®, Equifax® and TransUnion® 
  • Credit-scoring companies
  • Credit counselors

CreditWise from Capital One also lets you monitor your VantageScore 3.0 score and TransUnion report for free anytime without hurting your credit. Plus, it’s free for everyone, even if you’re not a Capital One account holder. You can also get a free copy of your credit reports from all three credit bureaus by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com

Credit score ranges in a nutshell

Your credit score range can give you an idea of your credit health. But you don’t necessarily need to achieve any particular milestone before you can be approved for a credit card. For example, Capital One has credit cards for people with fair credit scores. And when used responsibly by doing things like making payments on time each month, you may even be able to use a credit card to build credit.

If you want to check for pre-approved card offers before you apply, you can use Capital One’s pre-approval tool. Pre-approval is quick and won’t hurt your credit scores. 

Dori Zinn, contributing writer

Dori is a personal finance journalist with more than a decade of experience covering credit and debt, college affordability, banking, budgeting, investing, retirement and more. Her work has been featured in dozens of publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo and Forbes. She loves helping people learn about money.

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