They can mean the difference between a high-interest mortgage and a low-interest mortgage. Between a loan application that gets approved and one that gets denied.
But what exactly is a credit score range? Is there more than one credit score range out there? And if so, what are they? We’ll be answering all these questions and more in this complete guide to credit score ranges.
Ready? Good! Let’s start with the basics.
What is a Credit Score Range?
Credit scores - three-digit numbers that rate your creditworthiness to lenders - aren’t infinite. It’s not possible to have, for example, a credit score of 10,000. Nor is it possible to have a credit
score of one.
Instead, all credit scores fall between some predetermined minimum and maximum values. This limited scale is known as the credit score range. The higher up the scale your credit score is, the better the credit options available to you will be.
You can think of it kind of like a school exam paper. There are a minimum and a maximum number of points available, and the more points you get, the better your grade. It’s not possible to actually get a score of 110% - even if you do put in 110% effort!
The aforementioned minimum and maximum values differ between different types of credit scores. Yes, that’s right - there are multiple types of credit scores. Let’s look at what those different types of credit scores are.
Different Types of Credit Score
If the fact that there are different types of credit scores used by lenders is news to you, don’t worry - you’re not alone. According to VantageScore Solution’s 7th annual survey of credit score knowledge, 36% of Americans didn’t know either.
That’s probably why so many of us say statements like ‘my credit score is X’ when, in reality, that statement is only true in regards to a specific scoring system on a specific day.
Here are a few of the different scoring systems out there:
To have a complete picture of your credit score, you’d need to know what score was generated by all these scoring models. Of course, that’s not really all that necessary, as scores from different systems tend to overlap and most people would be happy with more of a general overview.
Of those listed above, the most popular two credit scores used by lenders - and the two that you should know about - are VantageScore and FICO. There are several versions of each of these, and each version will have a different credit score range.
There are three different versions of VantageScore: VantageScore, VantageScore 2.0, and VantageScore 3.0.
The first two versions range from 501 to 990, whereas VantageScore 3.0 - the latest version - ranges from 300 to 850. This new range is more in-line with other scoring models as most use a similar range.
FICO Score Ranges
Like VantageScore 3.0, the base FICO credit score range is 300 to 850. However, FICO also offer industry-specific credit score variations which have different ranges.
These industry-specific variations are created with specific lenders in mind. Scores used by credit card issuers and auto lenders typically range between 250 and 900, for example.
FICO score vs. VantageScore
By now you’re probably asking yourself what the difference is between these ranges and why lenders don’t all just pick one and stick with it.
The three credit bureaus - Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion - have to pay to use the FICO system.
The scoring system is free to use.
Requires consumers to have six month’s credit history to generate a score.
The score can be generated for anyone with one month’s credit history.
Only credit accounts are accepted as criteria for scoring.
Alternative scoring data is accepted (such as bill and rental payments).
All late payments are treated equally during scoring.
Certain late payments carry heavier scoring penalties.
Multiple credit inquiries in a 45-day window are counted as a single inquiry.
Multiple credit inquiries in a 14-day window are counted as a single inquiry.
The main thing to take note of here is that VantageScore has been designed to be more consumer-friendly by making it easier for consumers with limited credit history to be scored. FICO claim that they do this to make results more reliable, but it’s problematic for those who don’t use credit regularly.
Other Credit Score Ranges
As we mentioned earlier, there are a lot of different credit score ranges out there - too many to list them all. Instead, here’s an overview of a few more popular ones worth mentioning:
TransUnion usually uses a credit score range of between 300-850. They also offer a variation designed for the management of existing accounts called the TransUnion New Account Score 2.0
- Experian PLUS Score
Experian have their own ‘PLUS Score’ which ranges from 330 to 830. It’s designed for consumers and isn’t used by lenders.
- Experian National Equivalency Score
This is a score which is used by creditors to analyze portfolios, as opposed to helping them to make lending decisions. It ranges from 360 to 840.
How Does Your Credit Score Affect Your Life?
At this point, you may be wondering why - or indeed, if - all this even matters.
The truth is that where you fall on the credit score range can affect everything from how much you pay for car insurance to how likely you are to be able to get a mortgage.
If you have a low credit score, it won’t necessarily exclude you from accessing finance as many lenders offer different credit options matched to all kinds of credit scores. However, it will stop you from accessing the best rates.
Credit options for people with a low credit score tend to come with high interest rates. Research by Informa Research Service, for example, shows that people with a FICO score of 760 pay around $65,000 less on a $200,000 mortgage over 30 years than someone with a score of around 620.
This means that having a lower credit score could cost you around $2,166 each year on your mortgage payments.
Having a low credit score also means that lenders often put extra restrictions or limitations on your credit options. Credit cards with higher limits might be out of your reach, and you may need a guarantor or to offer collateral to access certain loans.
As you can see, it’s important to try to maximize your credit score and fall at the top end of the range in order to get the most out of your finances.
With that in mind, let’s look at what kind of score you’d need to achieve to be attractive to lenders.
What is a ‘Good’ Credit Score?
Different lenders will have different opinions on what constitutes a ‘good’ credit score. However, we can generally categorize different numbers as good or bad depending on where they fall within the credit score range for each credit score type.
According to Experian, for FICO scores:
- A good credit score range would be between 670 and 739. 92% of applicants within this credit score range are unlikely to become seriously delinquent.
- A very good credit score range would be between 740 and 799. Applicants get better rates from lenders.
- An exceptional score range would be between 800 and 855. Applicants get the very best rates.
- A good credit score range would be between 700 and 749. Applicants can secure credit at competitive rates.
- An excellent credit score range would be between 750 and 850. Again, these applicants get the very best rates.
What is a ‘Bad’ Credit Score?
For FICO scores:
- A very poor credit score range would be between 300 and 529. Applicants may fail to access credit or be required to pay a deposit/fee.
- A fair credit score range would be between 740 and 799. Applicants are considered unattractive to lenders.
- A very poor credit score range would be between 300 and 549. Applicants will find it difficult to be approved for credit.
- A poor credit score range would be between 550 and 649. Applicants can access limited credit options with unfavorable rates and conditions.
- A fair credit score range would be between 650 and 699. Applicants will usually be approved for credit but will struggle to access competitive rates.
How Does My Credit Score Compare?
To find out whereabouts your credit score falls on the credit score range, you need to first find out your credit score.
Data gathered from FICO and Experian tells us that 704 was the national average for FICO scores as of April 2018, and 675 was the national average VantageScore in the second quarter of 2017.
You can use these statistics to see how you compare.
If you’re not happy with your current credit score, don’t worry too much - there are some actions you can take to improve it, which brings us onto our next section…
What Impacts Your Credit Score and What Doesn't?
The data that both FICO and VantageScore use to calculate your credit score is limited to what’s available in your credit report.
This means that they don’t consider factors such as:
- Your income
- Your address
- Your age
- Your ethnicity
- Your gender
The things that do impact your credit score include:
- Your payment history
- Your credit mix
- The amount of credit owed
- The length of your credit history
- Recent credit behavior
- The percentage of your available credit used
- Total debt
And a lot more besides! Payment history has the greatest impact on both your VantageScore and FICO score, but each scoring system weighs each of these other data points differently in their calculations.
Your Credit Score Isn’t Everything
It’s also worth remembering that how far up the credit score range you are isn’t the only thing that lenders look at.
Even if you’re at the top end of the scale, it doesn’t mean that you’re automatically eligible for the best rate - or even that you’re guaranteed to be approved for credit. Lenders will also look at factors such as your income, assets, and total debt to assess how likely you are to default on payments.
You might have a fantastic credit score and have never missed a payment before but, if your debt grows too high compared to your income, this could soon change.
To account for this, lenders will usually calculate something called a debt-to-income ratio and then use this, alongside your credit rating, to decide whether or not you can afford to pay back the credit you’re asking for.
What’s the Next Step?
That about covers it for this guide on credit score ranges. Hopefully, you now know what the different credit score ranges are, how they’re used by lenders, and why they’re important.
The next step is to take control of your own credit score and start moving towards the very top of that range! You can start by getting access to your credit score and credit report, and then outlining a plan to make sure you never miss another payment.
If there's anything we forgot to cover that you’d like to know about credit score ranges, ask us in the comments.
About the Author:
John Blakely has spent an extraordinary amount of time working towards his and others’ goals in personal finance. He thinks bigger is better when it comes to financial hopes and dreams. Want more of John? Check out ScoreSense, where he's an education ambassador.