A 546 Credit Score Is Very Poor
Having a 546 credit score places you almost directly in the middle of the possible credit score range of 300 to 850. However, it would be mistake to consider this score as average or anything close to average. Though numerically the credit score is in the middle of the range, it is considered well below average and falls into the “Poor” category of credit scores.
According to Experian, approximately one third of people with a 546 credit score have histories which indicate that they have been overdue by at least 30 days on at least one credit payment in the last decade. In addition, the data shows that consumers with credit scores below 579 are also 62% more likely to become seriously delinquent on a loan or other credit extension, meaning that they go overdue on a debt by 90 days or more.
So clearly these statistics tell lenders that someone with a 546 credit score represents a real risk of late or non-payment. As a result one of the realities of such a low credit score if limited number of credit options and relatively high interest rates. In the following article we discuss what a 546 credit score functionally means, explain what a good credit score is and share some practical tips to help improve your score.
What a 546 Credit Score Means For You
TransUnion, which is one of the three credit reporting agencies, uses the credit model VantageScore 3.0 which has the following 5 categories for credit scores.
A 546 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. Therefore, an optimistic perspective would be that with a 546 credit score, you’re 53 points away from moving up out of the lowest category.
What You Can and Can’t Get Approved For With a 546 Credit Score
As indicated earlier, most of the time there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to how lenders decide on approving applications for new credit. There are a number of factors that they will consider in addition to your credit score, including your monthly income. But in the sections below we have outlined what we believe is the most likely outcome based on our research on credit scores and lender criteria.
Can I Get a Credit Card Can with a 546 Credit Score?
The short answer is yes you can. You will be able to get approved for some credit cards with a 546 credit score, but these will most likely be non-traditional credit cards and secured credit cards.
- Unsecured Credit Cards – you likely not get approved for most unsecured credit cards, which is the most popular type of credit card available in the country. The distinction between unsecured and secured credit cards is that with unsecured cards you don’t need to make a security deposit or post any form of collateral. As a result, lenders are taking a bigger risk and so consumers with lower credit scores are viewed as riskier borrowers. Your best bet as far as unsecured credit cards goes might be non-traditional credit card options such as those issued by merchants (also known as “store cards”) would be an alternative for consumers with low credit scores. Examples of a merchant card would be the Lowe’s Advantage Card. Because these credit cards are issued and designed to encourage spending at the respective stores, there are additional considerations in their decision to approve a credit card application.
- Secured Credit Cards – these cards are designed for consumers that have limited or poor credit histories. Because these cards are prepaid, cardholders can only spend amounts that have been pre-funded or “secured”. While this means that secured credit cards function very similarly to debit cards, they do have the added benefit of the payment information being reported to the credit reporting agencies and so these are great credit building tools. Several of the large banks offer secured credit cards including Capital One and Discover Bank.
Can You Get a Mortgage with a 546 Credit Score?
It is unlikely that you will be approved for a mortgage with a 546 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.
What should be pretty clear is that the overwhelming majority of mortgage approvals are to people that have credit scores that are considered “good” or better. For the two lowest categories, “poor” and “very poor” they represented only 3% of mortgage approvals over this 5 year period. Importantly, the lowest category (which is where a 546 credit score would fall) represented just 0.1%. So, while getting a mortgage with a credit score this low is not impossible, the odds are strongly against you.
Can You Get an Auto Loan with a 546 Credit Score?
Yes you will most likely be able to get an auto loan with this credit score. The caveat is that the cost of the loan will not be the most favorable.
As shown in the chart which is sourced using data from Experian, the lower your credit score (which correlates to the categories) the higher rate of interest lenders will demand for auto loans. The difference is quite significant as “deep subprime” borrowers were charged 9% more for their auto loans than prime borrowers which represent the average borrower in the United States. Based on our calculations, we estimate that deep subprime borrowers were charged 3.5 times more than the average consumer for their auto loans. So while you will still be able to get an auto loan with a 546 credit score, the rates will be a lot higher.
Can You Get a Personal Loan with a 546 Credit Score?
Yes – you will be able to get approved for personal loans, but the number of options will be more limited, and the rate charged will be higher, as discussed and shown earlier.
Is 600 a Good Credit Score? What is a Good Credit Score?
Given the starting point of a 546 credit score, your goal should be to get to a 600 credit score as soon as is reasonably possible. This is just a goal however. A 600 credit score is still not a great place to be in terms of your access to affordable credit. The average credit score in the United States is 711 according to Experian, so even a credit score of 600 remains well below this figure. This does lead to an important question: what is a good credit score? We consider a 750 credit score to be a good credit score. In our view a good credit score is high enough to allow you to get approved for most forms of credit extension.
With a 750 credit score 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 546 Credit Score?
A 546 credit score is not a great score to have and so it’s important to start implementing strategies and habits that can help improve your credit score over time. The following are steps you can take:
- 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 – You should 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 debt is also more expensive than other forms of debt, so you save more by reducing it first.
Avoid 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 546 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.
While a 546 credit score is considered poor, 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.