Credit scores are one of the most important factors in determining your creditworthiness for a credit card. But once you check your credit score, you might find that you have what’s called a “fair” credit score.
A fair credit score isn’t the end of the world, but it’s important to understand what it means for your credit and how you can make a plan to stay on top of it.
Let’s take a look at how a fair credit score happens, as well as what steps you can take to understand that score, so you can increase your chances of being approved for credit cards with lower interest rates and other benefits.
What’s considered a fair credit score?
What’s considered a fair, as opposed to good, credit score will depend on what specific credit score model you use. Some credit score models, for example, may not even have “fair” scores while FICO® Scores generally consider 580 to 669 to be “fair”. They will also weigh factors like credit utilization and credit mix differently in their models, meaning a fair score for FICO isn’t the same as a fair score for other models. FICO updates their scores regularly to reflect changes in how credit is used by consumers, so you may fall into the “fair” range for some versions but not all.
For FICO® Scores, the most commonly used credit score, here are the credit score ranges:
- Exceptional: 800+.
- Very good: 740 to 799.
- Good: 670 to 739.
- Fair: 580 to 669.
- Poor: 579 and lower.
If your credit score is in the fair ranges listed above, you have fair credit and are generally considered to have a moderate risk of delinquency by lenders.
Fair vs. Good Credit Score: What is the difference?
The biggest difference between a fair and good credit score is what credit cards you’ll be offered, as well as what the interest rates on those cards will be. A person with a fair credit score may find approval for credit cards but could have trouble finding an ideal interest rate on those cards.
On the other hand, an individual with a good credit score is not only more likely to be approved for more credit cards, but also has a better chance of having lower interest rates on those cards.
How can you improve from a fair to a good credit score?
Improving from a fair to a good credit score requires patience and proper strategy. However, it is possible to do it if you follow the right steps.
Pay down your outstanding debt
The first step in staying on top of your credit score is paying off your existing debts. Check the balances on your credit cards and loans and make a plan to pay these debts off. When you pay down your credit cards, this will lower the amount of available credit you’re using, which will, in turn, improve your credit utilization ratio. For loans, this will establish a positive repayment history, which also may go towards improving your creditworthiness.
Use a credit card to build credit
By aiming for responsible usage of a credit card, you can start to build credit over time and begin the journey from a fair to a good credit score.
Responsible credit card usage involves making all of your credit card payments by the necessary due date and keeping your balances as low as possible. Both of these actions will improve your credit utilization ratio and your repayment history, so it can become an integral part of a strategy to keep an eye on your credit score.
Make payments on time
A simple way to start building credit is to always make timely payments on any credit card balances and loans you have due. Consistently making payments on time will start to build a positive repayment history, which is a key piece in improving your credit.
Become an authorized user
Another method to stay on top of your credit score is to be added as an authorized user onto someone else’s credit card account with a positive repayment history. An authorized user is someone who the primary cardholder adds to their credit card account. The card issuer does not usually hold the authorized user responsible for paying the balance on that account.
Don’t apply for too many new credit cards at once
When trying to obtain a good score, refrain from applying for more than one new credit cards if possible. Applying for new credit cards can initiate hard inquiries into your credit file, which can lower your credit score. While hard inquiries don’t hurt your score too much, it can add up over time if you’re frequently applying for new credit cards.
Start building credit with a Citi credit card
Secured cards like the Citi® Secured Mastercard® and balance transfer cards like the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card can be great options for users to start building credit. The Citi® Secured Mastercard® can be a good option for customers with little or no credit history and can offer the opportunity to help build credit when used responsibly. If you are approved for this secured card, a security deposit is required for the amount of your credit limit. If you want to transfer high-interest balances from your other cards, the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card could be a good option since it allows you to take advantage of a low introductory APR on balance transfers for a certain period of time. You can also learn how select Citi cards enable its cardmembers to view their FICO® Score for free and keep track of how their score is changing over time.
FICO is a registered trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation in the United States and other countries. Citi and Fair Isaac are not credit repair organizations as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. Citi and Fair Isaac do not provide ‘credit repair’ services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history or credit rating.
This article is for educational purposes. It is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and is not a substitute for professional advice. It does not indicate the availability of any Citi product or service. For advice about your specific circumstances, you should consult a qualified professional.