Credit Score Range – What Your Score Actually Means

credit score range

So you know your credit score, now what? Brag to you friends? Compare it with your co-workers?

Before you go announcing it to the world, get a better understanding of what that three-digit number actually means. 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.

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 less popular VantageScore, start as low as 501 and rise as high as 990.

If you’re wondering how FICO came up with theirs, 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.

Additionally, 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.

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

FICO score range: 300 – 850
FICO NextGen Score range: 150–950
VantageScore range: 501 – 990
Equifax credit score range: 280 – 850
Experian PLUS Score range: 330 – 830
Experian’s National Equivalency Score range: 360 – 840
TransRisk New Account Score range: 300 – 850

Additionally, 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 TransRisk New Account Score and the original VantageScore VantageScore 3.0 provided by TransUnion, FreeCreditScore.com uses the Experian PLUS Score, and Credit Sesame uses Experian’s National Equivalency Score, all of which are not true FICO scores.

Check out the illustration I created of the standard consumer FICO score range above, 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 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.

credit score distribution

See Where You Stand with My Credit Score Range

Let’s start at the top (the best place to be) 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.

800-850 Credit Score

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 800-850 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 lenders.

On the other hand, a credit score of 800-850 accompanied with years of solid 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.

760-799 Credit Score

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

A credit score in this range isn’t all that different from the 760-799 category, though there are some 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. It simply leads to a more favorable interest rate, which means the more creditworthy borrower saves money!

680-719 Credit Score

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.

660-679 Credit Score

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. 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

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

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.

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 (see: secured credit cards). You’re basically throwing money away at this point.

500-579 Credit Score

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

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 derogatory marks, 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. 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.


21 Comments

  1. Heidi January 15, 2015 at 9:54 pm -

    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. Colin Robertson January 16, 2015 at 9:39 am -

    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. Enrique January 20, 2015 at 1:41 am -

    Is this range mainly for FICO scores?

  4. Colin Robertson January 20, 2015 at 2:31 pm -

    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.

  5. William January 21, 2015 at 5:31 pm -

    Is it really possible to have a 300 Fico score?

  6. Colin Robertson January 21, 2015 at 8:16 pm -

    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.

  7. Eugenie January 28, 2015 at 10:43 pm -

    I have 710, 690, and 683 FICO scores. How do I rank? Thank you.

  8. Porter February 28, 2015 at 7:07 pm -

    I have a 690 FICO score. Where does that leave me? Thank you.

  9. Colin Robertson March 3, 2015 at 11:51 am -

    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.

  10. Herman March 3, 2015 at 5:08 pm -

    I have a 620 score. How can I get it up to 720?

  11. Colin Robertson March 3, 2015 at 5:59 pm -

    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.

  12. Colin Robertson March 12, 2015 at 11:23 am -

    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!

  13. George March 16, 2015 at 7:13 am -

    I’ve got an 800+ FICO, but only just barely above 800. What can I do to get to 850?

  14. Colin Robertson March 16, 2015 at 3:24 pm -

    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.

  15. Roger March 17, 2015 at 6:37 am -

    655 Fico score?

  16. Colin Robertson March 17, 2015 at 7:57 am -

    Roger,

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

  17. Will Z. March 18, 2015 at 10:55 am -

    Are these ranges actually used by credit card companies to determine eligibility?

  18. Colin Robertson March 18, 2015 at 2:05 pm -

    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.

  19. Jeremy March 25, 2015 at 4:20 pm -

    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.

  20. Nick March 29, 2015 at 11:23 pm -

    Looks like I am a high achiever. 790 FICO score. Awesome!!

  21. Ruth April 13, 2015 at 9:59 pm -

    I had an 850 Fico score once, but now I’m closer to like 830. No, it didn’t change my life.

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