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

By Jamie Cattanach · March 08, 2022 · 8 minute read

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

Curious about what is considered a fair credit score — and why it matters?

If your FICO® Score is within the 580 to 669 range, it’s considered to be fair. Here’s what that means for your financial future, and what you can do to improve your credit score.

What Is Fair Credit?

Fair credit is a category your credit score can fall into, which gives lenders some insight into your financial past — and thus may have an effect on whether or not those lenders choose to extend credit to you as a borrower.

Credit scores are calculated by a variety of different credit bureaus, which means you actually have multiple credit scores, not just one. But your FICO® Score is the one most lenders rely on — and a fair FICO Score is one that falls between 580 and 669. (The scale runs from 300 to 850.)

Is Fair Credit Good or Bad?

A fair credit score isn’t the lowest category on the chart — that’s the very poor credit category, which runs from 300-579.

But it’s definitely not the highest either. Above fair credit, ratings are good credit (670-739), very good credit (740-799), and exceptional credit (800-850).

Is a 620 Credit Score Fair?

Yes, 620 is within the 580-669 range, and thus would be considered a fair credit score.

Recommended: 8 Reasons Why Good Credit Is So Important

Why Do I Need to Know My Credit Scores?

You may wonder why it’s important to know your credit scores at all, or be discouraged by a not-so-great credit score and what it can mean for your financial future.

It’s true that your credit score is an important piece of information. Many lenders use it as a way to get insight into your financial behavioral patterns. A poor or fair credit score can make it difficult to qualify for new loans and even some job and housing opportunities.

But there’s good news, too: If you have a fair credit score, you’re not alone. According to Experian, one of the three major American credit bureaus, some 17% of consumers are in the fair credit category.

Additionally, there are concrete steps you can take to raise your credit score into higher categories, including all the way up to exceptional, with enough time, effort, and perseverance.

It all starts by knowing what your credit score is now, though. With that knowledge, you have a baseline from which you can implement change.

Recommended: How Often Does Your Credit Score Update?

Using Credit Bureaus to Find Credit Scores

You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) annually at AnnualCreditReport.com . Requesting your credit report this way will not include your credit score.

Companies that advertise free credit scores may charge you for tri-merge credit reports, identity theft protection, and other services. While you may choose to pay for those options, you don’t need to to get your scores.

Your credit score may also be available as part of another financial service or product — for example, some credit cards include your credit score and fraud monitoring as part of their services. You may also get a copy of your credit report when a lender makes a hard inquiry in your name (such as when you apply for an auto loan or a new credit card).

Recommended: TransUnion vs. Equifax: How They Differ

What Does a Fair Credit Score Tell Lenders?

A credit score puts an easy-to-reference number onto the financial behaviors detailed in the credit report. Lenders may equate a lower credit score with higher risk to them.

Credit scores are calculated based on a few specific factors — which means it’s easy to find specific opportunities for change if you’re looking to increase your score over time.

It’s a good idea to review your credit reports each year. Disputing fraudulent items as quickly as possible can help get them removed from your report and increase your score before they have a major impact.

Reasons Your Credit Score Might Be Fair

There are specific factors that go into calculating your FICO Score. And to create your credit report, the credit bureaus receive payment information from creditors and public records. Any information that’s considered negative could lower your score to the fair category.

Credit History

Accounting for 15% of your FICO Score calculation, the overall length of your credit history is an important factor. If you don’t have a deep credit history, this factor can lower your credit score, but it’s not the most important factor in the calculation.

If you’re trying to build your credit history, there are a few things you may want to consider.

•   Getting a secured credit card. This can be a good way to establish credit for someone who has little or no credit history, or someone who has bad credit and is trying to improve it. Secured credit cards tend to be easier to qualify for than their unsecured counterparts. And the credit limit doesn’t have to be large. What counts is how it’s managed.

•   Becoming an authorized user. If someone you know well and trust has good credit and is willing to add you as an authorized user on their credit card account, this could be an option to build your credit history. As long as the credit card issuer reports an authorized user’s account activity to the three major credit bureaus, responsible use of the credit can positively affect your credit.

•   Keeping older accounts open. It can be tempting to close older, unused credit accounts in an effort to keep your credit report from looking cluttered. But that might not be the best move. The age of your accounts is factored into your credit history, with older accounts in good standing having a positive effect. To make sure an account is not closed by the credit card issuer due to inactivity, you might consider using it for a recurring monthly payment, such as a utility bill or streaming service.

Recommended: What Is Considered a Bad Credit Score?

Credit Inquiries

There are two types of credit inquiries, soft and hard. Overall, inquiries into your credit report don’t have a critical effect on your credit score, depending on the type and timing.

•   A soft credit inquiry will not affect your credit score. Examples of soft inquiries into your credit report are when a lender pre-qualifies you for a credit account or when you look at your own credit report.

•   A hard inquiry into your credit report will affect your credit score. A creditor will perform a hard inquiry when you apply for credit (a loan, line of credit, or credit card, for example) or request a credit increase on an existing account.

If you’re looking for a loan and comparing lenders, multiple inquiries into your credit report within a short amount of time — usually about 30 days — won’t have an effect on your credit score. This is considered rate shopping.

Inquiries into your credit report generally signal a potential new credit account being opened. But opening several credit accounts in a short amount of time can have a negative affect on your credit score. Doing so will lower the length of your credit history and can lower your score by a few points.

Public Records

Credit bureaus will glean information from public records such as bankruptcies, foreclosures, and tax liens to include on your credit report, and these can affect your credit score. Your report will also include debt that has been sent to collections.

Bankruptcies will remain on your credit report for seven to 10 years, depending on the type of bankruptcy. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy will be included for 10 years, and a Chapter 13 bankruptcy will be included for seven years.

Credit Utilization Rate

If you’re using a high percentage of your credit limit on revolving credit accounts like credit cards or lines of credit, you’ll have a high credit utilization rate. Lenders typically like to see this percentage at lower than 30%. Higher rates tend to signal to lenders that someone is living beyond their means or having trouble managing their finances in general.

Late Payments

Weighted at 35% of your score, your payment history is the single most important factor in calculating your credit score — which is why late payments and delinquent accounts can have such a detrimental effect. If you habitually pay your debts late, making an effort to pay them in full and on time can help pull your score from fair to good relatively quickly.

Debt Ratio

The second most important factor in calculating your FICO Score is how much money you currently owe on your debts. This can also be expressed as a credit utilization rate, for revolving debt, or debt ratio, which takes into account all of your debts.

This factor accounts for 30% of your FICO Score, so paying down high revolving balances can help increase your credit score — along with lowering the amount of money you’ll pay in interest over time. Regular, on-time payments on installment debt like a mortgage or auto loan shows responsible debt management.

Reasons to Improve Your Credit Score

Improving your credit score takes time and diligence, but it’s worth it — because our scores impact so many different parts of our lives.

Loans

Perhaps most obviously, fair and poor credit can make it difficult to borrow in the future, and can limit the types of personal loans and other lines of credit you’re eligible for. Without a good enough credit score, you may not be able to get a mortgage or an auto loan, for example, or you may have trouble qualifying for favorable rates and terms.

Credit Cards

Credit card issuers typically reserve cards with lower annual percentage rates (APR), 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 that’s average in terms of those things. Improving your credit score could potentially give you a boost to qualify for a credit card with more favorable terms.

Recommended: What Is a Good APR?

Insurance

Insurers typically use a credit-based insurance score, which is slightly different from a credit score calculation for lending decisions. Using the same scoring model as for FICO credit scores, the insurance score gives insurers an idea of how likely your insurance claim — and if you’ll file one — will be a loss for the insurance company.

Auto insurers use the insurance score and other factors such as your past claims history, driving record, the type and value of the vehicle you’re insuring to determine your insurance rates and the amount of insurance they will offer you.

Property insurance rates and amounts are figured with similar factors, except insurers will look at the property inspection, along with the type and value of the home you are insuring.

Security Deposits

Just found your dream apartment? A fair credit score could mean a higher security deposit than if you had a good credit score. If you have stable employment with income that’s adequate to make rent payments, in addition to a satisfactory background check, a landlord may look past an applicant with a fair 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.

Can You Get Personal Loans With Fair Credit?

A fair credit score is one between 580 and 669. Having fair credit can make it more difficult to qualify for certain types of loans and may mean you face higher interest rates when you do qualify.

Good news: It is possible to get a personal loan even with fair credit, and one of the common uses of personal loans is debt consolidation, which can help you get back on the right financial track.

The Takeaway

Having a fair credit score doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t qualify for any type of credit at all. The rates and terms you may qualify for might not be as good as those applicants with higher scores might qualify for. And looking for secured credit rather than unsecured credit might open up some options worth considering and could be a stepping stone to credit with a lower APR, more enticing rewards, or a higher credit limit.

SoFi Personal Loans are unsecured loans that offer competitive interest rates, no fees, and a variety of terms to fit different budgets. Checking your rate takes just one minute and the soft credit inquiry won’t affect your credit score.*

Learn more about personal loans from SoFi

FAQ

Is fair credit good or bad?

Neither, actually. A fair credit score is just that — fair — according to credit scoring models. You might consider it as average when compared to other ratings.

What’s considered a fair credit score?

A fair credit score, according to the FICO Score model, is a score that falls between 580 and 669. The full scale is from 300 to 850.

Is a 620 credit score fair?

Yes, a 620 credit score is considered to be in the fair range.


Photo credit: iStock/Ivan Pantic

*Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.
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