Overview: What is a Decent Credit Score?
When you want to buy your first car, rent your first apartment, obtain your first credit card or purchase your first home, one of the issues that will usually come up is your credit history. Even if you have already established your credit history and believe you have a decent credit score, you will likely need to undergo credit checks in a variety of circumstances, as they have become an integral aspect of doing business and of daily life.
Do you know the answer to the following questions?
- What is a credit report?
- What is a credit score?
- What is a decent credit score?
- What is bad or poor credit?
- What is a low or the worst credit score?
According to USA.gov, credit reports contain your credit history and provide information to creditors as to whether or not you are a potential credit risk. These reports will also show whether you have poor, bad or the worst possible credit score. In addition, these reports will also demonstrate if you have a positive credit history and are likely to have a decent credit score. While there is a variety of data contained within these reports, they tend to include the following information:
- Bill payment history
- Current debt
- Employment history
- Place of residence
- Legal issues
How You Can Obtain Free Credit Reports
When you are seeking to establish, maintain, and/or repair your credit, you need to be informed about your current financial situation. Part of this process involves learning more about the nature of credit. For example, what is a decent credit score? Do you know what is considered a bad credit score? Or what is a bad credit score number or range?
Image Source: What Is a Decent Credit Score?
The good news is that information on your credit history is easy to obtain. Federal law, according to USA.gov, grants you the right to obtain "a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) once every 12 months."
Once you order these reports, you are one step closer to understanding your personal situation and can take action – even if you realize you have what is the worst credit score.
It's important to note that AnnualCreditReport.com is the only source that the Federal government has authorized for free credit reports. Whatever your credit situation is, you want to obtain the best possible information – and from a respected source. This is even more important if you have questions or concerns about any or all of these issues:
- What is a low credit score?
- What is a poor credit score?
- What is a bad credit score?
- What is the worst credit score?
There is a simple three-step process to order them online, and because this is a secure site, you will need to respond to a series of questions intended to protect your identity. Once you order and review these credit reports, you will be one step closer to determining if you have what is considered a bad credit score so that you can focus on developing a decent credit score range.
While these free credit reports don't contain your actual credit scores, they will provide indicators. To determine if you have a decent credit score or if you are within a bad credit score range, you'll need to take further action. According to The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a government agency tasked with providing consumer protection, you can obtain that information through one or more of the following methods:
- Check your credit card or other loan statement
- Talk to a non-profit counselor
- Use a credit score service
- You can buy your FICO credit score at myfico.com
FICO® Scores and Credit Reports – What's the Difference?
According to CFPB, there are different types of credit scores. As stated above, they fall into different categories that range from the worst credit score up to a decent credit score. To begin understanding these categories, you will want to familiarize yourself with the term, FICO® score, which was developed by the Fair Isaac Corporation as "a method for calculating credit scores based on information collected by credit reporting agencies."
FICO® scores are used by banks, lenders, and other types of agencies or creditors to determine whether you qualify for loans, credit cards, checking accounts, savings accounts, and other financial contracts.
If you have what is considered bad credit or the worst possible credit, your chances of obtaining a loan and so forth are reduced. However, if you fall within the range of a low credit score or poor credit score, there may be some options. Overall, these scores are used to determine the terms of your agreements, including the interest rates you will pay.
Basically, your FICO® score is determined by your credit report and ranges from 300-850, with 300 being the worst credit score and 850 being above a decent credit score. While there are several credit reporting agencies, as stated above, the "major" ones are Experian®, Equifax®, and TransUnion®. Since your scores may differ on each credit report, you may want to order all three reports to compare them for a more thorough picture of your credit status.
You may find the Experian.com infographic helpful to learn more about FICO® score ranges.
Be sure to keep in mind that these scores do not provide your entire credit picture. In other words, while they may show what is considered to be a good or decent credit score range, as well as the worst credit score and a bad credit score range, there are other factors to consider.
For example, if you don't pass a credit check to rent an apartment or house or are denied a loan or other type of credit arrangement, it may be due to a poor credit score. If this occurs, it would be an excellent time to order your free credit reports and FICO® scores to determine if you actually have what is considered bad credit or a bad credit score range.
Another reason you may not pass a credit check is because you have yet to establish a credit history. If this is the case, it's not that you have the worst credit score or even that you have a bad, poor or low credit score but that you need to begin using credit. Consider these recommendations for establishing credit from Myfico.com:
- "Apply for, and open one new credit card. . .charge small amounts and pay off the balance each month."
- "Open a secured credit card. . .This type of card requires you to deposit money with the credit card company."
If You Disagree with Your Credit Reports
Image Source: What is Bad Credit?
Once you obtain and compare your credit reports, you may discover incorrect or old information as well as errors and potential evidence of fraud or identity theft. If this is the case, be sure to gather all of your records together prior to contacting the appropriate reporting agencies. It's imperative that you act immediately to resolve these issues, as you don't want these reports to reflect that you have what is considered bad credit when the reality is you have a decent credit score.
While it may be stating the obvious, it is imperative that you maintain accurate, well-organized records in a safe and convenient place to assist you with expediting the process when, and if, you need to challenge your credit report. This is as important if you have a bad credit score as well as if you have a low credit score or above.
It is also vital to maintain a patient and positive attitude, as the process of challenging your credit reports and scores does take time. Even when you contact the appropriate agencies by phone, email, and/or regular mail, maintaining and sustaining this contact to obtain the desired result can be frustrating.
Just remember how important it is to resolve these issues so that you can establish an accurate credit history. When you establish a decent credit score, it will definitely make a powerful impact on your financial situation and quality of life.
CFPB is considered to be a reputable and excellent resource where you can research tips on how to handle errors or mistakes on your credit reports. For example, if you discover charges on your credit report that you know you paid off and if they remain unchallenged, you may still have poor credit as well as being placed in the low credit score range. Be sure to contact both the credit reporting company and the company that provided the information. These companies will investigate the following disputes:
- Your liability for a credit account or debt with that entity furnisher (for example, whether it is your account)
- The terms of your credit account or debt with that entity (for example, how much you owe)
- Your performance or other conduct on an account or relationship with that entity (for example, whether you are paying on time)
- Any other information about your account or relationship with that entity relevant to a credit report (for example, your creditworthiness)
There are some types of disputes, however, which these companies are not required to handle. Review these carefully and create the time to resolve them through the most appropriate channels. It is important to determine what can be handled and how in order to focus on remedying bad credit so that you can create a decent credit score. Here are some of those disputes outlined by CFPB:
- Identifying information, such as your name, date of birth, Social Security number, contact number or address
- Information on past or present employers
- Inquiries or requests for consumer reports
- Information derived from public records, such as judgments, liens, bankruptcies, and other legal issues (unless provided by a furnisher with an account or other relationship to you)
- Information regarding fraud alerts or active duty alerts
- Information given to the credit reporting company by some other creditor or furnishing institution
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Develop Identity Theft and Fraud Awareness
One of the reasons you may have an unexpected poor credit score or find that you even fall within what is the worst credit score range is due to identity theft or other types of fraud.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) states that identity theft incidents include the "unauthorized use of attempted use of an existing account," the "unauthorized use or attempted use of personal information to open a new account," and the "misuse of personal information for a fraudulent purpose."
- Bills that do not arrive as expected
- Unexpected credit cards or account statements
- Denials of credit for no apparent reason (e.g., for credit you did not apply for)
- Calls or letters about purchases you did not make
- Charges on your financial statements that you don't recognize
- Incorrect information on your credit reports – accounts or addresses you don't recognize or information that is inaccurate
Focus on Your Credit Score
While no one really wants to discover they have the worst credit score or even bad to poor credit, it's important to accept the facts and proceed accordingly. This is an essential first step toward improving your existing credit score. Remember the goal is to have a decent credit score.
According to Debt.org, a bad credit score, which could also be considered as one of the worst credit scores and within the poor credit score range, is 300-549. While 550-649 is slightly below the national average, it is still considered to be a problem. A good credit score range is 650-799. While this score could be improved, according to Debt.org, it is still considered to be a decent credit score. The highest range is 800-850, and if this is your score, then it's likely you have excellent credit.
The benefits of having a decent credit score are obvious to those individuals who have one. These tend to range from a greater ease with obtaining credit cards, student loans, and apartment rentals to purchasing cars, homes, and investment portfolios.
When the Unexpected Occurs
Just as there are benefits to having a decent credit score, there are obvious downfalls to having a poor credit score – especially when the unexpected occurs. Many of life's major events may be welcomed and planned for years in advance, such as marriage, the birth of a child, sending that child to private school, and then college.
Then there are the unwelcomed and unplanned events that may occur, such as being laid-off, having to move for work or other reasons, a work-related injury or a prolonged illness, and the death of a partner or parent. These events are often out of your control and can definitely affect your ability to think and act clearly. At times like these, whether or not you have decent credit or the worst credit may not be foremost in your mind.
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Consider the Solutions
It's important to remember there are solutions – including free consultations and low-cost services – to assist you in your goal of improving a low credit score so that you can reap the benefits of having what is a decent credit score. Debt.org, for example, offers information and free quotes on how to resolve debt incurred from the following sources:
What else can you do?
- Obtain your three free annual credit reports
- Purchase your FICO score report
- Learn about identity theft and how to prevent it
- Find out about fraud protection from the Federal Trade Commission
- Report any inconsistencies to the proper agencies
- Keep detailed records of your income and expenditures
- Obtain financial counseling or speak with a Certified Consumer Credit Counselor
- Open and/or maintain communication with your creditors
Make Your Financial Health a Priority
Whether you're concerned with establishing credit for the first time, maintaining a decent credit score or repairing a poor credit score, your financial success depends on making informed and realistic decisions. One of the means by which you can accomplish this is to dedicate yourself to becoming better informed.
You don't need a business degree with an emphasis in finance to learn about your own financial situation. What you will need, however, is an attention to detail and a willingness to seek expert guidance when necessary.
Don't allow a bad credit score situation to continue. Act now so that when someone asks you what a decent credit score is you will know exactly how to respond. In keeping with best-case scenarios, you may even inspire others and guide them to the appropriate resources.
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