655 credit score – what will it get you?

What your score means

For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume you’re looking at your FICO or Vantage Score (as these are the scores most commonly provided by credit cards and free-score sites).

A 655 credit score is considered a fair credit score by most lenders.

That means, while you’re out of the bad-credit woods, you will have trouble qualifying for some credit products and may be eligible only for products with higher-interest rates and non-prime perks. You may also not be able to get a very high credit limit.

Your score – in context

Here’s what various score ranges mean (based on definitions from Experian regarding FICO scores):

Credit-score ranges defined

ScoreCredit typeExplanation
800+ExcellentConsumers in this range can expect easy approval for credit products and the best terms.
740-799Very goodConsumers in this range can expect to qualify for a wide range of products and are eligible to receive favorable terms.
670-739GoodConsumers in this range may vary in their qualification for credit products. Those at the lower end may get denied for premium products, or may have less-favorable terms/lower credit limits. Still, getting approved for a card or loan is absolutely feasible.
580-669FairConsumers in this range can expect higher interest rates and may not qualify for some credit products. Results will vary, based on whether the score is due to thin credit history or a troubled one (bankruptcies and late payments).
579 and lowerPoorConsumers in this range will have trouble qualifying for most credit products.

Your 655 score puts you in the “Fair Credit” row – albeit in the higher part of that range. Expect to get rejected for the best credit products. It’s nothing personal. Lenders are simply concerned you may become delinquent.

What you’ll qualify for with a 655 score

You can consider yourself still in the credit-building stage. While you may not have to resort to secured cards or obviously sub-prime products, you don’t want to waste a credit inquiry by aiming too high. Some options to consider:

  • Use a soft-pull credit tool: The “fair” credit category can be tricky to define. To see where you stand, use a soft-pull credit tool. Without damaging your score, you can see which offers you’re preapproved for.
  • Credit cards for fair credit: Cards designed specifically for those in the fair-credit limbo are few and far between. But we’ve rounded up some products that advertise themselves as fair-credit eligible.
  • Store credit cards: Your limit may be small, and their interest-terms aren’t always the most favorable. But store credit cards have long been a credit-leg up for many. Here are some of the easiest to get approved for.

More about credit scores

There are various scoring models out there, FICO being the most commonly used by lenders, VantageScore being the most commonly provided by free scoring sites. So, to create your credit-building road map, review the factors below. We’ve listed FICO’s scoring factors in order of priority (biggest to smallest):

  • Payment history (35 percent of your FICO score): Payments are made on time. While you’re trying to build up from fair credit, make sure you don’t miss a single payment.
  • Utilization (30 percent of your FICO score): Use up as little of your credit limits as possible. At a bare minimum, stay below 30 percent. Preferably, you’ll stay below 10 percent. Cards you’ll qualify for may not have very high limits – so consider making multiple payments throughout the month to keep utilization low.
  • Length of credit history (15 percent of your FICO score): FICO’s algorithm rewards you for accounts that have been open a long time. Rapidly opening new accounts will decrease your average age of accounts and lower your score, so it’s important not to get to trigger-happy while you’re trying to improve your fair credit.
  • New credit (10 percent of your FICO score): Every time you apply for a new credit product, expect a hard inquiry, which will temporarily lower your score. That’s why it’s vital to apply for products you have a good chance of qualifying for – if you go straight for the best cards on the market, you’ll get rejected AND get hit with a score-lowering inquiry.
  • Credit mix (10 percent of your FICO score): FICO (and, by extension, lenders) want to see that you can juggle a variety of credit types. Having both installment loans and revolving credit (ie, cards) on your report will help you maximize this factor — but only if it comes naturally. Spending lots of time trying to get loans you don’t really need to up your credit variety won’t have a huge score-building effect, as this factor accounts for just 10 percent of your score. Consider it the icing on the cake after you’ve taken care of all the above factors.