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What Is the Lowest Credit Score Possible?

Written by Mike Pearson
Updated August 10, 2022

A good credit score is vital because it can allow you to buy a home, a car, or an expensive product you’ve been dreaming of purchasing. Also, some employers won’t consider candidates with poor credit scores. What is the lowest credit score possible if you’re worried about your credit score? 

The lowest credit score possible is 300. If your credit score is between 300 to 550, it’s considered very poor, while a 550 to 650 credit score is poor. A credit score between 650 and 700 is fair. Your credit score must be between 700 and 750 to be good and 750 and above to be excellent. 

Read further to discover the two main credit score types and how you can improve a very low credit score. 

How To Improve a Very Low Credit Score

If you’ve recently checked your credit score and discovered it’s in the very poor range, you might have a good reason to be concerned. A low credit score means you’re unlikely to be approved for even the smallest amount of credit. 

Thankfully, you can take steps to change your credit rating. Although it might take six months to a few years for it to improve, you can do the following.

Settle Your Debt

The main reason people have a very low credit score is that they are in debt and have failed to make their minimum monthly payments. The first step in improving your credit score should be to pay off any debt you may have. 

Start by creating a spreadsheet with the details of everything you owe to your creditors. Create a column with the monthly amount you need to pay them and add up all the monthly amounts. 

In another column, input your monthly income after tax, and subtract any essential payments, such as rent, electricity, water, food, and gas. The amount of money you have left should pay off your monthly debt, and once you’ve paid this, you should only buy non-essential items. 

However, if you have a large savings account, and can afford it, consider paying the highest interest debt you have in full. This can save you money in the run, and while you may lose a few credit score points, you can quickly make these up in the coming months. 

Debt settlement with creditors should be a last resort because it will reflect negatively on your credit score and can decrease it by as much as 100 points. It involves coming to an agreement with the organization you owe money to, and instead of paying off the debt in full, you agree to a lump sum payment, which is typically less. 

An excellent alternative to debt settlement is borrowing money from a close family member or friend and agreeing on a repayment schedule. 

Pay Your Bills on Time

Paying utility and credit card bills doesn’t typically improve your credit score, but if you fail to pay them on time, the company may report you to the credit bureaus

However, some credit score rating companies, such as Experian, offer consumers a free service where they can report that they have paid their monthly bills on time. After verifying the payments and ensuring that they are regular, the company will add a few points to your credit score. 

Check if Your Credit Score Is Correct

Credit scores are usually highly accurate, but a study from Consumer Reports showed that up to 34% of credit scores in the USA might be incorrect. 

If you have a very poor credit score and believe this is an error, you can dispute it with the credit bureau or company that reported it. The main credit bureaus are Transunion, Equifax, and Experian, and they have links on their websites on how to dispute a poor credit rating. 

In most cases, you’ll need to provide proof that it’s an error, such as proof of a store card payment. 

Get Approved for Low-Limit Credit

While obtaining credit might not seem like a great way to improve your credit score, it can help boost it if you do it correctly. Having no credit might not improve your credit score because the credit bureaus like to know that you are trustworthy with credit and you can pay it off on time. 

Once you’ve proved that you can be trusted with a small credit amount, creditors will improve your score a little so that you can get more credit later on. 

Thankfully, applying for a low-limit credit card is relatively easy, even if you have a very bad credit score. The OpenSky® Secured Visa®Credit Card has a high-interest rate and requires a $200 security deposit to be accepted. 

However, they don’t conduct a credit check, and it’s the ideal way for you to rebuild your credit score. 

Once you have a credit card, ensure that you only use a maximum of 30% of your monthly credit limit, as this proves that you can manage credit well. 

Be a Signatory to Someone Else’s Credit Card

Do you have a close friend or family member who has an established credit card with a high limit? If so, consider asking them if you can be a signatory to their card. They don’t have to permit you to use the card but being a signatory can help boost your credit score considerably. 

The Two Main Credit Score Rating Types

In the US, there are two main credit score rating types: FICO and VantageScore. Both scores collect credit information in a similar way, so you should get a comparable score. 

I’ll discuss these two credit score types in more detail below and if they differ. 

FICO 

Created in 1989, FICO (Fair Isaac Corp) is widely used by mortgage lenders to assess affordability. The main criteria FICO uses include the person’s credit history, the debt amount, and type.  

FICO analyzes how long the person has had credit and how they handled the credit. You’re likely to receive more points if you’ve had credit for a decade or more and usually pay your credit card and loan bills on time.  

They will also look at the amount of debt you have and compare it with your credit limit. If you’ve reached the limit on all your credit cards and taken out as many small loans as possible, it will reflect poorly on your score. 

Another thing they look at is how often you apply for credit, which might mean that you’re a bad credit risk. 

VantageScore

VantageScore was created in 2006 by three of the largest credit reporting companies in the US: 

  • Experian
  • TransUnion
  • Equifax

FICO and VantageScore give consumers similar credit ratings because they use the same factors. However, they weigh each factor differently. To obtain a FICO credit score, you must have used a line of credit within the past six months. 

VantageScore, on the other hand, accepts credit lines regardless of age. 

When calculating a VantageScore credit rating, the amount of money you owe will only account for around a third of your credit score, while FICO will add more weight to it. 

Conclusion

The lowest credit score possible is 300, and anything between this and 550 is considered a very poor credit score. The two main credit score rating types are FICO and VantageScore, and both should give you a similar score. 

Thankfully, there are various ways to improve a very low credit score: 

  • Settle your debt.
  • Pay your bills on time.
  • Check for errors on your credit report.
  • Get approved for a low-limit credit card.

Sources

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Mike Pearson


Mike is a recognized credit expert and founder of Credit Takeoff. His credit advice has been featured in Investopedia, CreditCards.com, Bankrate, Huffpost, The Simple Dollar, Reader's Digest, LendingTree, and Quickbooks. Read more.