What is a fair credit score?
Learn what’s considered a fair credit score, how scores may affect you and what you can do to help improve average credit scores.
November 12, 2020 9 min read
There are multiple credit scores out there. And the most popular versions range from 300 to 850. But what exactly are fair credit scores? And where do fair credit scores fall in that range?
As with many things related to credit scores, the answers can vary. Keep reading to learn how to tell whether you have a fair credit score, why credit scores are important and what you can do to help improve yours.
Is your credit fair?
What’s considered fair credit may differ slightly based on what credit scores you’re looking at—and what credit-scoring company it came from. You can see the differences in models from two commonly used companies:
- FICO® considers a fair credit score to be between 580 and 669.
- VantageScore® says fair scores fall between 601 and 660.
Ultimately, it’s up to lenders to decide for themselves what’s considered a fair credit score. But here are a few details about how scores might be classified:
Fair FICO credit scores
- Exceptional (800–850): Borrowers in the exceptional credit score range are the most likely to qualify for credit and get good interest rates, according to Experian®, a major credit bureau.
- Very good (740–799): FICO says these borrowers also tend to have higher-than-average credit scores. That makes it easier to qualify and get favorable credit terms.
- Good (670–739): Lenders are generally willing to give credit to people with good credit scores because they’ve typically proven they will repay borrowed money.
- Fair (580–669): While credit scores in the fair range are below average in the U.S., lenders may still approve borrowers for credit products. Options could be limited, though.
- Poor (300–579): Applicants may be turned down with credit scores in this range. Or the lender may approve the application but require a fee or deposit first.
Keep in mind that scoring companies have different versions of their own scores. And that could result in slight differences in how scoring ranges are reported.
Fair VantageScore credit scores
Here’s how VantageScore says its scores might be judged:
- Excellent (781–850): This is the best category possible. Scores in this “superprime” range show a potential borrower can be trusted to repay what they borrow.
- Good (661–780): Sometime referred to as prime borrowers, people with scores in this range are unlikely to have trouble getting approved for loans.
- Fair (601–660): It could be more difficult for people with fair credit scores to be approved for loans or credit cards. And loan approvals may come with higher interest rates.
- Poor (500–600): Having a credit score in this range could mean higher interest rates if a loan is approved at all.
- Very Poor (300–499): Similar to poor credit, getting loans could be difficult. But there are ways to improve your score.
Not sure if you have a fair credit score? You can check your VantageScore 3.0 by using CreditWise from Capital One—even if you aren’t a Capital One customer. Best of all, it’s free for everyone, and checking won’t hurt your credit. And you can check as often as you like.
Fair credit vs. good credit
Having fair credit generally puts you near the middle of credit score ranges. As scores improve, the numbers go up. Good credit scores are a step above fair scores. A good credit score with FICO falls within 670 and 739, while VantageScore’s good range is from 661 to 780.
The better your credit, the better a candidate you may be for things like credit cards. But that’s just the start. Having strong credit is important in a number areas:
- Credit cards: A higher credit score may improve your chances of qualifying for a credit card that best fits your situation—whether you’re looking for a good rewards program or a low APR.
- Mortgages and other loans: Strong credit can also help you qualify for mortgages, auto loans and more.
- Interest rates: If you qualify for a loan or credit card, the lender may use your credit score when setting your interest rate or credit limit. Generally, a higher credit score may help you get better terms.
- Rental applications: Landlords may pull your credit report to help them decide whether you qualify for an apartment lease.
- Employment applications: With your written permission, employers may pull your credit reports during a background check.
- Insurance premiums: Depending on state laws, insurers may consider your credit history when determining premiums.
- Deposits: Cellphone providers and utility companies may decide to waive security deposits for people with strong credit.
These are just a few of the reasons higher credit scores can be so valuable. If you’re not satisfied with your scores, there are things you can do to help improve them.
Steps to help improve your fair credit
While you may qualify for loans with fair credit, improving your scores may help you get more favorable terms. Here are a few steps you can take to improve your fair credit:
- Use credit responsibly. There are several ways to show lenders you’re a responsible borrower. Aim to pay your bills on time every month, which shows lenders you’re following the terms of your agreement. Also try to keep your credit balances low. For example, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recommends keeping your credit card balances to 30% of your credit card limit across all accounts.
- Avoid payment mistakes. Paying only the minimum amount due or maxing out your credit limit can keep your credit utilization high and bruise your credit scores. You could also hurt your score by paying your bills late. Credit aside, you could end up being charged more in interest or fees, too.
- Consider applications. Opening too many credit accounts within a short period of time could hurt your score. Credit-scoring formulas take recent inquiries into account. And lenders could also get a negative impression of your finances.
- Monitor your credit. Checking your credit reports regularly can help ensure the information used to calculate your credit score is accurate. You can take a look at your TransUnion® credit report anytime through CreditWise. And you can get free copies of your credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus—TransUnion, Equifax® and Experian—at AnnualCreditReport.com.
- Beware of quick fixes. Remember that building credit takes time. There’s no such thing as a quick credit fix. But it’s never a bad time to start developing good habits to help improve your credit.
Learn more about credit cards for fair credit
When used responsibly, credit cards could be one way to build credit. By making on-time payments and keeping your balance low, you may help boost your credit scores over time.