You have a number of different credit scores, including your FICO scores and your credit scores from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, among others. Each credit score is calculated using a slightly different scoring model, and each model might consider different factors or assign different weight to the same factors.
Despite the different ways they are calculated, your credit scores have two things in common: They are each expressed as a three-digit number, and lenders use them to predict your risk as a borrower. In general, the higher the credit score, the more likely it seems to a lender that you will pay back your debt on time.
Lenders decide which credit score model to use based on the system that best fits their needs—an auto lender, for example, might use a different credit scoring model than a mortgage lender. While some lenders use industry-weighted scores, others use blended scores from all three of the national credit reporting agencies.
Because there isn’t a universal score cutoff used by all lenders, it’s difficult to say what credit score you’ll need in a particular lending situation in order to qualify for the best terms and the lowest interest rate.
How low can my credit score go?
The credit score range—and how low your score can go—will differ slightly depending on the model being used.
Your Equifax credit score will fall within the numerical range of 280 to 850, where higher scores indicate lower credit risk.
Other credit score models may use different score ranges. Experian’s score range, for example, is between 330 and 830, while TransUnion’s credit score range is between 300 and 850.
The FICO Score, the credit score most commonly used by lenders, ranges from 300 to 850. Each consumer has a FICO credit score from each of the three national credit reporting agencies.
What can lower my score?
Your credit score is calculated based on information in your credit report, such as your payment history, the amounts you owe on your credit cards and loans, the types of credit you are using, your recent credit activity, and the length of your credit history.
It’s difficult to say how certain actions will impact your credit score because each person’s credit history is different. In general, though, the most common negative score factors include:
Even if you have one or more of these items in your credit file, however, your credit score will not necessarily plummet to the lowest possible score.
Become a better borrower by positively affecting your credit score
If you’ve found yourself on the lower end of the credit score spectrum, try to assess which financial behaviors are hurting your creditworthiness. Do you have delinquent accounts or collections in your credit file? Do you regularly miss credit card payments? Factors like these can negatively impact your score.
Because delinquent payments and collections can have a considerable negative impact on your credit score, make sure you pay your bills on time. If you have missed payments, work on paying off your debt and keeping your credit card balances low.
Opening new accounts and paying them off on time may help to improve your credit score in the long term, but you still should only open new credit accounts as needed. If you have a short credit history, it’s even more important to avoid opening multiple new accounts at the same time. Adding new accounts can lower your average account age, which could reflect negatively on your credit score, especially if you’ve only recently started building your credit history.
If you currently have a low credit score, you won’t be able to significantly improve it overnight. But if you consistently engage in creditworthy behavior, you could see your credit score get better over time.
Diane Moogalian is vice president of operations for Equifax Personal Solutions with responsibility for operational strategy and execution in support of customer care and fulfillment of credit and identity-related products for consumers. Prior to joining Equifax in 2007, Diane held several strategic roles with leading financial services companies. Diane graduated from the University of Richmond with a bachelor of science degree in business administration (marketing and economics) and earned a certificate in international business from Virginia Commonwealth University.
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