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300 Credit Score: The WORST (here’s what to do)

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300 Credit Score: The WORST (but there’s hope)

A 300 credit score is considered a “poor” credit score and may be the result of missed payments, collection accounts, judgements, bankruptcy, or other factors. With a poor credit score, it may be very difficult to obtain a credit card, car loan, or mortgage, and interest rates on any loans may have a very high interest rate.

But while a 300 credit score is very low, there are many things you can do to improve your score, sometimes within just a few months. Keep reading to learn more about improving your score.

Overview of a 300 credit score

A 300 credit score falls into the “Poor” range, which means that you will have a tough time applying for any type of credit or loan. Your credit score is a reflection of your ability to make payments, especially on your debt accounts, such as a mortgage, credit card, car loan, or student loans. While the full range of credit scores spans from 300 to 850, there are several different ranges that your score can fall into.

Poor Credit Score Range

Here’s a summary of each credit score range and what it means for your finances:

Credit Score Rating

Credit Score Range

Qualify For

Poor

300 - 579

Secured Credit Cards

Fair

580 - 669

Secured Credit Cards, loans with sizeable deposit, apartment rental


Good

670 - 739

Standard credit cards, auto loans, mortgage, apartment rental, personal loans, home equity loans

Very Good

740 - 799

Credit cards (with sign-up bonuses), auto loans, mortgage, apartment rental, personal loans, home equity loans, home refinance


Excellent

800 - 850

Credit cards (with sign-up bonuses), auto loans, mortgage, apartment rental, personal loans, home equity loans, home refinance


How to check your credit score (free)

Knowing your credit score is important to understand what you qualify for, as well as how you can improve your score to get better rates and features from your lenders. In fact, having a credit score that is “very good” or “excellent” can save you thousands of dollars in interest on loans, or even more on your mortgage. Plus, it helps you qualify for the top credit card bonuses worth hundreds of dollars each.

There are several companies that offer free credit score services, but here are a few of my favorites that make it easy:

Company

Credit Score Type

Additional Perks

Credit Karma

Equifax & TransUnion VantageScore

Free credit reports from Equifax & TransUnion updated weekly


Free credit monitoring

Credit Sesame

TransUnion VantageScore

Tips on improving score based on credit profile

Free credit monitoring

CreditWise

Equifax & TransUnion VantageScore

Built into CapitalOne app

Simulator that shows factors that may affect your score

Discover

TransUnion FICO score

Free with any Discover credit card, including their secured credit card


6 ways to improve your 300 credit score fast!

While it’s no fun having a poor credit score, there are many things you can do to improve your score and move up to a better range. Here’s are our favorite ways to quickly improve your score and get better rates:

Secured credit card. A secured credit card is similar to a prepaid card that allows you to build credit. To open a secured credit card, you will put down a deposit in the full amount of your credit limit, which is typically a few hundred dollars. As you use the credit card and make on-time payments, the card company will report your activity to the three credit bureaus to establish your good payment history. If you avoid “maxing out” the card and make on-time payments, this is one of the best ways to quickly improve your score.

Dispute Negatives. Sometimes there are false negatives on your credit reports, such as fraudulent credit cards opened in your name, or a false report from a past creditor. One of the quickest ways to improve your score is to download all three of your credit reports and go over each report to find anything that looks incorrect. You can contact each credit bureau online or via a mailed letter to explain any mistakes, and they are required to investigate within 35 days. Removing negative marks from your credit score can be a HUGE bump to your score.

Pay Off Collections Accounts. If you are in collections for any of your past debts, finding a way to resolve those debts can have a drastic effect on your credit score. Whether you pay it off with a payment plan, or negotiate a lump-sum payoff amount, once the collections account is paid off, request the collections agency remove the debt from your credit report. While these reports typically stay on your credit report for 7 years, negotiating with the collection agency to have it removed can improve your score and help you qualify for loans or credit cards faster.

Reduce Utilization. When using a credit card or a line of credit, don’t “max” it out. Instead, only use 30% (or less) of the available credit on your card or credit line at a time. This means if you have a $5,000 credit limit, don’t use more than $1,500 at a time. This keeps your credit utilization low, and can help improve your credit score. If you have any over-utilized credit cards, pay them down below 30% for a quick bump to your score.

Pay On Time. It may seem obvious, but paying your bills and debt payments on time is the best long-term strategy to building a healthy credit score. In fact, your payment history makes up 35% of your total credit score! This means that you should prioritize catching up on any past-due accounts, and then ask them to remove any past-due remarks from your credit score. This can help clean up your credit history and improve your score massively.

BONUS: Always pay off your credit card! One of the worst myths out there is when people say “don’t pay off your credit card in full, leave a balance to improve your score.” This is absolutely WRONG, and will cost you a lot in high interest payments to credit card companies. Instead, do the opposite, and always pay off your card in full. I have personally had a credit score of over 800 for the past 10 years, and have always paid my credit card in full!

Can I get a car loan with a 300 credit score?

Yes, it is possible to get an auto loan with a 300 credit score, but your options will be very limited, and your interest rate will most likely be sky-high (19% or more). There are lenders that specialize in car loans for those with poor credit scores, but the terms are not typically favorable. 

These loans may come with restrictions, such as a GPS locator installed in the car, as well as startup interrupt devices to allow them to repossess the car if you miss your payments.

Another option would be to find a co-signer for your loan, someone with better credit and that trusts you to make the payments on the car. This does put the liability of the loan on the co-signer if you happen to default on the loan, so a written agreement between parties is a good idea.

Finally, improving your credit score by using a secured credit card or taking action on some of the other tips in this article will help you obtain better loan rates and terms.

Can I get a credit card with a 300 credit score?

Yes, but it will most likely be a secured credit card. A secured credit card is a low-limit card that requires putting down a deposit in the amount of your credit limit. This means that you will need to have the cash up-front to open the card. While this may seem like a hassle, a secured credit card is one of the quickest ways to establish credit utilization and improve your payment history, which are the two largest factors in determining your credit score.

Here are a few of the top secured credit cards that you may be able to qualify for:

Credit Card

Minimum Deposit

Annual Fee

Discover It Secured

$200

$0

Bank Americard Secured Credit Card

$300

$0

Capital One Platinum Secured

$49

$0

Chime Credit Builder

$200

$0

Capital One Quicksilver Secured

$200

$0

nRewards Secured (for service members)

$200

$0

Can I get a mortgage home loan with a 300 credit score?

Most likely not. But there are some circumstances that would allow you to qualify for a mortgage with a 300 credit score.

  1. Veterans. If you (or your spouse) are active or former military, you may be eligible for a VA loan. These loans offer more flexible terms than traditional loans, and may offer loans for those with less-than-stellar credit scores.
  2. Credit Union. Smaller, local credit unions may look at more than just your credit score to determine home loan qualification. And while the chances are very slim that you’ll qualify with a 300 credit score, it’s worth a shot to talk to a local mortgage expert.

Outside of these options, the FHA offers loans to borrowers with credit scores as low as 580, but most other lenders won’t consider lending on a home with a credit score under 660. Your best bet is to continue working to improve your credit score, or get on a credit repair program to help boost your score quickly.

How is credit score calculated?

Payment history (35% of total score). The biggest factor in your credit score is your payment history. While most people focus on debt payments, your payment history also includes your rent, utility bills, cell phone, and other regular payments (Netflix, anyone?). Paying on time and avoiding any “late payment” marks on your credit report is the best path to a high credit score.

Credit utilization (30% of total score). While it may feel awesome to get approved for a $10,000 credit card or $50,000 home equity credit line, maxing out your revolving credit accounts is a one-way ticket to a poor credit score. Keeping your credit utilization low shows creditors that you are responsible with debt. Ideally, only using up to 30% of your available credit will keep your score in tip-top shape.

Length of credit history (15% of total score). The longer you have made on-time payments to creditors and other services, the better your score will be. On the other end, an 18-year-old kid that has no payments and lives at home will have little to no credit history, and it will impact their score. While it is a bit unfair to younger folks (I’m looking at you, 25-and-under crowd), creditors want to see a history of good payment habits, and the credit bureaus do too.

Credit mix (10% of total score). Having multiple credit accounts can improve your score, but only if you keep your utilization low and make on-time payments. This means having different types of payments, including credit cards, mortgage, or even subscriptions can be favorable if you manage them well. This makes up a much smaller part of your score, so don’t go and apply for a bunch of debt to try to improve your score (in fact, too many applications can hurt it, see below).

Recent applications (10% of total score). You may have heard that applying for too many loans or credit cards can hurt your score. This is true if you submit multiple applications in a short period of time, so don’t apply for 15 credit cards this month (1 or 2 won’t hurt). While there is typically a slight dip in your score when applying for credit, it should quickly recover within a few months.

Public Records. In addition to the factors that make up your total score, if there are any bankruptcies, foreclosures, repossessions, or other public records on your credit report, this will negatively impact your score (for a long time). 

The 3 credit bureaus

Credit scores are issued by multiple credit reporting agencies, but most credit scores refer to one of the three top credit bureaus:

  • Equifax
  • TransUnion
  • Experian

If you have ever heard of a FICO score or VantageScore, these three credit bureaus are responsible for creating and reporting on these scores. While each of them measure similar criteria when evaluating your credit, they all have their own credit scoring systems, which is why you may have a different score from each credit bureau.

All three credit bureaus offer a range of services, most importantly a free annual credit score that is available to everyone. You can create an account with all three bureaus and download your free report once a year, or use a free service like annualcreditreport.com to get all three reports at once.

Here’s a quick run-down on each of the three credit bureaus and the services they offer:

Equifax

Experian

TransUnion

Free Credit Report

Yes

Yes

Yes

Credit Score Cost

Free

Free

$24.95 (Hint: free with Credit Karma or CreditWise)

Credit Monitoring

Starting at $4.95/month

Starting at $0/month

$24.95/month

Business Credit Score

Yes

Yes

Yes

Identity Protection

Yes

Yes

Yes

These three credit bureaus are the most important companies when it comes to credit, so taking an annual inventory of your credit report and obtaining a free credit score can help you keep your credit in tip-top shape.

300 Credit Score Summary

While having a low credit score can feel frustrating, there are many things you can do to improve your score within a year (or less). If you want to qualify for a home loan, auto loan, or a premium credit card, you will need to raise your score, or end up paying high interest rates and pay large down payments.

Boosting your score into the next range (Fair: 580 – 669) can open up a whole new world of credit possibilities, and save you thousands of dollars in interest over the long term. The first step to improving your credit score is to grab your free annual credit report and sign up for a free credit score service to learn about where you stand, and to find and correct any issues you see to improve your score. You go this!

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade has been a nationally-recognized personal finance expert for the past decade. He has written professionally for The Balance, The Spruce, LendingTree, Investing Answers, and other widely-followed sites. 
He’s also been a featured expert on CBS News, MSN Money, Forbes, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, Go Banking Rates, and AOL Finance.

In 2018, Jacob quit his job and his family decided to sell everything (including their home) to take off on an adventure. They traveled the country in an RV for nearly 3 years, visiting over 38 states, 20+ national parks and eventually settling in the sunshine state!

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