Young woman sits alone at cafeteria table with laptop and coffee.

What's Considered a Bad Credit Score?

Published March 7, 2024
4 min read

Key points about: bad credit scores

  1. FICO and VantageScore® are the two major credit scoring models. They calculate credit scores differently, but both offer an idea of your creditworthiness. Neither has a “bad” range.

  2. A low credit score may make it difficult to qualify for certain financial products or favorable rates.

  3. You could positively impact your credit score by making timely payments and reducing your credit utilization ratio, among other changes.

Your credit score plays a major role in your financial life. A credit score is calculated when the consumer’s credit report information (payment history, amounts owed, etc.,) is processed through the credit score algorithm housed at the credit reporting agency.  Lenders typically consult your score to determine your creditworthiness. A bad credit score may make opening a new credit card account, buying a home, taking out a personal loan, or even renting an apartment more difficult. However, what qualifies as a “bad credit score” depends on your creditor and needs.

Credit score ranges

Lenders use credit scores to predict how likely you are to repay bills on time. Credit score ranges streamline the application and approval process. Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO)1 and VantageScore® are two well-known credit scoring agencies. While both agencies use a scoring range of 300 to 850, they calculate and categorize scores differently. Both scoring systems use five ranges, but those ranges differ slightly.

FICO® Scores generally use the following ranges:  

Exceptional—800 to 850 

Very good—740 to 799 

Good—670 to 739 

Fair—580 to 669 

Poor—300 to 579 

VantageScore® 4.0 uses the following ranges:  

Excellent—781 to 850 

Good—661 to 780 

Fair—601 to 660 

Poor—500 to 600 

Very poor—300 to 499

Are there good and bad credit score ranges?

Both FICO and VantageScore® have “good” credit score ranges. FICO® Scores also have “very good” and “exceptional” ranges, while VantageScore® calls its highest range “excellent.” However, neither scoring agency has a “bad” credit score range. Lenders may require different credit scores for each product, so “bad” credit scores vary. A credit score in the “fair” or “poor” ranges on the FICO® Score scale or the “poor” or “very poor” on the VantageScore® scale may indicate you’re a credit risk to a lender and make it more difficult to reach your financial goals.

Is it bad to check your credit score?

It’s a common misconception that checking your credit score hurts your credit; it doesn’t. In fact, it’s good to check your credit to identify increases or decreases in your score. That way, you could make changes as necessary to improve your credit. Staying on top of your credit score and credit report could help you maintain your financial well-being, especially if you plan to make any significant life changes soon. 

What's a bad credit score for you?

While higher credit scores are preferred, what qualifies as a “bad credit score” depends on your needs and situation. Some types of credit, including certain credit cards, mortgages, and loans, have stricter score requirements than others. Likewise, some landlords may require specific credit scores for certain units. The credit scoring model each company uses to check your credit may also affect what qualifies as a bad credit score for you, as FICO® Scores and VantageScore® have different ranges. For example, a 662 credit score would be “fair” under the FICO scoring model but “good” under the VantageScore® model.

Lenders may approve you for new credit even if you have a low credit score. However, you may receive terms with higher interest rates or additional fees. A low credit score may also prevent you from qualifying for certain rewards credit cards.

Can you help a bad credit score?

Yes, you can help a bad credit score. If your score isn’t as high as you’d like it to be, a few changes could help:

  • Pay your credit card bills on time each month. When possible, pay more than the minimum.
  • Keep your credit utilization ratio as low as possible. You could do that by paying down your balances or increasing your credit limits.
  • Take out a new credit card. A new card could increase your credit limit and improve your credit mix. However, it could also reduce your length of credit history and search for new credit.  Some credit card issuers even offer a specific credit card for bad credit scores. 

Did you know?

A credit card may be able to help your credit score, but if you have poor credit, it may be difficult to be approved for a new card in the first place. That’s where a secured credit card may be able to help. See if a Discover it® Secured Credit Card is right for you.

While “bad credit” may not have one universal meaning, a low credit score can make it more challenging to meet your financial goals. If you can keep your score in the “good” credit score ranges or above according to the FICO and VantageScore® models, you may find it easier to get approved for the credit you need. If your score slips below those ranges, don’t panic. You could help it over time by taking a few simple steps.

Next steps

You may also be interested in

Share article

Was this article helpful?

Glad you found this useful. Could you let us know what you found helpful?
Sorry this article didn't help you. Can you give us feedback why?

Was this article helpful?

Thank you for your feedback

  1. FICO® Credit Score Terms: FICO is a registered trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation in the United States and other countries.

    Discover Financial Services and Fair Isaac are not credit repair organizations as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. Discover Financial Services and Fair Isaac do not provide “credit repair” services or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history or credit rating.


  • Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.