What Is a Bad Credit Score and How Can You Fix It?

Written by Banks Editorial Team
3 min. read
Written by Banks Editorial Team
3 min. read

A bad credit score can have serious consequences for your financial health. It makes it more challenging for you to qualify for competitive terms on loans and credit card products. The good news is having less than perfect credit isn’t the end of the world, and there are few ways in which you can fix it.

Experian Free Credit Score

Experian Boost is a free service that allows you to add eligible, on-time payments to your credit report, potentially increasing your credit score.

What Is Considered A Bad Credit Score?

There are two primary credit scoring models – FICO and VantageScore. FICO is used by 90 percent of creditors and lenders when evaluating applications for debt products. VantageScore isn’t as prevalent, but it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with what your score means. 

FICO Score Credit Score Range

FICO Scores range between 300 and 850. Your FICO credit score is considered “poor” if it’s below 580. Here’s a breakdown of the ranges: 

  • Poor: 300 to 579
  • Fair: 580 to 669
  • Good: 670 to 739
  • Very Good: 740 to 799
  • Exceptional: 800 to 850

VantageScore Credit Score Range

VantageScores also range between 300 and 850, but anything below 601 is classified as “poor” credit. The chart below demonstrates how VantageScores are classified: 

  • Very Poor: 300 to 499 
  • Poor: 500 to 600
  • Fair: 601 to 660
  • Good: 661 to 780
  • Excellent: 781 to 850

What Affects Your Credit Score?

Your credit score is composed of components: 

  • Payment history (35 percent): Do you pay your bills on time? Late or missed payments, collection accounts and charge-offs can severely damage your credit score. 
  • Amount owed (30 percent): What’s your credit utilization rate or the amount of credit you have in use? Ideally, you want to keep this amount at or below 30 percent to preserve your credit rating. So, if you have three credit cards with $500 limits, the total balance between accounts shouldn’t exceed $450.
  • Length of credit history (15 percent): Have you been using credit for some time, or are you a credit newbie? It could take some time to build up your credit rating if you recently started using credit. 
  • Credit mix (10 percent): What types of credit are you currently using? Creditors and lenders like to see a healthy mix of revolving (i.e., credit cards) and installment (i.e., car loans, student loans, personal loans, mortgages) accounts on your credit report. 
  • New credit (10 percent): Each time you apply for credit, a hard inquiry is generated. It could ding your credit score by a few points, but several applications for credit or new accounts in a short period could have a greater impact. 

How A Bad Credit Score Can Hurt You

Harder To Qualify For Loans

Consumers with lower credit scores have trouble qualifying for loans and credit cards. Or you may have to bring a co-signer on board to strengthen your approval odds.

Less Favorable Loan Interest And Terms

If you’re approved for a loan or credit card with less than perfect credit, you’ll likely receive higher interest rates and unfavorable loan terms. Even worse, you could pay several hundred or thousands more in interest than you would if your credit score was higher. 

Difficulty Renting An Apartment

When applying for an apartment, you’ll often find that landlords also conduct credit checks. If what they find in your report is unsatisfactory, you could be denied housing. 

Some May Require A Security Deposit From You

If you are approved for an apartment with a subpar credit history, you may have to pay a higher security deposit. 

Experian Free Credit Score

Experian Boost is a free service that allows you to add eligible, on-time payments to your credit report, potentially increasing your credit score.

Problems Getting New Accounts And Contracts

A lower credit score can also cause problems when you attempt to open new accounts. Whether it’s a contract for a new cell phone (and service), a utility account or a cable/internet service connection request, you could get denied if your credit score is low. Or the service provider may require you to make a large security deposit to start service. 

Higher Insurance Premiums

In many states, insurance providers assess the information in your credit report (along with your driving history) to decide if you’re a good candidate for coverage and how much you’ll pay for coverage. However, be mindful that this practice is prohibited in California, Hawaii and Massachusetts. 

How To Fix A Bad Credit Score

Pay Your Bills On Time

Since payment history accounts for the largest percentage of your credit score, paying your bills on time is important. You’ll avoid late payment fees, penalties, collection activity and adverse credit reporting. (Quick note: creditors and lenders generally don’t report late payments until accounts are 30 days past due). 

Monitor Your Credit Score 

Stay abreast of what’s happening in your credit profile and monitor your credit score. You can enroll in Experian’s free credit monitoring to receive real-time alerts whenever there are changes to your credit report or score. 

Pay Your Debts

Credit utilization is the second-largest component of your credit score. So, you want to assess your spending plan to identify areas where you can cut back and free up funds to pay down credit card debt. Doing so helps lower your credit utilization, which could help improve your credit score. 

Avoid Hard Inquiries

Only apply for credit as needed while working to improve your credit rating. And if it’s a must that you secure a new credit card or loan, ask the lender if you can get pre-qualified before submitting a formal application. Doing so gives you an idea of your approval odds and helps you avoid excessive hard inquiries. 

Boost Your Credit Score

Use a free service, like Experian Boost, to potentially raise your credit score instantly without any effort on your part. You’ll get credit for payments made to eligible service providers from utility, phone and streaming services by connecting your bank account(s) used to pay bills and selecting the positive payment history you want to be added to your Experian credit profile. 

It’s included as a part of the free CreditWorksSM Basic membership, and you’ll also get access to your Experian credit report, FICO score, credit monitoring and alerts, a dark web surveillance report and more. Visit Experian’s website to learn more about Experian Boost, learn more about other products, sign up for a free account or get your free credit score.

Experian

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