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A bad credit score is anything below 669, but there are ways to improve it

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A bad credit score is anything below 669, but there are ways to improve it

Personal Finance Insider writes about products, strategies, and tips to help you make smart decisions with your money. We may receive a small commission from our partners, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.A credit score below 669 is considered a “bad” credit score with both the FICO and VantageScore scoring models.Payment…

A bad credit score is anything below 669, but there are ways to improve it

Personal Finance Insider writes about products, strategies, and tips to help you make smart decisions with your money. We may receive a small commission from our partners, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

  • A credit score below 669 is considered a “bad” credit score with both the FICO and VantageScore scoring models.
  • Payment history, credit utilization, and hard credit inquiries are a few of the factors that can impact your credit score.
  • A bad credit score can hurt your ability to get approved for a loan at the lowest rates and may have a negative impact on applications for other services as well, such as insurance, utilities, and phone service.
  • Get your free credit score with Credit Karma »

A credit score is a three-digit number that usually ranges from 300 to 850. Lenders equate higher scores with lower risk, and lower scores with higher risk. Scoring models, such as FICO and VantageScore, use data from your credit reports to calculate your scores and provide them to lenders when you apply for credit.

Since there are multiple credit bureaus and scoring models, everyone will have multiple credit scores. For example, your FICO scores will usually be somewhat different from your VantageScore scores. And a FICO score based on your TransUnion credit report could be slightly different than one that uses your Experian or Equifax credit files.

While 300 is the lowest credit score and 850 is a perfect credit score, most of our scores will fall somewhere between those two extremes. So what range of scores constitutes a “bad” credit score? Let’s take a look.

To understand whether your score is good or bad, you first need to know which scoring model is being used. FICO and VantageScore use slightly different credit scoring ranges. 

With FICO, a score from 580-669 is considered Fair, while a score below 580 is considered Poor. The VantageScore scoring model breaks sub-prime borrowers into three credit score ranges: Fair (601-660), Poor (500-600), and Very Poor (300-499). So anything below 669 is considered “bad” credit.

See every credit score range for both scoring models below.

FICO scoring ranges

fico scoring ranges



Clint Proctor


VantageScore scoring ranges

vantagescore scoring ranges



Clint Proctor


What’s the difference between having a bad credit score and no credit score?

If you have no credit score, that means you don’t yet have any credit history on file with the major US credit bureaus. If you have a bad credit score, on the other hand, that means you do have a credit history and one or more factors on your credit file are holding your score back. 

Having no credit score is, in many ways, better than having a bad credit score because you’re starting from a clean slate. You don’t have any negative marks on your credit reports (like late payments, charge-offs, bankruptcies, etc.), which can take several years to fall off.

However, it can still be difficult to get approved for credit when you have no credit score, since lenders won’t have any credit history to base an approval decision upon. Thankfully, there are a variety of ways you can begin to build credit such as applying for a secured credit card or credit builder loan, or being added as an authorized user on someone else’s credit card.

A bad credit score can make it more difficult to get approved for any type of credit from lenders. This includes both revolving credit, like credit cards, and installment loans, like mortgages and auto loans.

For example, home buyers need a credit score of at least 620 to qualify for a conventional loan mortgage. And Experian’s latest State of the Automotive Finance Market report found that new car buyers who took out a loan or lease in the fourth quarter of 2019 had an average credit score of 719.

Even if you’re able to get approved for a loan with a bad credit score, you’re unlikely to qualify for the best rates. For example, new car buyers in Q4 2019 whose credit scores fell within the Excellent range (781-850) received an average interest rate of 3.82% while the average rate for car buyers with Poor scores was 11.51%.

Finally, it should be noted that your credit score can even impact your application for services outside the credit industry. According to the FTC, landlords, insurance agencies, utility providers, and even phone companies may check your credit to gauge if you’re a good risk. 

The first step towards fixing a bad credit score is to check your credit report to see what’s holding your score back. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, you can check your credit score free once per week through April 2021 at AnnualCreditReport.com. If there are errors on your report that are hurting your score, you have the right to dispute them and request their removal.

If there are no errors on your credit report and you’re not sure why your score is low, tools like Credit Karma and Credit Sesame can help. They can identify your negative credit score factors and give advice on how to improve your score. 

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In any case, one of the best things you can do to repair a bad credit score is to begin paying all your bills on time. Payment history is an important credit score factor in both the FICO and VantageScore scoring models.

You’ll also want to pay attention to how much of your available credit you’re using each month. A lower credit utilization rate generally has a positive impact on your score. Limiting your hard credit inquiries can also help to rebuild a bad credit score.

Finally, you may want to sit down with a credit counselor to get personalized advice on how to manage your debt and rebuild your credit. You can use the locator tool from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) to find an accredited counselor near you.

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