Guide to Credit Scores and Credit Score Ranges - NerdWallet (2024)

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Credit scores influence many aspects of your life: whether you get a loan or credit card, what interest rate you pay, or whether you get an apartment you want.

A higher credit score can give you access to more credit products — and at lower interest rates. Borrowers with scores above 750 or so frequently have many options, including the ability to qualify for 0% financing on cars and for credit cards with 0% introductory interest rates.

It pays to know how credit scores work and what the credit score ranges are.

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Guide to Credit Scores and Credit Score Ranges - NerdWallet (1)

What is a credit score?

A credit score is a three-digit number, usually on a scale of 300 to 850, that estimates how likely you are to repay borrowed money and pay bills.

Credit scores are calculated from information about your credit accounts. That data is gathered by credit-reporting agencies, also called credit bureaus, and compiled into your credit reports. The three largest bureaus are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

You don't have a single credit score — you have a few, and they probably vary slightly. That's because two major companies calculate scores; more on that below.

The highest credit score you can get is 850, although there's not much difference between a "perfect" score and an excellent score when it comes to the rates and products you can qualify for. In other words: Don't stress over trying to achieve an 850 score, especially because scores tend to fluctuate frequently.

What is the difference between FICO score and VantageScore?

Two companies dominate credit scoring. The FICO score is the most widely known score. Its main competitor is the VantageScore. Generally, they both use a credit score range of 300 to 850.

Each company has several different versions of its scoring formula, too. The scoring models used most often are VantageScore 3.0 and FICO 8.

FICO and VantageScore pull from the same data, weighting the information slightly differently. They tend to move in tandem: If you have an excellent VantageScore, your FICO is likely to be high as well.

Why are my FICO and VantageScore credit scores different?

A score is a snapshot, and the number can vary each time you check it. Your score can vary depending on which credit bureau supplied the credit report data used to generate it, or even when the bureau supplied it. Not every creditor sends account activity to all three bureaus, so your credit report from each one is unique.

What are the credit score ranges?

Creditors set their own standards for what scores they'll accept, but these are general guidelines:

Guide to Credit Scores and Credit Score Ranges - NerdWallet (3)

  • A score of 720 or higher is generally considered excellent credit.

  • A score of 690 to 719 is considered good credit.

  • Scores of 630 to 689 are fair credit.

  • And scores of 629 or below are bad credit.

In addition to your credit score, factors like your income and other debts may play a role in creditors' decisions about whether to approve your application.

FICO score ranges

Here’s how FICO breaks down credit scores:

  • Below 580: poor.

  • 580 to 669: fair.

  • 670 to 739: good.

  • 740 to 799: very good.

  • 800 and above: exceptional.

VantageScore ranges

VantageScore has slightly different credit score tiers:

  • 300 to 600: subprime.

  • 601 to 660: near prime.

  • 661 to 780: prime.

  • 781 to 850: superprime.

Did you know...

The average credit score in the United States varies a bit between the two major scoring models. The average FICO 8 score was 717 as of October 2023, up one point from a year earlier. The VantageScore 3.0 average was 700 as of October 2023, up six points from a year earlier.

What factors impact your credit scores?

The two main credit scoring models, FICO and VantageScore, consider many of the same factors but weight them somewhat differently.

For both scoring models, the two things that matter most are:

  • Payment history. A misstep in making on time payments can be costly. A late payment that's 30 days or more past the due date stays on your credit history for years.

  • Credit utilization. This term describes how much of your credit limits you are using. It's good to use less than 30% of your credit limits — lower is better. You can take several steps to lower your credit utilization.

Much less weight goes to these factors, but they're still worth watching:

  • Credit history: The longer you've had credit, and the higher the average age of your accounts, the better for your score.

  • Credit mix: Scores reward having more than one type of credit — a traditional loan and a credit card, for example.

  • How recently you have applied for credit: When you apply for credit, a hard inquiry on your credit report may result in a temporary dip in your score.

Guide to Credit Scores and Credit Score Ranges - NerdWallet (4)

Factors that don’t affect your credit scores

There are some things that are not included in credit score calculations, and these mostly have to do with demographic characteristics.

For example, your race or ethnicity, sex, marital status or age aren’t part of the calculation. Neither is your employment history — which can include things like your salary, title or employer — nor where you live.

How to improve your credit

What does your credit score measure? In one word: creditworthiness. But what does this actually mean? Your credit score is an attempt to predict your financial behaviors. That's why factors that go into your score also point out reliable ways you can build up your score:

  • Pay all bills on time.

  • Keep credit card balances under 30% of their limits, and ideally much lower.

  • Keep older credit cards open to protect the average age of your accounts, and consider having a mix of credit cards and installment loans.

  • Space out credit applications instead of applying for a lot in a short time. Typically, lenders will initiate a "hard pull" on your credit when you apply, which temporarily dings your score. Too many applications too close together can cause more serious damage.

There are several ways to build credit when you're just starting out and ways to bump up your score once it's established. Doing things like making payments to your credit card balances a few times throughout the month, disputing errors on your credit reports, or asking for higher credit limits can elevate your score.

Frequently asked questions

What’s the lowest credit score to buy a car?

There isn’t an official minimum credit score needed to buy a car, but the vast majority of cars financed are for borrowers with a score of 661 or higher. People with scores below 500 account for less than 2% of financing.

What is a good credit score to buy a house?

Different lenders have different minimum credit score requirements to buy a house. In general, you’ll need a credit score of 620 or higher.

How can I check and monitor my credit?

You can check your own credit — it's free and doesn't hurt your score — and know what the lender is likely to see.

You can get a free credit score from a personal finance website such as NerdWallet, which offers a TransUnion VantageScore 3.0. Many personal banking apps also offer free credit scores, so you can make a habit of checking in when you log in to pay bills.

Remember that scores fluctuate. As long as you keep it in a healthy range, those variations won’t have an impact on your financial well-being.

You can help protect your credit by freezing your credit with each credit bureau. You can still use credit cards, but no one can apply for credit using your personal data because access is blocked when your credit is frozen. Freezing your credit takes only a few minutes, but it goes a long way in protecting your finances.

» MORE: How to manage your credit with NerdWallet

Guide to Credit Scores and Credit Score Ranges - NerdWallet (2024)


What credit score does NerdWallet use? ›

How does NerdWallet get my free credit report and score? NerdWallet partners with TransUnion® to provide your TransUnion® credit report. Using the data in your credit report, it also provides your VantageScore® 3.0 credit score. Your score and credit report information are updated weekly.

How rare is a 780 credit score? ›

Less than 2% of Americans have a perfect credit score.

“If you're at 760, or 780, you're already getting the best you can get,” Jim Droske, president of the credit counseling company Illinois Credit Services, said. “You're already hitting that pinnacle of what lenders care about. Anything above that is just pride.”

How accurate is NerdWallet? ›

Is NerdWallet accurate? The accuracy of the information displayed is entirely dependent on the accounts you link with NerdWallet. To see the most accurate information, connect all of your bank accounts, credit cards, loans, and your home value, where applicable.

What is the correct credit score range? ›

For a score with a range between 300 and 850, a credit score of 700 or above is generally considered good. A score of 800 or above on the same range is considered to be excellent. Most consumers have credit scores that fall between 600 and 750. In 2022, the average FICO® Score in the U.S. reached 714.

Is NerdWallet safe for credit score? ›

Checking your credit score on NerdWallet only prompts a soft inquiry on your credit report - not a hard inquiry - and will never impact your score in any way, no matter how often you check it. This article includes more detail about this: Does Checking My Credit Score Lower It?

Do you have to pay to use NerdWallet? ›

NerdWallet offers credit score monitoring, imports transactions from banks and credit cards, and gives you tons of personal finance education. Plus, it's free.

How rare is 900 credit score? ›

It's exceedingly rare for anyone to have a credit score over 900, as most credit scoring models have a maximum limit of 850, and even achieving that score is uncommon.

Who has a 999 credit score? ›

A credit score of 999 from Experian is the highest you can get. It usually means you don't have many marks on your credit file and are very likely to be accepted for a loan or credit card.

How many Americans have a 800 credit score? ›

Twenty-three percent of Americans have a credit score between 800 and 850, considered "exceptional" by FICO. A credit score at the top of that range -- 850 -- is considered a perfect score. Twenty-four percent have a FICO® Score between 750 and 799, making the "very good" bracket.

What is the NerdWallet controversy? ›

Financial guidance platform NerdWallet says it was the victim of a fraudulent bankruptcy filing. As Reuters reported Saturday (March 2), the company said that it did not file for bankruptcy and that the filing that showed up on an electronic public access service for U.S. federal court documents was fraudulent.

Is NerdWallet or Credit Karma better? ›

Consider whether your primary concern is tracking your finances or managing your credit score. Credit Karma is likely the best option for you if your primary concern is managing or improving your credit score. If your primary concern is budgeting and finance tracking, NerdWallet is likely the better choice.

Why is my NerdWallet credit score different? ›

There are different types of credit scores. NerdWallet currently offers the VantageScore from TransUnion, but you might have seen your FICO score somewhere else. They both use roughly the same information, but the scoring models are different – which means the scores could be, too.

What is a realistic credit score? ›

Although ranges vary depending on the credit scoring model, generally credit scores from 580 to 669 are considered fair; 670 to 739 are considered good; 740 to 799 are considered very good; and 800 and up are considered excellent.

What is a good credit score by age? ›

How Credit Scores Breakdown by Generation
Average FICO 8 Score by Generation
Generation Z (ages 18-26)679 - Good680 - Good
Millennials (27-42)687 - Good690 - Good
Generation X (43-58)707 - Good709 - Good
2 more rows

What is a good credit score to buy a car? ›

Your credit score is a major factor in whether you'll be approved for a car loan. Some lenders use specialized credit scores, such as a FICO Auto Score. In general, you'll need at least prime credit, meaning a credit score of 661 or up, to get a loan at a good interest rate.

Does NerdWallet use Equifax? ›

Does my NerdWallet account provide a credit score from all three credit bureaus? NerdWallet members are able to view their VantageScore 3.0 credit score and report from TransUnion only. We do not offer credit scores or reports from Experian or Equifax at this time.

What are the requirements for NerdWallet? ›

To use the Services you must (i) be at least eighteen (18) years of age; (ii) have not previously been suspended or removed from the Services; and (iii) register for and use the Services in compliance with any and all applicable laws and regulations.

What credit bureau does WalletHub use? ›

Your current credit score: WalletHub updates your credit score from TransUnion daily and tells you whether it's gone up or down. Your credit report: WalletHub also supplies your credit report from TransUnion.

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