How low can your credit score really go?


Written by:


Credit scores issued by the most popular credit-scoring models in the U.S. begin at 300. However, this is unlikely to be your first credit score unless you are irresponsible with your finances. You typically start building credit after you get your first credit product, be it a credit card or a student loan.


Making your payments on time is one way to build your credit score. Depending on how well you utilize your credit, your credit score may get to anywhere from 500 to 700 within the first six months. Going forward, getting to an excellent credit score of over 800 generally takes years since the average age of credit factors into your score.


SPONSORED: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor

1. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn't have to be hard. SmartAsset's free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes.

2. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you're ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals get started now.





What Credit Score Do You Start With?

As someone who’s never taken any form of credit, you, in all likelihood, have no credit score at all. This is because your credit score depends primarily on your payment history and credit utilization. These factors are not established until you obtain your first credit product.


Just how quickly you get your first credit score depends on the credit-scoring model. While calculating a VantageScore score is possible soon after your first credit account appears on the report, getting a FICO credit score requires that the account should be at least six months old. In both cases, the base credit score is 300. However, the starting credit score of most people is typically higher because scores of around 300 are associated with very poor management of credit.

Do You Need Credit to Get a Credit Score?

It’s not necessary for you to get credit to start building your credit history. Some companies, such as Experian, eCredable and LevelCredit, give you the ability to report your qualifying utility, phone, online streaming services and rent payments to credit bureaus:

  • Experian Boost helps add eligible bill payments to your Experian credit report.
  • eCredable reports eligible bill payments to TransUnion.
  • LevelCredit reports rent payments to TransUnion and Equifax and eligible utility and other bill payments to TransUnion.

What Credit Score Does an 18-Year-Old Start With?

Credit scores don’t miraculously appear when people turn 18 years of age. However, this is how old you need to be to apply for your first form of credit. Besides, there is no default credit score. Those over 18 years old get to build their credit in different ways. These include getting student or secured credit cards, becoming authorized users on others’ credit cards, making payments toward student loans while still in college and getting their utility/phone/rent payments to reflect on their credit reports.


By demonstrating good credit habits, 18-year olds may expect their credit scores to get to around 500 within the first six months. However, poor management of credit may result in significantly lower scores.

What Is the Usual Starting Credit Score?

While VantageScore and FICO scores start at 300, it’s unlikely that you’ll start with such a low score. Credit scores at the bottom end of the scale demonstrate serious lapses in how one uses credit, and getting to this stage at the beginning of one’s credit history is highly improbable. Instead, depending on how well you manage your credit, your first credit score might be around the 500 mark.


The age of your oldest form of credit plays a role in your credit score. However, working on other aspects can even get your initial credit score to be around 700. For instance, while making timely payments toward your first credit card helps to improve your credit score, factors such as the amounts you owe, the mix of credit you have and your applications for new credit also play a role.

How Are Credit Scores Calculated?

FICO and VantageScore credit-scoring models rely on data retrieved from credit reports to come up with credit scores. Both assign varying levels of importance to different aspects that go into generating your credit score.

Credit scoring models

How Long Does It Take to Get a 700 Credit Score?

While getting an excellent credit score cannot happen overnight, it is possible to get a good credit score of around 700 in less than a year, provided you follow the right steps. These include:

  1. Pay all your bills on time and never miss a payment.
  2. Reduce your outstanding balances to bring down your credit utilization ratio (the amount you owe compared to your total available credit).
  3. Don’t apply for or open new credit accounts frequently.
  4. Don’t apply for different types of credit just to improve your credit score unless you’re sure of making timely payments and keeping your outstanding balances low.
  5. Go through your credit reports every six months and dispute inaccurate information.
  6. Keep your oldest credit card account active, as it increases the length of your credit history.

What Is the Perfect Credit Score?

The perfect credit score, either through the FICO or the VantageScore model, is 850. According to a report released by FICO, around 1.6% of people in the U.S. who were scorable had perfect FICO scores (of 850) in April 2019. This number stood at 0.85% in April 2009. Hawaii held the honor of being the state with the highest percentage of people with perfect credit scores on both occasions.


While there is no fixed path to getting a perfect credit score, people who fall under this bracket tend to demonstrate a few similar traits:

  • Lengthy credit histories: Most people with perfect credit scores have well-established credit histories. The average age of their oldest accounts stands at 30 years.
  • No missed payments: People with perfect credit scores have no mention of missed payments, collections activity or any other type of negative information in their credit reports.
  • Low credit utilization ratio: FICO suggests that people with perfect credit scores maintain an average credit balance of around $13,000, which does not include mortgage balances. However, their average credit utilization ratio stands at just 4.1%.
  • Minimal inquiries for credit: Those with credit scores of 850 tend to get new credit once in a while, but not too often. The FICO report suggests that while around 10% of people from this bracket had at least one inquiry in the preceding year, around 25% of them had opened at least one new credit account during the same period.

Quick Tip: Many people wrongly assume that carrying a balance on their credit cards and paying interest helps their credit score. This is untrue. Make it a goal to pay off your credit cards in full each month to avoid paying interest. –Lee Huffman, credit card expert at

Other Questions You May Have About Credit Scores

Credit scores can seem confusing, especially for those who have no credit or are just starting to build credit. Looking through answers to other commonly asked questions about what credit score you start with and what you can do to improve it going forward can help.

1. What is the credit score of someone with no credit?

Someone with no credit typically has no credit score. There might be an exception if you get your bill/rent payments to reflect on your credit reports or if you’ve been a victim of identity theft.

2. What’s the average credit score for a 20-year-old?

The average credit score of those between 18 to 23 years of age was 674 in 2020 and 667 in the preceding year. In both years, this average was the lowest of all age groups.

3. Is no credit worse than bad credit?

Any credit score from 670 to 739 is considered good. Very good to exceptional credit scores range from 740 to 850.

4. What credit score is needed to buy a house?

The credit score you need to qualify for a mortgage depends on the type of mortgage you’re after and the lender in question. While it is possible to get a mortgage with fair/average or no credit history, you stand to get the best terms if you have good to excellent credit.


For conventional loans, you would need a credit score of 620 or higher. You might qualify for a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan if your credit score is 500 or higher. The minimum credit score required to apply for a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) loan is 580, although lower scores might qualify in some scenarios. While Veterans Affairs (VA) loans come with no minimum credit score requirements, it is common for providers of such loans to look for scores of 620 or higher.

5. What is a decent credit score to buy a car?

Car loan providers follow no set standards surrounding minimum credit score requirements. While some lenders might look at your FICO or VantageScore scores, others might check your FICO Auto Score. In any case, your credit score plays an important role in the interest rate assigned to your auto loan and the size of down payment required. In the second quarter of 2020, the average interest rate on car loans for those who had super-prime credit (781 to 850) stood at 3.24%. At the other end of the spectrum, those with deep subprime credit (300 to 500) received an average interest rate of 13.97% on their car loans.

6. Does your credit score start at zero?

Your credit score does not start at zero. Having no credit score is not the same as having a zero credit score. While the starting point of VantageScore and FICO credit scores is 300, starting this low is unlikely unless you demonstrate very poor credit management skills.

7. How do credit score and credit limit relate?

Lenders view your credit score as a measure to gauge the risk you pose as a borrower. If a lender looks at you as someone with minimal risk, it might be willing to offer you a higher credit limit than it would have if you had less-than-perfect credit. You might qualify for a higher credit limit than someone with the same income if you have a better and longer credit history that results in a higher credit score.


Your credit limit, on the other hand, may have an effect on your credit score through your credit utilization ratio. This refers to the amount you’ve borrowed from your total available credit and should ideally be 30% or lower. If you have a total available credit limit of $10,000 through different credit products and have borrowed $5,000 so far, your current credit utilization ratio stands at 50%, which is significantly higher than the desired limit.

Next Steps

Now that you know what your credit score is when you first start, consider taking steps to build your credit in the near future. If you’re unable to qualify for a regular or a student credit card, applying for a secured card might serve as an effective alternative. You may also start building your credit by getting your bill and rent payments to reflect on your credit reports.



This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

More from MediaFeed:

Pablo Escobar lost $1B to rats, plus other fascinating money facts


Love money? You’re not alone. But what do you really know about money?

We’ve rounded up dozens of facts covering currencies from all over the world, including historical and weird facts you probably don’t know.

Here are 100 fascinating money facts for you to enjoy.


alkir / iStock


The study of money is called numismatics.


miki-tiger / istockphoto


The first Philadelphia Mint used horses in harness to drive the machinery that produced coins.


RomanBabakin / istockphoto


The first paper money was made in China 1,000 years ago.


Grindi / istockphoto


The first coins were made about 2,500 years ago.


kvkirillov / istockphoto


Queen Elizabeth II has appeared on more currency than any other person.


There are over 170 different currencies in use around the world.


IvancoVlad / istockphoto


There is more Monopoly money printed every year than actual money.


martince2 / istockphoto


Only 8% of currency is in physical form.


Money is estimated to be dirtier than a toilet.


ananaline / istockphoto


Pennies planted in the garden will repel slugs.


ligora / istockphoto


The TSA collected $765,759.15 in loose change at airport security checkpoints in 2015.


The average allowance is $65 a month.


oleksagrzegorz / istockphoto


Piggy banks originated from the “pygg,” a clay used for making jars that held money.


Yingko / istockphoto


In fact, there is an ATM in Antarctica.


SteveAllenPhoto / istockphoto


Over half of lottery tickets are bought by 5% of people.


Warren-Pender / istockphoto


Drug Lord Pablo Escobar had so much money laying around that rats ate approximately $1 billion.


Irina Tiumentseva / istockphoto


Putting bills in the microwave for about 20 seconds will make them crispy again.


LightFieldStudios / istockphoto


The largest denomination ever printed was in Hungary in 1946, worth 100 quintillion pengoes.


Magyar Nemzeti Bank (Hungarian National Bank) / WikiMedia Commons


The word “salary” comes from sal, meaning “salt” in Latin. Early Romans used salt as money.


Photosiber / istockphoto


The world’s worst inflation is in Zimbabwe. There was a 6.5 sextillion percent inflation rate in 2008.


swisshippo / istockphoto


The word “cash” originated in ancient China, where a bundle of 100 coins was called one cash.


VM_Studio / istockphoto


The word “cent” is derived from the Latin centum, meaning “hundred.”


swisshippo / istockphoto


The term “cash cow” originated from early forms of currency in the form of livestock.


nobtis / istockphoto


The International Space Station is the most expensive object ever built at $150 billion U.S.




Sea shells were once commonly used as money in many parts of the world.


Faina Gurevich / istockphoto


Even spending $1 million a day, it would take Bill Gates 218 years to spend all his money.


Credit cards originated in the U.S. during the 1920s and could be used at individual companies.


Kritchanut / istockphoto


The first credit card that could be used at a variety of companies was introduced by the Diner’s Club in 1950.


Hitomi / WikiMedia Commonns


The first national bank card was BankAmericard, which began in California with Bank of America in 1958. It was later renamed VISA in 1976.


Infrogmation of New Orleans / WikiMedia Commons


Apple earns $300,000 per minute.


The Secret Service was originally created to fight counterfeiting in 1865.


Ben185 / istockphoto


It takes 12-15 years of training to become a money engraver.


Dmytro Synelnychenko/istockphoto


The first gold rush in the U.S. happened in 1799 in North Carolina, when a 12-year-old boy found a 17-pound gold nugget on his family’s farm.


Public domain / WikiMedia Commons


The average adult has between 8 and 10 credit cards.


Farknot_Architect / istockphoto


Walter Cavanagh, also known as Mr. Plastic Fantastic, has more than 13,000 credit cards.


Bet_Noire / istockphoto


The Latin E Pluribus Unum means “one out of many” and means one country out of many.


Nelson_A_Ishikawa / istockphoto


A $1 bill lasts an average of 18 months, a $5 bill lasts two years, a $10 bill lasts three years, a $20 bill lasts four years, and $50 and $100 bills last an average of nine years.


nito100 / istockphoto


38 million notes with a face value of $541 million are printed every day.


scanrail / istockphoto


Ninety-five percent of the notes printed each year replace those already in circulation.


RUBEN RAMOS / istockphoto


Almost half of all notes printed are $1 bills.


scanrail / istockphoto


Paper bills are made of 25% linen and 75% cotton.


AndreyPopov / istockphoto


Martha Washington is the only woman to appear on a U.S. currency note back in 1886, 1891, and 1896.


U.S. public domain / WikiMedia Commons


A two-cent coin was minted between 1864 and 1873.


Brandon Grossardt for the photograph; James Longacre for the coin design., Public domain / WikiMedia Commons


The marks “S,” “D,” “P,” or “W” designate the Mint where the coin was produced.


joeygil / istockphoto


The four U.S. Mints are located in Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco and West Point, New York.


davidevison / istockphoto


Quarters were originally made of silver.


ScottNodine / istockphoto


Lady Liberty was on the quarter for over 100 years before being replaced by George Washington in 1932.


wrangel / istockphoto


The penny is the only coin where the figure faces to the right.


wrangel / istockphoto


A penny costs more than a penny to make (about 2.4 cents).


John_Brueske / istockphoto


The largest U.S. currency was the $100,000 bill.


National Numismatic Collection,National Museum of American History / Wikimedia Commons


A farm in Delaware mulches 4 tons of U.S. bills into compost daily.


photopsist / istockphoto


Counterfeit currency is frequently detected because they are more perfect than actual currency.


-zlaki- / istockphoto


454 bills are equal to one pound.


Michael Burrell / istockphoto


The most counterfeited bill is the $20 bill.


kfb / istockphoto


Each bank printed its own money until the Federal Reserve was established in 1913.


AgnosticPreachersKid / WikiMedia Commons


The $1 bill contains many references to the original 13 colonies (look for things in 13).


Mike Rosiana / istockphoto


Many communities throughout the U.S. have their own currency, such as Walt Disney World.


Manakin / istockphoto


The 1913 Liberty Head nickel sold for $43.7 million, with only 5 known to exist.


US Mint (coin), National Numismatic Collection (photograph by Jaclyn Nash) / Wikimedia Commons


Coins have ridges to deter counterfeiting, as people used to shave the edges off coins back when they were made of gold and silver.


vbice / istockphoto


There are 119 grooves on the outside of a quarter.


libre de droit / istockphoto


No living person can have their face on currency.


Queen Isabella of Spain was the first woman to appear on a U.S. coin.


United States Mint – Charles Barber / Wikimedia Commons


Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton are the only non-President to appear on a U.S. bill.


Radionphoto / istockphoto


$2 bills are largely considered unlucky.


barr5557 / istockphoto


Eighty-five to 95% of paper money contains traces of cocaine.


Vadym Plysiuk / istockphoto


The $1 bill hasn’t had a redesign in over 50 years.


jokerpro / istockphoto


Security threads on different U.S. bills glow in different colors.


tapui / istockphoto


All U.S. bills cost less than 20 cents to make.


OlyaSolodenko / istockphoto


All U.S. dollar bills are printed in either Washington, D.C. or Fort Worth, Texas.


lucky-photographer / istockphoto


The original Article of Confederation (the predecessor to the Constitution) gave states the right to make their own money.


yangchao / istockphoto


“Greenbacks” were paper currency issued by the U.S. during the Civil War.


National Numismatic Collection,National Museum of American History / Wikimedia Commons


“Greybacks” were paper currency issued by the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.


National Numismatic Collection – National Museum of American History / Wikimedia Commons


Two-thirds of U.S. currency is found outside the U.S.


Evgen_Prozhyrko / istockphoto


7 tons of ink is used to print money every day.


vladacanon / istockphoto


There are 293 ways to make change for $1.


TRITOOTH / istockphoto


A bill can be folded 4,000 times forward and backward before it will rip.


alfexe / istockphoto


The motto “In God We Trust” first appeared in 1963.


AAUB / istockphoto


The bird on the silver dollar was a real eagle named Peter.


juicybits / istockphoto


Coins can last an average of 30 years in circulation.


RoschetzkyIstockPhoto / istockphoto


One million $1 bills would weigh 2,040.8 pounds, while one million in $100 bills would weigh only 20.4 pounds.


Jay Pierstorff / istockphoto


The slang “buck” comes from times before paper money when Americans would trade buck animals for goods and services.


EEI_Tony / istockphoto


The U.S. officially adopted the dollar as its unit of currency in 1785.


jmbatt / istockphoto


The U.S. went off the gold standard (currency is backed by gold) on August 15th, 1971.


The only number on a coin is the year it was minted.


peterspiro / istockphoto


There are between 7.5 and 9 billion $1 bills in circulation at any given time.


PixelsEffect / istockphoto


The motto on the first U.S. coin was “Mind Your Business.”


Scovill Mint in Waterbury, Connecticut / WikiMedia Commons


Nickels are more expensive to make than dimes.


jdwfoto / istockphoto


The clock in the steeple of Independence Hall on the back of the $100 bill is set to 4:10.


Ruslan Lytvyn / istockphoto


North Korea is the greatest culprit of counterfeit American currency.


themotioncloud / istockphoto


Today’s pennies are made from 95% zinc and coated in copper.



Bet_Noire / istockphoto


The total outstanding U.S. consumer debt is currently $3.9 trillion.


Thirty-seven percent of all households carry some sort of credit card debt.


keira01 / istockphoto


One in five Americans have a zero or negative net worth.


Damir Khabirov / istockphoto


Gambling in the U.S. brings in more revenue than theme parks, sporting events, cruise ships and music combined.




Ninety-six percent of Americans will not be able to retire by age 65.


CREATISTA / istockphoto


The total amount of outstanding student loan debt hit $1 trillion in 2012.


zimmytws / istockphoto


The average new car loan is now more than $30,000.


The average American will pay more than $600,000 in interest over their lifetime.


William_Potter / istockphoto


Twleve percent of the money taken home by the average American family is spent on interest.


Forty-seven percent of Americans cannot cover a $400 expense without borrowing money or selling something.






What a list of money facts. The founding fathers would be proud.

While the majority of our articles seek to impart deep and profound finance knowledge, we thought we’d change things up a bit for the election by compiling 101 fascinating money facts for you to peruse and do with what you will.

Hey, at least you’ll be able to clean up on Jeopardy night!

Talk about Money Learned.


Read more:

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by


Julia_Sudnitskaya / istockphoto


Featured Image Credit: