A 534 Credit Score Is Clearly Problematic
Unfortunately, a 534 credit score is poor by pretty much any measure. TransUnion, one of the three credit bureaus in the United States, categorizes a 534 credit score as “very poor”, as it falls into the lowest range of scores. Most credit bureaus and lenders consider a score at this level to be in the “Poor” category. In fact, according to Experian, approximately 16% of Americans have a score that is lower than 580, so it is fair to say that 534 very likely places you in or close to the bottom 10% of American adults.
Other credit models such as the VantageScore 3.0 would categorize a 534 score in the “Very Poor” category. With that said, there is some reason to be optimistic: credit scores are continuously measured and there’s plenty of opportunity to improve and right the ship.
Why should you care about your credit score?
Your credit score is easily one of the most important numbers in your life mainly because it determines your access to credit including credit cards, personal loans, and mortgages and, just as important, the terms and cost of credit.
For this reason, it is important to monitor your credit frequently, to be proactive in resolving issues that arise that impact your credit score, and to ensure that you’re taking steps to steadily improve your credit score over time. In the following sections we discuss what a 534 credit score means, explain what a good credit score is and share some practical tips to help improve your score.
What a 534 Credit Score Means
TransUnion uses the credit model VantageScore 3.0 which has the following 5 categories for credit scores with associated letter grades.
A 534 credit score would be considered “Very Poor” according to TransUnion and is the lowest credit score category. Credit scores between 300 and 600 are considered very poor while credit scores between 601 and 658 are considered “Poor” according to the VantageScore 3.0.
A 534 credit score is 66 points below a 600 credit score mark which with some work is a threshold that your score could improve to. A score this low does mean that you will face several limitations including the number of lenders willing to provide you credit. The fact is that there is typically going to be an inverse relationship between your credit score and the interest rates lenders are willing to charge you.
Further, many lenders will have minimum credit scores and if you’re not above this threshold they automatically might decline providing you with a loan. Examples of this include Lending Club which has a minimum credit score of 600, SoFi which reportedly has a minimum credit score of 650 and Credible, which has minimum score requirement of 620.
What You Can Get Approved For With a 534 Credit Score
Lenders utilize sophisticated underwriting models when deciding which consumers to approve and which to deny credit to. One of the inputs (albeit a very important one) is your credit score and associated credit report.
Lenders will often also consider other characteristics such as your income level. So what exactly you can get approved for with a 534 credit score is not set in stone, but in the sections below we have outlined what we believe is the most likely outcome based on our research on credit scores and lending criteria for different credit providers.
Can I Get a Credit Card Can with a 534 Credit Score?
The short answer is yes you can but your options will be limited. You will be able to get approved for some credit cards with a 534 credit score, but these will most likely be non-traditional credit cards and secured credit cards. Data from Experian showed that consumers with credit scores in the “Poor” category (300-579) had average credit utilization ratios of 64% in 2021, meaning that almost two thirds of the extended credit had been utilized. Therefore you can understand why some credit card companies would be wary about approving new credit cards to consumers with scores in this range. It is still possible to get a credit card with a score this low, but the number of options will be a lot lower and the rates charged will also be higher.
Can You Get a Mortgage with a 534 Credit Score?
It is unlikely that you will be approved for a mortgage with a 534 credit score. The chart below shows the categorization of mortgage approvals in the United States by credit score and is based on data from 2016 to 2021 from the FHFA database.
A 534 credit score would fit in the “very poor credit” section of the above chart. The overwhelming majority of mortgage approvals are to people that have credit scores that are considered “good” or better. The “very poor credit” category represented just 0.1% or mortgage loans over the 5 year period. So, while getting a mortgage with a credit score this low is not impossible, the odds are strongly against you.
Can I Get an Auto Loan with a 534 Credit Score?
The short answer is yes, it is possible. You will still be able to get approved for an auto loan with this credit score. However, the terms will be less favorable and there will be a fewer number of lenders available. The interest rates charged on the loan will be a lot higher because a 534 credit score is considered deep subprime by auto lenders.
The chart shows the incremental rate of interest consumers had to pay relative to prime consumers for automotive loans in 2021 (source: Experian). Simply put, a deep subprime customer could pay 3.5 times the interest cost of a prime customer, which reflects a rate of interest on the auto loan that is 9% higher. So while you can still get approved for an auto loan with this credit score, the rate you get quoted could be prohibitively high and not worth it.
Can You Get a Personal Loan with a 534 Credit Score?
Yes – you will be able to get approved for some personal loans, but the number of options will be more limited as discussed earlier given the minimum credit score requirements of some lenders. In addition to this, the rate charged will also be higher, most lenders advertise a range of annual percentage rates for this reason. For example, these are the ranges of personal loan rates offered by various lenders currently:
- Upgrade – 7% to 36%
- SoFi – 7% to 22%
- Lending Club – 7% to 36%
- Prosper – 8% to 36%
- Avant – 10% to 36%
Clearly, paying a 36% annual interest rate for a loan is very expensive and some could argue is financially unwise. This level of interest rate exceeds the rate charged by most credit cards.
Can You Get an Apartment Rental Lease with a 534 Credit Score?
It’s possible but unlikely. A study by RentCafe in 2020 found that the average credit score of renters in the United States was 638. However, this is of course just an average and so there were both consumers above and below this figure. It will be difficult to get approved for an apartment rental lease with a score this low. Some landlords might require you to have a co-signor or to submit a more significant security deposit.
Is 600 a Good Credit Score? What is a Good Credit Score?
With a 534 credit score your sights should first be set on increasing your score to the 600 threshold. That’s the logical next milestone. That said, 600 is still not considered a good credit score by most measures and is also well below 711, which is the average credit score in the United States. A more aggressive but attainable target would be a 660 credit score, which would bump up into the “fair” category.
We consider a 750 credit score to be a good credit score. With a credit score at this level not only are you comfortably above the average credit score in the United States, but when it comes to getting approved for a mortgage (the gold standard of credit approvals) your score places you above the median. This means that your odds of being approved for a mortgage with a 750 credit score are very good. With a 750 credit score you will also be eligible for most credit cards, personal loans and auto loans with attractive features and rates.
How Can You Improve From a 534 Credit Score?
The following are steps you can take to start improving your credit score:
Get Copies of Your Credit Reports
The first step we’d recommend would be to obtain a copy of your credit reports from each of the credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) and review them thoroughly to first ensure that all the information on the reports is accurate. It is very important to understand what happened that resulted in your score falling to this level. Every consumer is entitled by law to a free copy of their credit report from each of the three credit bureaus once a year. You can do this by visiting the Annual Free Credit Report.
If you notice that there are irregularities on your credit report, you can act by sending a letter to the relevant credit reporting company disputing the information. Viewing your credit reports will also provide you with an idea of what has impacted your score in the past such as late payments and delinquent accounts. You can find more information about disputing information on your credit reports here:
Pay Down Revolving Credit
Prioritize reducing revolving debt such as credit cards which has two benefits. First, these types of accounts impact your credit utilization ratio which is an important determinant of your credit score. The second benefit is that credit card debt is also more expensive than other forms of debt, so you save more by reducing it first.
As discussed earlier, Experian research indicated that one of the major differences between consumers with very low credit scores and those with high credit scores is their credit utilization. Consumers with very good or better scores only utilize 15% or less of their credit, while consumers with poor credit use 64%. Reducing your utilization will help improve your credit score.
Limit The Number of Hard Inquiries
You should also avoid having new hard inquiries made on your accounts. These inquiries are typically the result of new applications for credit. Hard inquiries result in your credit score going down and aside from that it can be a concerning signal to existing lenders that view your credit report. Moreover, as the priority should be on debt reduction, limiting hard inquiries should be an easy way to avoid lowering your score further. This table is a helpful tool for remembering which activities lead to hard inquiries and which lead to soft inquiries. The latter does not impact your credit score.
Prioritize Paying Your Bills On-time
Not making your payments on your outstanding credit or making late payments is an easy way to impact your credit score. Your payment history is responsible for 35% of your credit score and so having a poor payment history is one of the common causes of low credit scores. A good practice that is easy to implement is to enroll in auto-pay for not just your credit repayments but other bills. Doing this at least helps you significantly lower the risk that you forget to make a payment and end up becoming delinquent.
Take Advantage of Credit Building Tools
Having a 534 credit score limits your options for new loans but at the same time, you need opportunities to demonstrate to lenders that you are creditworthy. This is where credit building tools can be very valuable. These tools exist specifically to allow consumers with limited or poor credit histories to start rebuilding their credit. A common tool is a secured credit card. These cards are offered by many banks, do not require a credit check for approval in most cases, and are an effective way of re-establishing credit worthiness.
Monitor Your Credit Reports Closely
Finally, it is a good idea to pay close attention to your credit scores. Checking your credit reports once a year should be the minimum frequency as while the information might not change every day, over the course of a year a lot can change.
Monitoring your credit reports monthly (what we would recommend) allows you to keep track of the progress you’re making in improving your credit scores and enables you to be proactive in the event that an issue arises. There are a host of free credit monitoring tools including Credit Karma and Credit Wise.
By implementing some of the best practices we outlined above you can start to see an improvement in your credit score in a matter of months. But you should view your credit score and credit history over a longer time frame and plan to develop habits that you can sustain over the long run.