600 Credit Score Is Considered ‘Very Poor’
To put it bluntly a 600 credit score is well below national average score of 711 and will be viewed by most lenders as very poor. TransUnion is one of the three credit bureaus in the United States. They use the credit model VantageScore 3.0 which has 5 categories for credit scores as shown in the below chart:
A 600 credit score falls into the lowest of the 5 categories and is considered “Very Poor” according to TransUnion. Credit Scores are used by lenders to determine your creditworthiness, which means the likelihood that you will pay them back in full and on time. Having a credit score in the “very poor” category signals to lenders that relatively speaking, lending to you is a risky proposition. Therefore, a credit score of 600 will limit the types of credit you get approved for, and you will most likely also get quoted relatively high interest rates.
In the sections that follow we will outline in detail what types of loans you can get approve for with a 600 credit score and offer up some best practices you can employ to improve your score.
Table of Contents
What Can You Get Approved For With a 600 Credit Score?
You will still be able to get approved for certain types of revolving credit and auto-related loans, but might face difficulties getting approval for mortgages.
Can I Get a Credit Card with a 600 Credit Score?
You can get a credit card with a credit score of 600. That said, your options will be more limited as for the biggest credit card issuers their sweet spot tends to be customers with credit scores of 680 and above. The chart below illustrates this point perfectly:
As shown above, the composition of the credit card loan portfolios of Citibank and Wells Fargo Bank – both national banks that have very large credit card portfolios – skews heavily towards customers with credit scores of 680 or better. Only 6% of Wells Fargo’s credit card portfolio consists of customers with FICO scores of 600 or lower.
On the other hand, issuers such as Capital One Bank have a large number of credit cards available for customers, including cards for consumers with “fair credit”. These are credit cards for consumers that have defaulted on a loan in the past or have limited credit histories or have had other issues resulting in a very poor credit score. The Platinum Mastercard and the QuicksilverOne are two examples of credit cards you could qualify for with a 600 credit score.
You should also consider credit cards issued by merchants (also known as “store cards”) as those credit cards are designed to encourage spending at the respective stores and tend to be easier to get approval for.
Can You Get a Mortgage with a Credit Score of 600?
It is unlikely that you will be approved for a mortgage with a 600 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 “excellent”. 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 600 credit score would fall) represented just 0.1% of mortgage loans issued over this period. So while getting a mortgage with a credit score this low is not impossible, the odds are certainly stacked against you.
You will have to take advantage of government programs such as an FHA Loan, which have minimum credit score requirement of 580 to get approval for a down payment as low as 3.5%. You should also take advantage of down payment assistance programs to help with financing the cost of the home.
Can You Get an Auto Loan with a 600 Credit Score?
The short answer is yes, most likely. 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 rates offered by automotive lenders can vary significantly depending on which credit category you are in. Therefore, the benefits of improving your credit score can be quite meaningful. The below chart illustrates this point:
As shown in the diagram above (source: Experian), the difference in the average interest rate auto lenders charged to consumers that had the lowest credit scores (deep subprime) and consumers that had the next lowest credit scores (subprime) was about 3% in 2021. A 600 credit score is considered by Experian Automotive to be subprime. By moving up into the near prime category (for example, a credit score of 660) consumers could save hundreds of dollars each year on the financing cost. As an example, on a $15,000 auto loan, you would save $495 each year.
The credit union would consider a 600 credit score to be a “C” grade, granted the lowest possible score to be a “C” grade. This places your score in the second lowest category (consistent with Experian Automotive’s categorization). Improving your credit score to the 650 to 699 range could save 1% a year in auto loan rates.
Can You Get a Personal Loan with a 600 Credit Score?
Yes – you will be able to get approved for personal loans, but 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. So while on the one hand you will still have access to some personal loans with a 600 score, the rates charged could be prohibitive.
Is 600 a Good Credit Score? What is a Good Credit Score?
600 is not a good credit score and that is the case regardless of which credit model you’re looking at. In terms of what score is high enough to be considered ‘good’, there is certainly variation in the answer. Some lenders would consider any credit score that’s within the prime range, 660 to 739, to be “good”. Other lenders follow the credit bureau categorizations in which case a good credit score starts at 720. To be fair, given the average credit score in the country is now 711, using a 720 credit score as the threshold is not an unreasonable approach.
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 600 Credit Score?
The following are steps you can take to start improving your credit score:
Obtain Copies of Your Credit Reports
This should the first step. Get a copy of your credit reports from each of the three 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:
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 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 simulation of the FICO 9 model that was published by the Fair Isaac Corporation showed the impact of missing payments on your credit score.
The simulation shows two consumers, one with a 607 credit score and one with a 793 credit score and shows how much their credit score would change from different credit actions. Missing a payment for 90 days they estimated would result in a 37 point decline in the first consumer’s credit score and a 123 point decline in the second consumer’s credit score.
Prioritizing paying your bills on-time is a good practice that is easy to implement. Enrolling in auto-pay for not just your credit repayments but other bills can ensure that you significantly lower the risk that you forget to make a payment and end up becoming delinquent.
Limit Opening New Accounts
one of the inputs the credit reporting agencies use in calculating your credit score is the length of your credit history. Therefore, each time you open a new account, the length of your history declines. The impact can be more significant if you open a large number of new accounts in a short period of time. This doesn’t mean that you should never open new accounts; rather, it is good practice to avoid opening multiple new accounts each year, especially if it’s just in the pursuit of rewards or cash bonuses.
Keep Credit Card Utilization Low
Another input the credit bureaus use in calculating your credit score is to look at the total amounts owed on revolving credit, such as credit cards, relative to the allowable limits on the credit cards. Keeping credit cards fully maxed out is not only financially imprudent but it has a negative impact on your overall credit score.
Ideally, it is good practice to pay off your credit card balance each payment cycle. More practically, prioritize keeping your revolving credit well below (less than 50%) the limits.
Take Advantage of Credit Building Tools
Having a 600 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 hard inquiry for approval in most cases. Secured Credit Cards are an effective way of re-establishing credit worthiness and to the credit reporting agencies they look like credit extensions and therefore your credit score benefits in multiple ways. As you make use of the account you are adding to your credit history, and demonstrating to lenders that you are credit worthy.
That said, many of the secured credit cards still charge fees and interest on balances, so you do need to use them responsibly.
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 absolute 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 600 credit score is considered very 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.