Credit Score Range – What’s Your Rating?

credit score range

So you know your credit score, now what? Brag to your friends? Compare it with your co-workers? Like all other scoring models, credit scores have numerical boundaries. The so-called “credit score range” for the standard consumer FICO score is 300 to 850, though other credit scores, such as the older and less popular VantageScore, start at a higher 501 and rise to 990.

Before you go announcing your score to the world, get a better understanding of what that three-digit number actually means. It’s pretty important and can even save you money. Seriously, a higher credit score can equate to a lower interest rate on student loans, a personal loan, a mortgage, a credit card, and so on.

But remember, to effectively evaluate your credit score you’ll need a range as well.

Just as you would if you were taking a test in school, without one, a score is meaningless. After all, “A’s” and “F’s” would just be arbitrary letters if we didn’t assign them values beforehand.

If you’re wondering how FICO came up with their unique credit score scale, as opposed to say 1-100, when the score was first developed the limits were not constrained, and 300 was the lowest score and 850 was the highest, based on their data and algorithm.

However, some versions of the FICO score, such as those used for auto loans/leases, start from as low as 250 and climb as high as 900. And other models have even stranger numbers that don’t seem to make any sense.

Q: What is the range of a FICO score? 

A: While it’s true that there are numerous scoring models used by lenders, most versions of the widely used FICO score have a base range of 300 to 850, with higher scores representing less risk.

amex credit score range

This is a recent FICO score of mine from American Express that is provided for free monthly. They apparently show customers the same scores they use in making credit decisions.

It is the FICO Score 8 based on Experian data with a 300-850 range. They refer to my score as excellent, which is the highest credit score rating listed on their handy little credit score chart.

Here are the most common credit score scales in use today:

FICO score range: 300 – 850
FICO score 9 range: 300 – 850
FICO NextGen Score range: 150–950
VantageScore 1.0 & 2.0 SCORE range: 501 – 990
VantageScore 3.0 SCORE range: 300 – 850
Equifax credit score range: 280 – 850
Experian PLUS Score range: 330 – 830
FICO Bankcard Score 2: 250 – 900
Experian’s National Equivalency Score range: 360 – 840
TransUNION CREDITVISION New Account Score range: 300 – 850

The newly launched VantageScore 3.0 scoring model uses the same credit score range as FICO, 300 to 850. Look for the old scoring range to be phased out over time.

FYI: Credit Karma uses VantageScore 3.0 provided by Equifax and TransUnion, uses the Experian PLUS Score, and Credit Sesame uses Experian’s National Equivalency Score, all of which are not true FICO scores.

Wells Fargo uses the FICO Bankcard Score 2, which has a range from 250-900 and is tailored toward credit card issuers. For some reason, I always have a score in the mid-700s, despite scoring in the 800s for the traditional FICO score. It’s unclear why.

And it really makes no sense because I rarely have a large outstanding balance, and always pay my credit card in full. The only thing I can think of is too many new credit card inquiries because I open and close credit cards fairly frequently, or at least more than the average consumer.

In all, there are at least 30 different versions of FICO scores, spread across the three major credit bureaus. That means there are 10 versions per bureau, making it difficult to nail down exactly which range was used when your credit file was pulled.

However, if you check out the fine print there should be something pertaining to the score range and type used so you can better determine where you stand.

Check out the illustration I created of the standard consumer FICO score range at the top of the page, which is based on a median FICO score of around 710. This should give you a quick idea as to where you fit in, assuming you already know your credit score(s).

We also have an image of the FICO score distribution below, which illustrates where most consumers stand credit score-wise.

Notice in the credit scoring chart that most consumers have credit scores within the 700-800+ realm. You’ll want to be on the higher side of this distribution to ensure you have good credit and are seen favorably by prospective creditors.

FICO Score Distribution

credit score distribution

In yet another illustration below from a credit union you can see how a certain credit score will affect the interest rate you receive on your credit card.

Those with 760+ credit scores get a low rate of 7.99% APR, whereas those with scores below 640 are saddled with a sky-high rate of 17.99% APR. That’ll cost you…

So it’s important to maintain excellent credit not only to get approved for credit cards, but also to get the best terms and the lowest rates.

APR range

See Where You Stand with My Credit Score Range

Let’s start at the top (the best place to be in the credit scoring world) and work our way down. Note that we’re using the standard 300-850 FICO model for my credit score range, which is much more relied upon than any other algorithms at the moment.

Q: What is a good credit rating?

A: A credit score of 700 or higher is considered a good credit rating, though there are distinctions between scores above that level that can result in varying interest rates and approval rates.

Either way, remember that a higher credit score is better than a lower score!

800-850 Credit Score (excellent to perfect)

A credit score of 800-850 is basically flawless credit. Though I’ve never seen an 850 credit score (readers have told me they have 900+ scores but those are different scoring models), scores of 800 and up are fairly common. An important thing to note here is that some consumers may have 800 credit scores the minute their credit profile is established, but without supporting credit history, the score will mean very little to banks and mortgage lenders.

On the other hand, a credit score of 800-850 accompanied by years of solid credit history indicates that the borrower will be granted the lowest rate on everything from credit cards to auto insurance and mortgages. Scores in this bracket represent about 13% of the population.

Credit scores at this level are great, but they’re really no better than a 760 score. Most banks don’t give you any incentive past 760 in terms of approval rate or improved interest rate, so it’s merely for bragging rights. The only caveat is that you’ve got a buffer if your scores do drop in the future.

credit cutoff

760-799 Credit Score (excellent)

A credit score of 760-799 is considered good to great credit, and will typically result in interest rates and approval rates that a credit score in the 800-850+ bucket would yield. The only difference might be a few more pricing incentives at the 800-850+ range, and a more thorough credit check. But all in all, credit scores in this bucket are considered excellent and you really don’t need to worry if you scores fall in this category. In fact, roughly 27% of the population has a credit score of 750-799 alone.

*High Achievers: FICO now considers individuals with FICO scores above 785 to be in a bracket all their own. It’s unclear if this will create another meaningful scoring threshold for creditors, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

720-759 Credit Score (really good)

A credit score in this range isn’t all that different from the 760-799 category, though there are some pricing thresholds for FICO scores of 760 and above. For example, when applying for a mortgage, a borrower with a 760 credit score may secure a slightly lower interest rate than a borrower with a 730 credit score. But it’s unlikely that the 760 credit score will be required for approval to buy a house. It simply leads to a more favorable interest rate, which means the more creditworthy borrower saves money!

A 720 credit score may also result in better pricing for both student loans and mortgages, so if you’re just shy of 720, you may want to work to improve your credit scores ever so slightly so you can save some dough.

680-719 Credit Score (average to good)

A score in this bracket is still considered good credit if at the higher end, and average credit if closer to the lower end. Although it’s not perfect, you should still be able to qualify for most loans and auto or rental leases, although interest rates may be a little higher than those offered to borrowers with excellent credit.

There will be situations where a credit score in this range will prevent you from getting certain types of financing, such as an A-paper mortgage loan or the lowest auto insurance premium, but it’s certainly not bad credit. Some minor credit building might be all that you need to jump to the next highest tier.

660-679 Credit Score (below average to average)

Credit scores from 660-679 are considered “good enough” or “OK” by many creditors, though you may see further restrictions and fewer approvals when attempting to get a auto loan/lease, credit card, or a mortgage. Scores at this level are fairly common, and no cause for alarm, though they are below the average credit score. But it would be wise to evaluate your credit score and work to improve it. In this range, it is quite probable that you aren’t securing the lowest interest rates, and subsequently losing money as a result.

620-659 Credit Score (below average)

If you find your credit score in this realm, you’re on the cusp of breaking bad.  And you’re really playing with fire because a lot of creditors, especially mortgage lenders, see 620 as the dividing line between creditworthy borrowers and subprime borrowers. Additionally, some credit card issuers aren’t interested in extending credit to those with credit scores below 640.

At this level, you should probably be taking meaningful action to rectify the situation, as opposed to just casually monitoring your credit score. Although not the end of the world, your credit score is costing you money, and maybe even approvals on credit cards and other lines of credit.

580-619 Credit Score (bad and subprime)

This is where “OK” and “decent” turn to “bad.” Credit scores in this range are clearly below average, and you will have a difficult time securing a loan, or applying for a credit card. If you are able to secure financing, you’ll likely be stuck with an above-market interest rate, especially for lower credit scores in this bracket. If your credit score falls in this area, you definitely need to take a hard look at your credit report and take measures to raise your credit score immediately. It might make sense to monitor your credit to determine if you’ve missed anything big, or to see if an error is reported in your credit file.

Many consumers with credit scores in this bracket are considered “subprime” and may have to work with bad credit banks and lenders to secure financing. You’re basically throwing money away at this point. If you find yourself at this point, building credit to offset the bad stuff can be difficult because fewer lenders will want to work with you. But that’s pretty much the best way to improve your situation.

500-579 Credit Score (poor to bad)

Credit scores in this bucket are just flat out ugly. If you’ve got a credit score in this vicinity, there’s a good chance you have a major derogatory mark on your credit report such as a collection, charge-off, mortgage late, a foreclosure, or a bankruptcy. There is no question that your credit score is in need of serious help.

At this level, you must evaluate your credit and act immediately to turn things around. You’re clearly paying higher interest rates and making credit mistakes that will impact your life for years to come.

Below 500 Credit Score (dismal)

Credit scores below 500 are the worst of the worst. If your credit score is this low, your credit report will definitely contain numerous major credit problems, with very little positive data to speak of. If your credit score is below this level, you may want to consider speaking with a professional about your situation.

After all, there’s a good chance you’ve got serious financial problems if your credit score is this low. You may even want to see if identify theft occurred. Start picking apart your credit report line-by-line and educate yourself about credit scoring immediately to begin to alleviate your problems. It’s going to take time to improve your credit score, but not all hope is lost.

So now you should have a good idea as to where you stand credit score-wise and what you need to do to improve things, overhaul things, see a professional, or simply maintain your healthy financial lifestyle.

44 thoughts on “Credit Score Range – What’s Your Rating?”

  1. Hi,

    I noticed in Credit Karma that my TransUnion credit score is 775 and my VantageScore is only 893. So basically I have excellent credit with FICO and just a “B” rating for VantageScore. How can that be?

  2. Heidi,

    FICO and VantageScore are two different scoring models, and thus generate different scores. Additionally, your FICO score may have been updated more recently than your VantageScore. Give it time and they should wind up closer together.

  3. Yes, as noted at the top of the range, I based it on standard FICO scores that range from 300 to 850. Otherwise it wouldn’t necessarily make sense if it were used for say VantageScore.

  4. Let’s put it this way…it’s probably easier to get an 850 FICO score than a 300 FICO score. But once you’re below 600 it’s all pretty much bad.

  5. Porter,

    I’d say you’re on the cusp of pretty decent credit. If you get your score a bit higher, say over 720, you should be able to apply for just about any credit card and get approved if your income/job history is up to snuff and you don’t have too much outstanding debt.

  6. Herman,

    It depends why your score is that low…that’s not a terrible score, but you can certainly do a lot better. Common ways to improve your score include paying down/off outstanding debts, removing any derogatory accounts if possible, increasing existing credit limits, and so on.

  7. I’d say you’re on the lower end of good/average. It depends which score a creditor uses. I’d try to find out why one score is so much higher than the other two and try to get all three above 720. Good luck!

  8. George,

    Good question. Take a look at your credit report, either via Credit Karma or some other free tool, or via official gov site. I’m assuming you haven’t done anything wrong, it’s just a matter of maybe keeping balances really low and/or aging your accounts more and maintaining a good mix of credit. No real need to go any higher other than bragging rights.

  9. Roger,

    You can do much better…find out what’s wrong (late payments, high balances) and rectify the situation!

  10. Will,

    I broke it down into much smaller tiers/brackets, but there are certain thresholds that the credit card companies use for both card eligibility and credit limits, so it’s not arbitrary.

  11. My credit score has fluctuated from the 500s to the 800s and I’ve never had trouble getting a credit card. But I also have 30+ years of credit history, so that probably helps a ton.

  12. I’ve managed to raise my Fico score from 630 to 710, but I’m not done yet. My goal is eventually 800.

  13. Currently trying to get above 785 to be a high achiever. Went from 620 to 750 over the past 12 months just by paying down my credit card debt.

  14. My score has gone from low 600s to high 600s recently. A lot of unsolicited credit limit increases all of a sudden.

  15. Hey Colin–
    Good info! Thanks!

    I have a low score, solely due to high utilization percentage on my existing credit cards. But every time I pay them down, the credit card companies “pancake” the limits down to at or near the amount due. Does this seem fair to you? How can I improve my score if they keep pancaking my limits? Seems like a Catch-22 I can’t overcome.

  16. Tex,

    The only way to combat this is to ask that they not lower your limits anymore and/or try to raise your limits on existing cards. But as long as you keep paying down your balances your score should improve, and eventually your issuers will stop lowering your limits because you’ll be a lower credit risk and you’ll have less outstanding debt. Keep it up and good luck!

  17. Hi Colin,
    This is the strangest thing I’ve ever seen. I keep a close eye on my credit score and reports and know that every quarter they change. On September I noticed that both Experian and Equifax had raised my score by 4 and 10 points, but Trans Union had DROPPED it by 22 points! That is a major difference! Plus, I went thru all 3 credit reports and there is absolutely no difference in any of the information. I’ve written an official complaint/request for info from TransUnion, but as usual, have received nothing but a gobblygoof letter that makes no sense and has no bearing on the subject at all that I contacted them about. How could this happen and what is the possibility of any or all of the credit reporting companies just ruining people’s lives with scores differing by such vast numbers? Thanks!

  18. Hi Colin,

    I am ashamed to say, but I currently do not have such a good credit score (Transunion 543). My husband was laid off from his job and at the same time I was let go from a job due to downsizing. Because of these situations we had been unable to make our monthly payments on a timely basis from late 2011-2013. However, for the past 1 1/2 years, I have been very consistent with making all our payments on time, and many times making higher payments than the required monthly payment. However, we just cannot seem to be able to get our credit score up.

    Good news (or maybe not), we have absolutely no credit card debt. However, I hold student loans (which were also behind in the past, but no longer), two car loans and our mortgage payment.

    We also had a few medical bills go into collections in the past. However, these have also been paid off for over a year now.

    I understand that the best way to improve credit scores is to pay everything on time, but I have been very good at not missing one payment on anything in the past 1 1/2 years and we still cannot get our credit scores up. Please, do you have advice as what else we can do to get our credit scores up? We were hoping to sell our house in the next year and purchase another home, but understand we cannot do so until our scores are better.

    Help please. :)

  19. Becky,

    Unfortunately the presence of lots of late payments and collections on your credit report means your score will likely be deflated for quite a while, even if you’ve since changed your ways. You could try to get some of the negative items removed from your credit report, which would likely give your scores a big boost, but there’s no guarantee the bureaus will remove legitimately bad data. Other than that it may just take more time for your scores to improve. But stay on track and don’t be discouraged.

  20. Arnold,

    Very doubtful given all the moving parts…but perhaps if you have very few accounts and limited activity.

  21. Connor,

    Sometimes it just takes time to get to the top, to prove to the credit bureaus that you’re a strong borrower. Also account mix can play a role, so having just credit cards can hold you back.

  22. Dorothy,

    Credit scores aren’t everything, income is also hugely important, as is total credit already extended from the issuer, Chase in your example. Can always ask them to reconsider…

  23. I noticed the free Wells Fargo credit score has a range of 250 to 900 and my score is lower than the standard FICO range.

  24. How do I get from the bottom of your chart to the top? No lates, derogatory accounts, or anything, but my scores still suck! Thanks in advance.

  25. George,

    If you don’t have any lates or anything worse than that, it’s probably high balances on credit cards. If you pay them down your scores should get a big boost if they’re being held down for that reason. Good luck!

  26. Tammy,

    No, they tend to be fixed, though VantageScore changed their scale from 501-990 to 300-850 to align with FICO a couple years ago after FICO lost a court battle over patenting that range.

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