What Is The Lowest Credit Score You Can Have?

Posted by CreditCardGuru

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

Important: All the scores I will be talking about are in reference to FICO – which is the most widely used for lending decisions. There are a lot of other credit scores out there, like the VantageScore, but they’re not used by as many lenders.

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.

Do you think your score is too low to get a credit card? If so, I would recommend you check this tool out and see if you have any matches (and if you have good credit you can check your matches, too)

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 percent 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.

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. 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.
  3. 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.
  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 June 18, 2014


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Editorial Disclosure: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

28 comments... read them below or add your own

  1. Sheri April 28, 2014 at 11:42PM

    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.

    • Troy September 6, 2014 at 4:08PM

      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.

  2. The_Truth April 14, 2014 at 9:35PM

    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…

    • 617Kevin June 21, 2014 at 2:39PM

      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.

  3. oregonjake January 14, 2014 at 7:19PM

    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.

    • STAINLESS July 23, 2014 at 8:18PM

      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…..

  4. Ashteanna December 28, 2013 at 5:50PM

    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 ?

  5. corrine October 4, 2013 at 2:14PM

    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?

  6. Tee September 12, 2013 at 8:56AM

    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

    • mike October 5, 2013 at 12:26PM

      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.

  7. Dee August 7, 2013 at 7:23AM

    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.

  8. mcele May 13, 2013 at 8:56PM

    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.

  9. mcele May 13, 2013 at 8:50PM

    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.

    • mike October 5, 2013 at 12:22PM

      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

    • STAINLESS July 23, 2014 at 8:25PM

      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.

  10. Genie April 13, 2013 at 10:14AM

    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.

    • Angie January 9, 2014 at 12:02AM

      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.

  11. Wendy March 1, 2013 at 2:41PM

    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.

  12. marcie February 16, 2013 at 6:54PM

    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!

    • Ckx April 12, 2013 at 7:25AM

      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.

  13. undisclosed December 17, 2012 at 9:56PM

    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.

    • zuh?! February 13, 2013 at 1:14PM

      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.

      • Well February 23, 2013 at 4:03PM

        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.

  14. InThe5′s! October 13, 2012 at 8:48AM

    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.

  15. Chris June 11, 2012 at 3:30PM

    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?

    • Anon. July 22, 2012 at 7:18AM

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

    • amber August 14, 2012 at 5:14PM

      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

  16. bowdenta May 29, 2012 at 6:07PM

    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.

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