What's a Good Credit Score?
March 8
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good credit score by Pete Low

What's a good credit score? Is 620 bad? How do I convert a Vantage score to a FICO score?

Knowing your credit score is supposed to make understanding your credit rating simpler, but sometimes it brings up more questions than answers.

You can get a free copy of your credit report once a year from the three big credit reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com but that doesn't include your credit score, the FICO number that everyone talks about.

If you want to see your credit score, there are a few companies that offer it free without needing to enter a credit card, though they have a lot of ads trying to sell you other services on their sites, or you can sign up to a subscription service.

FICO stands for Fair Isaac & Co., the company that started it. Your classic FICO score is based on all the information in your credit report, but it reduces it down to a single number between 300 and 850. There's also a newer NextGen FICO Risk score, with a range of 150 to 950.

Your FICO score takes into account things like your payment history and the amount you owe, plus the length of your credit history, the types of credit you have (they like to see a variety, like mortgages and car loans and credit cards), and how much new credit you've applied for recently. There are some variations, so a mortgage company might be given a your credit score figured slightly different from a credit card company, for example, but the general ranges are the same.

So What's a Good Credit Score?

Any classic FICO score above 760 or 770 is excellent. Even around 750, you'll get good deals. In those ranges it would be hard to improve your score much without a lot of life-style-changing work, like doubling your salary, getting a mortgage and a car loan and some other loans, paying and waiting a few years. Not worth it.

With a score closer to 720, you're still doing good. In fact, any score in the 700s would count as "good" with most lenders and put you above average.

Around 680, lenders are starting to get nervous. You can probably still get a prime rate, if the lender is feeling generous, but you can also probably raise your score with a little work at paying things off or waiting for old delinquencies to age off.

Below around 660 or 650, you're getting into the "average" or "below average" range, and like a "C" grade in school, average isn't necessarily good. Lenders will start to worry, and you'll probably wind up paying a little more when you need a loan.

A FICO of 620 used to be enough to get you a prime mortgage loan, but after that little subprime meltdown a few years ago, not so much anymore. The good news is that with a credit score in that range, you can probably take action to improve your score, and may want to do so before applying for a major loan if you have time.

Below 600, well, I won't say that's a bad score, but it's certainly not good. There's probably something specific on there that's bringing it down, and when that ages off, or if you can come to an agreement with creditor(s) to settle the debts and get the problem accounts marked paid, you'll see some quick improvement.

Below 550, you're definitely hurting, and it'll be expensive or difficult to get a loan from any company who checks your credit score (though not all do, but their loans cost more).

If you want to try increasing your credit score, you might want to check out services that help you consolidate or cut your debt and improve your score.

What About a Vantage Score?

All those numbers refer to FICO scores, but there's a new kid on the block, the Plus or Vantage Score. There's some pressure for Vantage to become the new FICO, but it's still running second best. If you buy your credit score from Experian, you can't get your FICO score anymore (even though lenders will get your FICO if they ask). Instead, you'll be given your Vantage Score.

There's two problems with that, aside from the fact that most lenders still rely on the FICO score. Your Vantage score is on a scale of 501 to 990, rather than 300 to 850 like FICO. And the scores are figured differently, so they don't match even if you do the math to convert them. Vantage also likes to use letter grades like in school, grouping scores in the 900s as A, in the 800s as B, 700s as C, 600s as D, and 500s as F.

Converting Vantage to FICO

To convert your Vantage score to your FICO score, mathematically, do this:

Vantage score minus 501
multiply by 1.125
add 300

For example, a Vantage score of 900 (pretty darn good) would be:

900 - 501 = 399
399 x 1.125 = 449 (rounded)
449 + 300 = 749 FICO score

Which is also pretty darn good. A lousy Vantage score of 600 translates to a lousy FICO of 411, so it looks like it works. But there's a catch.

Your Vantage score emphasizes different things than your FICO score, so converting one to the other isn't that simple. In fact, even your FICO score may vary from one credit agency to another, depending on what records they have and how they figure it. So while it's nice to have one single number that represents your credit score and watch it rise as you gradually work on repairing bad credit, there really isn't one single number that every credit bureau keeps or every lender sees. Like life, it's always more complicated than it ought to be.

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9:29 p.m. March 8
I thought you could convert a Vantage to a Fico by multiplying by .85


10:01 p.m. March 8
Well, first, you can't really convert them meaningfully, because they weight things in your credit report differently, so it's not as simply as a mathematical conversion. Multiplying by .85 is about as good an approximation as any, especially in the higher range. It doesn't work so well in the lower range. Let's say you had the worst possible Vantage of 501. Multiplying by .85 would give a FICO of 426, which is well above the worst possible FICO of 300. PDL's way would make a Vantage of 501 into a FICO of 300 which is indeed the worst possible FICO.


10:48 p.m. March 8
Yeah, what SirFox said. There's just no way to convert them exactly because they're figured differently. Plus some FICO scores that you get are "FAKO" (estimated) scores, so even they don't exactly match your real FICO.

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