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What is a Good Credit Score Range?

Posted By Jim On 10/05/2011 @ 7:09 am In Credit | 7 Comments

One of the most common questions I get asked is whether I think someone has a good credit score (quickly followed by how they can improve their credit score [3]). I know a little bit about credit scores and can usually give someone a good idea but whether a score is good will depend on a lot of factors.

First off, when people talk about credit scores, they’re usually talking about the Fair Isaac Corporation’s FICO credit score [4]. There are others out there, one for each of the credit bureaus, the VantageScore, but ultimately the one people care about is still the FICO credit score. The others are given less glamorous names, like FAKO score.

With the score itself, a lot of it will depend on what you’re trying to do, how rates are in the marketplace, and whether your score gets you the rate you need to complete the transaction.

Credit Score Range

The range itself goes from 300 to 850 but it’s almost impossible to get an 850 or a 300, as the scale is anything but linear in nature. The shape of the distribution takes a bell curve shape with the middle shifted up in the 700 to 799 range.

The best way to determine whether your score range is good will depend on what you need it for. The range of “good scores” for a 30 year fixed mortgage is different than the range of good scores for a 3 year car loan. Fortunately, MyFICO, owned by Fair Isaac Corporation; has a table that gives us a nice little range for each of the three most common credit score needs – 30 year fixed mortgage, a 15 year home equity loan, and a 3 year car loan.

30 Year Fixed Mortgage Rates

For a $300,000 mortgage:

FICO Score APR Monthly payment
760-850 3.790% $1,396
700-759 4.012% $1,434
680-699 4.189% $1,465
660-679 4.403% $1,503
640-659 4.833% $1,580
620-639 5.379% $1,681

As you can see, the top range is 760 to 850 and someone with a 760 should expect a similar rate to someone with an 800. The next range is 700 to 759, which means someone with a 750 score should try really really hard to get themselves into the higher range in order to get a little savings on 30 year mortgages.

Let’s see how this compares to the 15 year home equity loan.

15 Year Home Equity Loan Rates

For a $50,000 line of credit:

FICO Score APR Monthly payment
740-850 7.057% $451
720-739 7.357% $459
700-719 7.857% $474
670-699 8.632% $496
640-669 10.132% $541
620-639 11.382% $580

As you can see, the ranges have changed a little in the 15 year home equity loan rates with the highest range being a little wider than the 30 year fixed mortgage’s top range. It’s hard to draw too many conclusions from this other than to say that the ranges will vary depending on what you want to do. It pays to understand what you want because that’ll frame your understanding of what is a good score range.

15 Year Home Equity Loan Rates

For a $25,000 loan:

FICO Score APR Monthly payment
720-850 4.178% $740
690-719 5.632% $756
660-689 7.695% $780
620-659 11.283% $822
590-619 11.283% $882
500-589 17.635% $899

Again, we see the top range expanding a bit but rates increase very quickly as we go down the ranges. The interest rate between the top range and the second best range is almost a percent and a half. That’s a big jump, much bigger than one would expect. It makes sense though because this loan is only three years, so any additional risk would need to be captured within that time frame.

All in all, I think seeing these rates and the score ranges can help us understand what is a good credit score range.


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[4] FICO credit score: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/free-fico-credit-score.html

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