There are people out there who have a 300 credit score, though this is fairly rare and a score this low would be the result of many significant negative items in a borrower’s credit history. The good news is that no matter where your score is now, you can work to improve it. This article will cover subprime credit scores and how to improve them.
Written by Attorney Eric Hansen.
Updated August 1, 2023
Yes, there are people out there who have a 300 credit score, though this is fairly rare. A score this low would be the result of many significant negative items in a borrower’s credit history. People with scores this low are considered subprime or deep subprime borrowers.
You may be reading this article because you have a bad credit score and you’re curious about what goes into a credit score and how to repair your credit. While a low credit score reflects some financial missteps, it’s not a reflection of your character. The good news is that no matter where your score is now, you can work to improve it.
This article will cover subprime credit scores and how to improve them.
300: The Lowest Credit Score Possible
Credit scores range from 300 to 850. Your credit score will change over time and be different depending on which model is used to calculate it. Essentially, you don’t have just one credit score. You have many. The two most popular credit scoring models lenders use credit are FICO and VantageScore. Each uses a formula to calculate your score, and each formula weighs factors from your credit report differently. Some elements that are very important in your FICO score calculation are less important in the VantageScore calculation. This is why you can have several different scores.
What Goes Into a Credit Score?
Your credit score is determined by five main types of information in your credit report. You can get your credit report from several sources, including the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion).
The five main categories used to determine your credit score are:
Payment History: This is the most important factor used to calculate your credit score. Your credit file shows each payment you’ve made. It tracks on-time payments, late payments, and missed payments. If you’re past due on your credit accounts or if you’ve filed bankruptcy in the last 7-10 years, it will be reflected in your payment history.
Amounts Owed: This is the next most important factor in your credit score. Lenders look at your credit utilization ratio, which is the total amount of credit you have available versus the total debt on your credit cards and other revolving credit accounts. To increase your credit score, keep this rate below 30%.
Length of Credit History: The third most important factor is the length of your credit history. Having long-term accounts in good standing with a few creditors is better than having a bunch of new lines of credit, especially if they aren’t in good standing.
New Credit: It’s OK to apply for new credit accounts when you need them. But having several hard inquiries on your credit history in a short time can decrease your credit score very quickly. This can signal to lenders that you are short on cash and having a hard time paying your bills.
Kinds of Credit: Diversifying your credit balance is important. It shows lenders you can handle different kinds of credit responsibly. Having a good credit mix, including a variety of lines of credit and different types of loans, will help boost your credit score.
How Does Bankruptcy Impact a Credit Score?
Most people who have struggled with money or poorly managed their finances still have credit scores above 300. This is the case even for people who’ve hit a serious financial rough patch and had to file bankruptcy. Typically, bankruptcy damages a person’s credit score. But this is only temporary, and having a fresh start can be the first step to building better credit. Even people who file bankruptcy and receive a bankruptcy discharge do not generally see their credit scores dip as low as 300.
A recent study found that the median VantageScore of people who had filed for bankruptcy was 675, which is considered fair credit. That said, it’s practically impossible to have a 300 credit score, even with several negative marks on a person’s credit history like bankruptcy, charge-offs, repossessions, and foreclosures.
Who Has a 300 Credit Score?
While it’s possible to have a 300 credit score, it doesn’t happen very often. In fact, it’s pretty rare, even with a significantly poor credit history. That said, many Americans have financial difficulties that lead to poor credit. Sometimes, through no fault of your own, you can end up with a low credit score.
A low credit score is known by other terms including, subprime, deep subprime, or bad credit. If you have a poor credit score, you usually have to pay higher interest rates. You also won’t be offered very favorable terms on auto or personal loans, and you may not qualify for some mortgages. While this can be a challenge in the short term, in the long term you can take steps to improve your credit score and get a handle on your personal finances.
What Does Deep Subprime Mean?
A deep subprime credit rating means that your FICO or VantageScore credit score is between 300 and 579. This rating will affect your ability to open new credit accounts as well as the terms and interest rates of your credit accounts. A recent study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) found that about 13% of adults in the U.S. have a deep subprime credit score, and 40% of the people in this category have a credit card.
Those with a credit card and a deep subprime credit rating typically have a higher credit utilization rate than people with a prime credit rating. They’re also charged several late fees each year. Deep subprime borrowers also have a history of missed payments and past-due credit accounts. Having a deep subprime credit score isn’t a financial death sentence though. You can improve your score through diligence and hard work.
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What To Do if You Have a 300 Credit Score
If you have a 300 credit score or are somewhere in the deep subprime credit range, you can (and should) do something about it. Start by developing and implementing a credit repair plan that’s tailored to you. Nonprofit consumer credit counseling agencies can help, and the first visit is free. Here are a few other great ways to get started:
One of the simplest ways to improve your credit score is by fixing errors on your credit report. You can get your credit report for free, and it’s a good idea to review it regularly. After reviewing your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — you should highlight any incorrect information you see.
If there are errors in your personal information, incorrect balances owed, duplicates, or credit accounts that aren’t yours, you should contact the creditor, collection agency, and/or the credit bureau reporting the error.
If you have a 300 credit score or are in the deep subprime neighborhood, you may want to consider filing for bankruptcy. If you have a lot of unsecured debt, like credit card debt or personal loans, and you’re having a hard time paying it off, you may be a good candidate. People with all sorts of credit scores and income levels file for bankruptcy. Having your debts discharged and getting a fresh start could be just the thing you need to improve your situation.
Sometimes unforeseen events like a medical emergency, job loss, or death in the family can lead to crippling debt. Whether that’s the case for you, or if you’ve made some financial missteps, remember that you always have options. Upsolve is a nonprofit organization that can help you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy for free. You can use our free web app to see if you qualify.
Let Time Do the Work
Time heals all wounds and the same is true of your credit score. Most negative entries will stay on your credit report for seven years. But their effect on your score decreases over time. The older the entry, the less impact it has on your score. Eventually, all negative entries will drop off. As time passes, you can also work to repair and positively contribute to your credit. Your score won’t increase overnight but if you keep making on-time payments and keep your credit utilization ratio down, you’ll see positive results.
You may be tempted to close all your credit accounts, but if you do so you’ll stop having a FICO score altogether after six months. It’s better to keep your accounts open and not use them or use them and pay them off as quickly as possible if your goal is to improve your credit score.
While it will be fairly difficult to get new credit while your credit score is under 500, it isn’t impossible. Some lenders don’t check your FICO score or VantageScore. Other lenders make hardship exceptions. If your credit application is denied, remember to stick with it and let time do the work. You may want to consider getting a secured credit card to help improve your creditworthiness. Secured credit cards require security deposits but not necessarily a good credit score. They can be used, along with other strategies, to slowly build a solid credit history.
Learn More About Your Credit Score
Part of developing good financial habits is learning and making use of the resources available to you. Upsolve is a nonprofit that can help answer your questions about credit, credit scores, debt, and bankruptcy issues. Our learning center has FAQs, articles, and templates that can help you repair your credit yourself, file bankruptcy, and learn more about your credit score and other issues.
You’re not alone and you don’t have to be discouraged if you have a deep subprime credit score. If you’re thinking about bankruptcy, check out Upsolve’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy tool or schedule a free bankruptcy evaluation with a qualified bankruptcy attorney. During the consultation, the attorney will help you understand the pros and cons of filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy and decide if it’s right for you. They can also advise you of other steps you can take to improve your financial well-being.
A very poor credit score can happen to the best of us. But even those with poor credit rarely see their scores drop to 300. This is the lowest credit score possible for both FICO and VantageScore. Several factors go into calculating a credit score, but your payment history is the biggest factor. If you’ve made several financial missteps, including missing payments, having accounts charged off, and having judgments against you for unpaid debt, your credit score will drop and you may fall into the subprime or deep subprime category. This will make it harder to get new credit or get good terms on your credit like a low interest rate.
Remember that if your score is lower than you want it to be, you can work to improve it and repair your credit. In addition to the ideas listed above, you can talk to a credit counselor. They can help you develop a credit repair plan and see it through. If your debt is overwhelming, consider filing bankruptcy to get a fresh start. While it might ding your score in the short term, it can help you rebuild your credit in the long run.