There are several credit scoring models in use today, which means each individual (including you) has multiple credit scores. Not only that, but the three major credit bureaus -- Experian, Equifax and TransUnion -- can generate different scores based on the financial information listed on your credit reports.
If you have a credit score in the 600 range, you may be wondering if it’s above or below average, and how you can improve it. The two most prominent scoring models are FICO score and VantageScore, so that’s what we’ll focus on here.
What is a credit score?
Your credit score is a three-digit representation of your overall credit health. It’s taken into account when you apply for things like a credit card or personal loan, and it determines the kinds of terms you get. Your credit score can also affect your insurance rates and whether you can rent an apartment or buy a home without a cosigner.
The two most common credit scores are FICO scores and VantageScores. Both scoring models evaluate your score over a scale of 300 to 850. The higher your score, the better terms you’ll get when applying for credit products.
However, the scoring models differ in how they classify each credit range. For example, a 600 FICO score is considered fair, whereas a 600 VantageScore credit score is right at the threshold between poor credit and fair credit.
FICO credit scores
|Credit rating||Credit score range|
|Exceptional||800 – 850|
|Very Good||740 – 799|
|Good||679 – 739|
|Fair||580 – 669|
|Poor||579 and below|
VantageScore credit scores
|Credit rating||Credit score range|
|Excellent||781 – 850|
|Good||661 – 780|
|Fair||601 – 660|
|Poor||500 – 600|
|Very poor||300 – 499|
While you won’t always know which type of credit score is being used when you apply for credit, FICO scores are used around 90% of the time by lenders. So when you apply for a personal loan, auto loan or card, there’s a good chance your FICO score is what’s being looked at.
Can you get a credit card with a 600 credit score?
The best credit cards on the market today require good to excellent credit, and many of the most lucrative rewards and travel credit cards are geared toward consumers with credit scores of at least 720. That said, there are some credit cards for fair credit available today, which you may be able to get with a credit score of 600.
There are also secured credit cards that can help you build positive credit habits while boosting your score through responsible use. Secured credit cards require a refundable cash deposit as collateral, but they help build credit by reporting your on-time payments to the three credit bureaus.
Credit cards for fair credit and secured credit cards may offer rewards, but the earning rates and perks are less impressive than the best credit cards on the market today. However, the point of these cards is to improve your credit enough that you can qualify for better options later on.
If you’re considering applying for a credit card with a score in the 600 range, consider these tips:
- Look for cards that let you get preapproved before you apply. Preapproval lets you gauge your approval odds without undergoing a hard credit check. Just keep in mind that preapproval does not guarantee you’ll get the card if you submit a full application. It only gives you a general idea of whether you qualify.
- Consider both unsecured and secured options. While there are unsecured cards for fair credit, some secured credit cards with rewards can be a better deal. Make sure to consider all your options until you find the right fit.
- With secured cards, see if there’s a pathway to getting an unsecured card over time. Some secured cards, like the Discover it® Secured Credit Card*, promise to review your account to see if you qualify to upgrade to a traditional credit card in as little as seven months with responsible use. At that point, you would also get your security deposit back.
How to improve your credit score
If you have a 600 credit score, don’t despair -- there are steps you can take to improve it over time. For example, having a secured credit card and using it regularly while paying it off on time is a great way to establish a history of positive payments and responsible card use.
Consider these tips to boost your credit with your own credit card or with a different strategy altogether.
- Make all of your credit payments on time. Whether you qualify for your own credit card or have student loans or a mortgage, you’ll want to make sure all payments you owe are made early or on time. After all, your payment history makes up 35% of your FICO score.
- Keep debt levels low. How much you owe on your credit card balances in relation to your total available credit limit (called your credit utilization ratio) makes up another 30% of your FICO score. Most experts recommend keeping your credit utilization ratio below 30% for a better score. If you’re regularly charging up to your limit or carrying a lot of debt, your credit score -- and your finances -- will suffer.
- Become an authorized user. Someone else’s positive credit activity can help your credit score as well, but you’ll need a trusted friend or family member with good credit who is willing to add you to their account.
- Consider a credit-builder loan. Also consider a credit-builder loan, which is a financial product that has you make payments to a savings account or certificate of deposit, or CD, in your name. The loan company then reports your payments to the credit bureaus to help you build credit, and you get the amount you paid (minus a nominal amount in interest and fees) back at the end of your loan term.
*All information about the Discover it Secured Credit Card has been collected independently by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.
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