What Is Considered a Fair Credit Score — and What Does It Mean?

By Jamie Cattanach · February 01, 2024 · 10 minute read

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What Is Considered a Fair Credit Score — and What Does It Mean?

A fair credit score falls in the mid-lower range of the credit-scoring spectrum. With the FICO® scoring model, which ranges from 300 to 850, a fair score is 580 to 669.

Fair credit is better than poor credit but below the average credit score. While you’ll likely be able to get a credit card or loan with fair credit, you probably won’t qualify for the most favorable rates and terms.

Read on to learn how fair credit compares with other credit score ranges, the difference having good credit can make, and what you can do to build your credit.

What Is Fair Credit?

What “fair credit” means will depend on the scoring model. With FICO, the most widely used credit scores by lenders in the U.S., fair credit is a score between 580 and 669. With VantageScore®, another popular scoring model, fair credit is a score of 601 to 660.

The fair credit range is above poor credit but below good credit, and is considered to be in the subprime score range.

Credit scores are calculated using information found in your credit reports (you have three, one from each of the major consumer credit bureaus). People typically have multiple, not just one, credit score, and these scores can vary depending on the scoring model and which of your three credit reports the scoring system analyzes. While each score may be slightly different, they typically fall into similar ranges and scoring categories, such as poor, fair, good, and excellent/exceptional.


💡 Quick Tip: A low-interest personal loan from SoFi can help you consolidate your debts, lower your monthly payments, and get you out of debt sooner.

Is Fair Credit Good or Bad?

As the name “fair” implies, this score is okay, but not great. A fair credit score isn’t the lowest category on the FICO chart — that’s the poor credit category, which runs from 300-579. But it’s definitely not the highest either. Above fair credit, there is good credit (670-739), very good credit (740-799), and exceptional credit (800-850).

With a fair credit score, lenders will likely see you as an above-average risk and, as a result, charge you more upfront fees and higher interest rates. They may also approve you for a lower loan amount or credit limit.

With fair credit, you might also have difficulty getting approved for certain financial products. For example, you might need a higher credit score to get the best rewards cards or certain types of mortgages. Landlords and property managers may also have credit score requirements. You might have to pay a larger security deposit if you have a fair credit score.

Is a 620 Credit Score Fair?

Yes, 620 is within the 580-669 range for a fair FICO score and, thus, would be considered a fair credit score. A 620 is also in the VantageScore range for fair (580 to 669).

Recommended: 8 Reasons Why Good Credit Is So Important

Why Do I Need to Know My Credit Scores?

A credit score is a three-digit number designed to represent someone’s credit risk (the likelihood you’ll pay your bills on time). Lenders use your credit scores — along with the information in your credit reports — to help determine whether to approve you for a loan or credit line and, if so, at what rates and terms. Many landlords, utility companies, insurance companies, cell phone providers, and employers also look at credit scores.

Knowing your credit scores can help you understand your current credit position. It also provides a baseline from which you can implement change. With time and effort, you may be able to build your credit and gradually move your credit score into a higher category, possibly all the way up to exceptional.

Recommended: How Often Does Your Credit Score Update?

Using Credit Bureaus to Find Credit Scores

It’s a good idea to periodically review your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to make sure all of the information is accurate, since errors can bring down your scores. You can get free weekly copies of your reports at AnnualCreditReport.com .

However, your credit reports will not contain your credit scores.

Fortunately, there are easy ways to get your credit scores, often for free. Many credit card companies, banks, and loan companies have started providing credit scores for their customers. It may be on your statement, or you can access it online by logging into your account.

You can also purchase credit scores directly from one of the three major credit bureaus or other provider, such as FICO. Some credit score services and credit scoring sites provide a free credit score to users. Others may provide credit scores to credit monitoring customers paying a monthly subscription fee.

Recommended: How to Check Your Credit Score for Free

Reasons Your Credit Score Might Be Fair

Your credit scores are based on information in your credit reports, and different things can help or hurt your scores. FICO scores are based on the following five factors.

1. Payment History

This looks at whether you’ve made your debt payments on time every month and is the most important factor in computing your FICO credit score. Even one payment made 30 days late can significantly harm your score. An account sent to collections, a foreclosure, or a bankruptcy can have even more significant and lasting consequences.

2. Amounts Owed

This notes the total amount you’ve borrowed, including how much of your available credit you’re currently using (called your credit utilization rate). If you’re tapping a sizable percentage of your available credit on your credit cards (such as 30% or more), for example, that can have a negative impact on your score.

3. Length of Credit History

Experience with credit accounts generally makes people better at managing debt (research bears this out). As a result, lenders generally see borrowers with a longer credit history (i.e., older accounts) more favorably than those that are new to credit. All things being equal, the longer your credit history, the higher your credit score is likely to be.

4. Credit Mix

This looks at how many different types of debt you are managing, such as revolving debt (e.g., credit cards and credit lines) and installment debt (such as personal loans, auto loans, and mortgages). The ability to successfully manage multiple debts and different credit types tends to benefit your credit scores.

5. New Credit

Research shows that taking on new debt increases a person’s risk of falling behind on their old debts. As a result, credit scoring systems can lower your score a small amount after a hard credit inquiry (which occurs when you apply for a new loan or credit card). The decrease is small, typically less than five points per inquiry, and temporary — it generally only lasts a few months.

Steps That Can Help Improve Fair Credit

While you may still be able to qualify for loans with fair credit, building your credit can help you get better rates and terms. Here are some moves that may help.

•   Pay your bills on time. Having a long track record of on-time payments on your credit card and loan balances can help build a positive payment history. Do your best to never miss a payment, since this can result in a negative mark on your credit reports.

•   Pay down credit card balances. If you’re carrying a large balance on one or more credit cards, it can be helpful to pay down that balance. This will lower your credit utilization rate.

•   Consider a secured credit card. If you’re new to credit or have a fair or low credit score, you may be able to build your credit by opening a secured credit card. These cards require you to pay a security deposit up front, which makes them easier to qualify for. Using a secured card responsibly can add positive payment information into your credit reports.

•   Monitor your credit. It’s a good idea to closely examine the information in your three credit reports to make sure it’s all accurate. Any errors can drag down your score. If you see any inaccuracies, you’ll want to reach out to the lender reporting the information. You can also dispute errors on your credit report with the credit bureaus.

•   Limit hard credit inquiries. Opening too many new credit accounts within a short period of time could hurt your scores because credit scoring formulas take recent credit inquiries into account. When shopping rates, be sure that a lender will only run a soft credit check (which won’t impact your scores).

Reasons to Improve Your Credit Score

Building your credit takes time and diligence, but can be well worth the effort, since our scores impact so many different parts of our lives.

Loans

Credit scores are used by lenders to gauge each consumer’s creditworthiness and determine whether to approve their applications for loans. A higher score makes you more likely to qualify for mortgages, auto loans, and different types of personal loans. It also helps you qualify for more favorable lending rates and terms.

Credit Cards

Credit card issuers typically reserve cards with lower annual percentage rates (APRs), more enticing rewards, and higher credit limits for applicants who have higher credit scores. A fair credit score may qualify you for a credit card with a high APR and little or no perks. Improving your credit score could potentially give you the boost you need to qualify for a better credit card.

Security Deposits

Just found your dream apartment? A fair credit score could mean a higher security deposit than if you had a good or better credit score. With a poor or fair credit score, you may also be asked to pay security deposits for cell phones or basic utilities like electricity.

Housing Options

A fair or poor credit score can even limit which housing options are available to you in the first place. Some landlords and property management companies require renters to clear a minimum credit bar to qualify.

Recommended: Typical Personal Loan Requirements Needed for Approval

Can You Get Personal Loans With Fair Credit?

It’s possible to get a personal loan with fair credit (or a FICO score between 580 and 669) but your choices will likely be limited.

Personal loan lenders use credit scores to gauge the risk of default, and a fair credit score often indicates you’ve had some issues with credit in the past. In many cases, borrowers with fair credit may be offered personal loans with higher rates, steeper fees, shorter repayment periods, and lower loan limits than those offered to borrowers with good to exceptional credit.

Although some lenders offer fair credit loans, you’ll likely need to do some searching to find a lender that will give you competitive rates and terms.


💡 Quick Tip: Generally, the larger the personal loan, the bigger the risk for the lender — and the higher the interest rate. So one way to lower your interest rate is to try downsizing your loan amount.

The Takeaway

Having a fair credit score is better than having a poor credit score and doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t qualify for any type of credit. However, the rates and terms you’ll be offered may not be as favorable as those someone with good or better scores can get. With time and effort, however, you can move up the credit scoring ladder. If you work on building your credit score until you have good or better credit, you’ll gain access to credit cards and loans with lower interest rates and more perks.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.


SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.

FAQ

Is fair credit good or bad?

A fair credit score is neither good nor bad, it’s just okay. FICO credit scores range from 300 to 850 and a fair score is 580 to 669. It’s better than a poor credit score but below the average credit score.

What’s considered a fair credit score?

According to the FICO scoring model, which ranges from 300 to 850, a fair credit score is one that falls between 580 and 669. It’s one step up from a poor credit rating but below good, very good, and exceptional.

Is a 620 credit score fair?

Yes, a 620 credit score is considered to be in the fair range. According to the FICO scoring model, which ranges from 300 to 850, a fair credit score is one that falls between 580 and 669.


Photo credit: iStock/Ivan Pantic

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