While it’s tempting to hope a particular number will tell you if you'll qualify for a loan or credit card, the reality is that lenders and card issuers set their own standards for scores required for approval.
That said, knowing what credit score range you are in can give you a good idea of what credit products you’re likely to qualify for, and better credit will get you better terms.
‘Fair credit’ vs. ‘good credit’: Why it matters
The pros of having a good credit score rather than fair credit can be worth the effort to build your score. Fair credit is considered 630 to 689. A good score starts at about 690.
Credit scores aren’t fixed, so there’s always an opportunity to build yours. The time it takes to move your fair credit to good credit depends on your score, the negative information on your credit report and what steps you can take.
If you have a fair credit score, it’s smart to try to move it well into the good credit zone. Moving your credit score from fair to good gives you access to better financial opportunities:
With a higher credit score, you may be able to get better interest rates on loans, insurance and credit cards.
You’ll also have access to credit card offers with better rewards, cash back and maybe even 0% interest rates.
With credit scores beyond fair, you'll likely also have an easier time renting a place or getting utilities connected without having to pay a deposit.
How to build your credit to good and beyond
Depending on the type of error, your score could rebound dramatically. A report of a late payment when you actually paid on time, or a mixup with a file of someone with poor credit habits could cost you points.
You are entitled to at least one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
A second strategy is to use only a small portion of your credit limit for every credit card you use. Using over 30% is considered a problem; less is better.
It’s also important to make sure you don’t let your score slide further. Here are five habits that, over time, will help.
Pay on time, every time.
Pay credit card bills in full each month if you are able.
Automate credit card payments, or at least minimum payments, to avoid being late.
Set up alerts to let you know when you are approaching an amount or percentage of available credit that you choose.
Keep credit accounts open unless you have a compelling reason — like an annual fee — to close them. The average age of your accounts affects your credit score.
If you’ve had serious missteps in the past, know that time is the best cure — but you can diminish their impact by having recent, positive information.
No matter how desperate you are to elevate your credit fast, the Federal Trade Commission warns not to give in to scams that promise to eliminate bad credit or remove negative parts of your credit report. These ads are likely written by fraudsters out to take your money.