What Is The Lowest Credit Score You Can Have?

There’s a difference between what is lowest credit score possible and the lowest you can actually get [even if you tried]

Important: All scores mentioned are FICO credit scores – which is the most widely used for lending decisions. There are a number of other credit scores out there, like the VantageScore, but they are not the most utilized.

300 scoreFICO scores can range from 300 to 850. But even though 300 is technically the lowest credit score possible, it’s very unlikely you would hit it even if you tried. To get that you would have to do everything wrong and have absolutely zero positive credit history whatsoever. And, zero positive credit history is a very different thing than having no credit history. Someone with no credit history will have a low beginning credit score but not 300, as having no infractions on your records counts for something with the credit bureaus. In that regard they at least give a newbie the benefit of the doubt relative to someone who has trashed their credit.

In the real world, the lowest credit score you can possibly get will probably be around the high 300’s. For example if you:

  • Just went through a bankruptcy and for the first time it is showing on your credit report
  • If you have defaulted on multiple debts and had little to no payment history on those accounts prior to default (i.e. applying for a loan and defaulting a couple months later)
  • You have recently gone through a foreclosure and have had severe late payments and/or defaults on at least one other line of credit

In those types of situations, you may fall into the 300’s. According to numbers from FICO, as of October 2013, just 5.8 percent of the population had scores between 300 and 499. So you can imagine the percentage of those hitting rock-bottom at 300 make up a tiny sliver of the population. For comparison, 18.6% of the population have scores between 800 and 850.

Even if you’re not at the absolute worst, anything under 600 is mostly useless when it comes to getting a credit card (unsecured), a mortgage or car loan with a decent rate.

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

Credit scores in context

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.

How to improve a low credit score?

You can make your way from the poor credit category to the “fair” category (scores in the mid-600’s) sometimes in just a year or two, as long as you make the right moves. Here are five things you definitely will want to do:

  1. Maintain your good standing accounts, if you have any – Have any accounts you haven’t screwed up yet or are still open? Good. Make sure they stay that way.
  2. Check your credit reports – Is it possible you are being penalized for something incorrectly? Check your credit reports, to ensure the negative information that is weighing you down is accurate.
  3. Open secured accounts – Even those with low credit scores can still qualify for secured credit cards, which allow you to secure a credit line with a deposit. Because you’re fronting the cash, it’s more likely a bank will take a chance on you. Same holds true for secured loans, which you can get through a bank or credit union.
  4. Have patience – As your negatives start to age, your low credit score should begin improving, especially if you have a fresh, positive recent history of on-time payments. Unfortunately you can’t speed up the clock, but at least it’s reassuring to know that every month that goes by, your bad debt is a month older in the eyes of the credit scoring formula.

How high will you need to go?

The lowest credit score to buy a house with a mortgage might be as low as 620. But I stress that’s a big might because even though FHA underwriting guidelines don’t have a minimum score set in stone, if you are below 620 you will not be eligible for automatic approval and have to jump through many hoops with a manual process, which may not even yield results.

It can be hard to get approved with anything below a 700. However if you are buying a foreclosure directly from a bank, with that same bank also providing the mortgage, they might be willing to work with you to get that foreclosed home off their books.

The lowest credit score to get a credit card that is unsecured will likely be at least 650. With that type of score, you might be able to qualify for an entry-level card for fair credit. For the good reward cards you see advertised on TV, plan on having a 700 or above. If you are in the low-600’s or below, you may need to go with a secured card.

The lowest credit score to get a car loan ultimately depends on what type of interest rate you are willing to pay. To get those 0% offers you see advertised on new cars, you will probably need to be in the 700’s. If you’re in, say, the 500’s it still is possible to get a car loan but you will have to pay through the roof with an excessive APR rate.

Have a low score yourself? Then please share in the comments what it is and the circumstances that got you there.

Updated February 2016

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

I have four credit cards that are maxed out and only ever pay the minimum amount to help build my credit very faster. Credit went up from 300 to 304 Tuesday, and from 304 to 311 on Wednesday! Woo!!

My score was 495 I got a secured credit card in June and by mid August my score is 597 and 598

Do anybody if 507 is a good or bad credit record? Answers please ????

507 is not a good credit score, 620 will get you approved for a decent credit card and 720 is even better for buying a car or a house.

There are 3 major credit services all three are total different transunion is 705,experience,and equifax are in low 500 if I were to go buy a truck what would I do or what would they go off of.

Lesson learned!
If you can’t pay for it in cash, you don’t need it. No matter what it is.

My credit score is that low because I have paid cash for everything and I have never had payments on anything! I don’t even sign contracts with cell phone company’s. I’ve never paid payments on a car!

I know nothing about credit scores and all that…so is 814 a good credit score? I was told today I had an 814 credit score and I REALLY need a car (never had one) and it’s winter and with me having 5 kids cabs can’t take us all and it gets super expensive and they aren’t very reliable.

814 is an awesome credit score! Just make sure you don’t get take. By th car salesman. Act like you k ow you have a great score and can get the lowest percentage on a car loan. Check % rates for loans and also research cars to find the least maintenance and highest ratings on websites and I would sig. Up with consumer reports at least while you’re looking for a car. It is well worth the subscription! 🙂

Good luck!

Did you even read the article?

It’s always a good idea for a wife to have something in her name, credit card, or something. I am happily married for 33 years and looking forward to many more years together. But I’ve seen other women in dire straights at the sudden death of their husband. Make sure to have something, so that if the unthinkable happens, you can fend for yourself. In today’s world, it’s a necessary evil. Years ago, not so much as there wasn’t a think called a credit score.

I’m just not understanding something. 2 years ago – score was 750 when I bought a car. Paying on time all credit cards, car payment, etc. One month ago score was 655. In the past month I have paid 2 credit cards entirely off but still have a couple with 2 low balances. My score has dropped 55 points. How can this be? Makes me not want to even bother as my brother filed bankruptcy and his score is higher than mine.

Have you canceled any of your credit cards during your lifelong credit history? Canceling your oldest card reduces the length of your credit history, which, when it ages off, will hurt your score pretty hard. It may take as many as 10 years for the account to age off your report, but when it does, expect a pretty large credit score hit.

I have a 726 credit score, bought a house, have owned numerous cars and have just recently paid off all debt except for the 30 year we own your ass mortgage. Credit is just another enslaving tool that the “eye” in the sky uses to make themselves richer. Don’t use credit cards, pay cash and don’t give your hard earned money to already rich NWO scum…

Thank you for that. I see that your eyes are open. “They” have mastered the technique of squeezing cash out of the everyday unwitting slave. The corporations, banks and government are all laughing there way to the bank.

I am trying to get in the Guiness(sic) book of records as having the worlds lowest credit score. Any suggestions on how? My rating is around 400 and I need it to drop to 300 but now cannot find anyone to at least run my credit so I can get it dinged and lowered. How can I make it lower? Thanks.

Just go into any car dealership and let them know you want to buy a car. they will run your credit in a heartbeat! there is no way any of them will not run your credit report… have fun…..

I’m 21 and just applied for a vs credit card they sent me a letter of denial saying my credit score is 130?? I honestly thought hospital bills were my only issue. Where do I even begin to repair this mess ?

It’s sad to think that I can’t get a score of 1 now.
And what’s the point of having 300 there, then?

I have student loans that I didnt even attend or sign up for Im having a hard time cause the star tech institutions that claims I attended their school is now under investigation and idk what to do who to call Im getting the run around…and it messing up my credit what can I do!!!! HELP PLZ

All you need to do is mail out 5 letters, one to each of the bureau’s and one to first credco ( they prepare the bureau’s ) Must send each certified explaining these are not your accounts, include a copy of a bill in your name, ssi card and drivers license copy. Let them know that you’ve never went to that school and never signed up for a class. By the way you must send one of those letters to the school also.

my credit used to be around 720 in my early 20s, then i was laid off from a decent paying job 1.5 years ago & now my score is in the mid 500s & dropping. I’m looking for a second job but not having any luck so far. Sometimes i start to feel like im catching up paying just the minimum on everything except 1 or 2 things but by the next month i’m behind again.

Besides not paying on time? Lol and the credit score i’m looking at is experian. I pay monthly to monitor my credit my husband and I want to buy a house Jan or Feb of 2014 as well as car in a few months we are with child.

So I am 20 yrs old and married of 2 years happily. I got a secured credit card with limit of $241 last august 2012. it’s now may 13 2013 my score is 527 right now it WAS on 1-12-13 646!! But stupid me forgot to pay a simple frickin $25 for 2 months and has now dropped 38 points went from 646 to 527 =( I have about 4,000 in emergency room bills owed since I was 18. no other credit cards ever nor bankruptcy or foreclosures. I have made minimum payments on all and even paid off a bill in the amount of $71.00 lol so yeah what a can I do? To get better credit.

As for those hospital bills, they don’t carry over 60% value to the credit situation you are in. Revolving credit accounts such as credit cards, cars, homes or any other item that you have that you pay monthly on must be within a 30 day window. Also, any credit cards need to be 40% less than it’s full credit line. i.e Capital One card at a 3000 dollar limit needs to be at a balance of no more than 1200 to stay under 40%. take care

contact the hospital and make arrangements to pay off the medical bill. even if its 10 or 15 bucks a month. you may want to set up an auto pay through your checking account to pay the 25 dollars automatically so you don’t miss another payment. Your just starting out so go and read up on the subject it will pay big time in the amount of money you will save. one of the smartest financial decisions you can make.

My credit score is in the 400’s. And it hurts!! I defaulted on my student loans this year, and cosigned for my sister’s car, which was ultimately repossessed late last year. I live check to check, so slowly paying off collectors is still not an option yet. I don’t even have that much debt, to have a credit score this low. Its just more than I can afford to pay.

When I called to defer my loans both times, I was told that there are many ways to handle the student loan repayment. I changed schools and got an in school deferment. Another time, I got an underemployment deferment because I worked less than 30 hours a week. There are also fixed payments, hardship postponements and income based repayment to name a few. Call and ask what can be done, the loan repayment folks are probably the nicest people i’ve ever experienced on the other end of a 1 800 number.

I am a recently divorced woman. I have never had anything in my name as my husband wanted to be the “man of the house” and everything was in His name, EVERYTHING! I have never even had a bank account until a few months ago. The only “credit” I have are my student loans prior to our marriage, which he had assured me several times while married that those were being paid. I have since learned that those have been in default for almost 2 years. I have already filed a forbearance on those loans and have brought them current again, however with those being my ONLY form of credit, my credit score is in the very low 300’s. I have been unsuccessful at getting credit cards, car loans, or even an approval for an apartment.

My advice, especially to the younger generation, Always have at least something in your name. Get a simple gas card and pay it off every month. Have your own bank account, even if you just keep the bare minimum in it. Having some sort of POSITIVE credit, regardless of how small, is WAY better than none at all. Learn from my “misguided” mistakes.

I just found out my credit score is 352. 8 years ago someone stole my checks and ruined my credit. I was 18 living on my own with no direction. I had a detective with the case because we knew who it was. They denied it and he told me to drop the case. I didn’t know what to do so I pushed it in the back of my memory because someone told me if you wait 7 yrs it erases. Now, I have no idea what to do to fix this!

That is very odd in my opinion. How can your checks ruin your credit scores? It only takes out from your bank account but yet your still given a bank statement every month either online or in paper. When you get those statements you should know what is went wrong right away and contacted your bank. It happens to me sometimes when I’m paying for my bill and I forgot that I don’t have much in my account, they overdraft me but I still pay it off with my next pay check.

I remember when I was about 16 and I got a credit card from my bank. Boy did I suck at paying my bills on time. I bought a computer from Walmart and didn’t feel like paying for the credit card bill. (Stupid idea) Couple months later I kept getting lots of late credit card statements. Until one day when I was 17 I decided to pay it off. As I paid it off, I got mad at myself so I closed the account (dumbest decision I made). Things starting getting better because I didn’t have much bills to pay after that. Until today! I have one credit card (cap1) 2 student accounts($6,500) and car loan($13,000).

I think my credit score back then was in the low 400s, now as of today its 620-659 around there cause all 3 scores are different from each other. I think the reason how the scores got like this is because I took out my first student loan and I was pretty sure even if you have bad credits your able to take out a small amount of money to buy books and stuff.

An advice to you Marcie is don’t apply credit cards and stuff right now. But re-check on your credit report, things might just get better for you cause its 7-8 years ago that that happen. Good luck to you and may god bless you and your credit scores.

I totally agree with “InThe5’s!”
Whatever you do, do not get joint accounts whether you are married or not and do not get a loan in your name for a husband or boyfriend even if you think the relationship will last. If “you” can’t pay for the debt “yourself”, do not get it. I was the good wife getting things for my husband because he didn’t have good credit. When he threatened to kill me and we separated, I was left with 3 vehicles in my name, a mortgage, and 3 credit cards maxed out. Now my credit is in the 500’s and his is probably better than mine now that we are divorced.

I really don’t know about that one. I mean, most of the reasoning is pretty sound, but the second you mention your ex is a psychopath, and that is why nobody should ever do that, your whole point kind of loses credibility. Nobody should ever do those things, just in case of the very off chance and improbable situation where the other person turns out to be a raving lunatic? It comes off more paranoid and jaded over a very specific circumstance, that most people will not end up in, the exception and not the rule rather than general advice to the masses.

Actually, she’s just giving her own example of WHY it may not be good to do these things. Clearly it doesn’t have to happen for others the same way it happened with her; however, whether it’s a family member or friend, it CAN happen to anyone.

Here’s MY advice…

What EVER you do…Do NOT go debt free and live without credit cards for 10 Years like I have.

I had properties and was living the good life.
UNTIL a Embezzling ( overseas bank accounts ) con of a husband changed my World.

I CHOSE to live this way because of what he did.

Now I can’t even rent a house or apartment without good credit…

I have a GOOD job making good money, great recommendations from employers and past landlords since my divorce….but unable to move out of the slums because of my SCORE…

Sooo…GET credit, but use it resposibly.

I just got out of jail and of course couldn’t pay any bills for over 2 years since i was incarcerated. The only bills have are owing tmobile 2 grand and 3 banks less than 300 each for them charging me fees for having a zero balance. overall I’m only about 4 grand in debt. I don’t know what steps i should take to repair my credit and pay off those debts I’m only 20 in college full time and working a crap part time job. what is the lowest i can pay weekly to build my credit up again quickly? and should i contact those companies right now and set up a plan to pay them off?

Why don’t you contact them and see if they will forgive part/ or all of the debt?

You need Dave Ramsey he has a website and books. Save up some cash and you can settle with them they really do take pennies on the dollars…..and do not use a credit service they are rip offs

This was a great little post. All of it seems to be about right, as my credit has gone from good to fair, to terrible back to fair and hopefully it will be good again by the end of the year. Not mortgage good, but I wish.