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No Credit Score? No Problem. You Can Still Get a Credit Card

Some folks have credit scores that soar into the heavens. But many of us have scores that are a bit more down to earth. What type of credit score do we need to get the best credit cards, or any type of plastic at all?

Your score will have a major impact on your ability to borrow, and at what terms. But you can find cards for fair credit or even no credit to help you build or rebuild your credit score.

Here’s more about the credit score you need to get a credit card.

What Credit Score Do You Need for a Credit Card?

There is no hard-and-fast rule about the credit score you need for a credit card. However, issuers will look closely at your credit score before extending a credit offer, and a low score could keep you from getting a credit card, or at least the one you want.

“A lower score can impact the terms of the loan offered to you, like the interest rate,” says Can Arkali, senior director of scores and predictive analytics at FICO.

The best types of cards are often offered only to those with excellent credit scores. If you want a rewards credit card, for example, you will need good or excellent credit, says the credit bureau Experian. You will also need a top credit score for a card with perks such as sign-up bonuses.

That likely means a score of at least 670 on the FICO scale and more than 660 on the VantageScore scale. FICO scores are the most widely used, but both scoring systems represent the risk you pose to lenders on a scale of 300 to 850. The higher the score, the lower the risk.

Here are the five ranges for FICO credit scores:

  • Poor. Scores of 300 to 579 are well below average, and borrowers are considered risky.
  • Fair. A score between 580 and 669 is below average, and you may be approved for credit but probably won’t be offered favorable terms.
  • Good. A score of 670 to 739 is near or slightly above average for most consumers.
  • Very good. A score of 740 to 799 is above average and shows that you are a dependable borrower.
  • Exceptional. Also described as excellent, this score of 800 to 850 can give consumers access to the most competitive rates and other terms.

VantageScore is another similar system, with these five credit ranges:

  • Very poor. This score of 300 to 499 may cause you to be denied credit.
  • Poor. A score of 500 to 600 could saddle you with high interest rates.
  • Fair. Scores between 601 and 660 could cause you to struggle a bit more for credit approval.
  • Good. A score of 661 to 780 puts you in a position to get credit without trouble.
  • Excellent. Scores of 781 to 850 indicate financially responsible consumers who can be trusted to repay what they borrow.

What Factors Determine Your Credit Score?

A handful of factors determine your credit score.

Your FICO score is made up of five categories of data, and each one is weighted differently.

  • Payment history: 35%.
  • Amounts owed: 30%.
  • Length of credit history: 15%,
  • New credit: 15%.
  • Credit mix: 10%.

The VantageScore is calculated a bit differently, with six categories of data instead of FICO’s five, regardless of whether the creditor uses the VantageScore 3.0 or the newer 4.0 scoring model. The VantageScore 3.0 is the better-known version, according to the company.

The factors that make up this score are:

  • Payment history. It receives the most emphasis at 40%.
  • Depth of credit. That is the age of your accounts, which is 21% of your score.
  • Credit utilization. This is how much credit you use and how much you can access, and it affects 20%.
  • Balances. These are total current and delinquent balances on all of your accounts, and they are 11%.
  • Recent credits. This includes the number of accounts you’ve opened and hard credit inquiries, and it accounts for 5%.
  • Available credit. It assesses how much you have on revolving accounts but is just 3% of your score.

Cards for Bad Credit

If you have bad credit, don’t despair: You can still qualify for at least a bare-bones credit card.

People in the poor credit category often fare best with a secured credit card that requires a cash deposit to open the account.

Such cards are backed up by your funds in a savings account, says Amy Maliga, financial educator at the nonprofit Take Charge America. The deposit for a secured credit card functions as collateral, reducing the issuer’s risk and increasing the likelihood that your application will be approved with a poor credit score.

“The credit limit on the card equals the savings account balance,” says Maliga. “And if the cardholder is unable to pay, the amount due is deducted from the savings account.”

Look for an issuer that provides a path to graduate to an unsecured card by using your secured card responsibly. If you pay reliably, you can also get your security deposit back.

If you need a secured card to build or rebuild your credit, start your search with US News’ Best Cards for Bad Credit. These selections are based on expert analysis of annual percentage rates, annual fees, issuer satisfaction ratings and other factors:

Cards for Fair Credit

If you can raise your credit score to fair, you might start to qualify for slightly better credit cards, including secured cards with rewards programs. However, you will still pay higher interest rates on these cards than if you had excellent credit.

Keep working to boost your credit score by paying your bills on time, every time, and eventually you may qualify for better credit cards and rates.

Cards for Good or Excellent Credit

With good credit, you can access card features such as introductory rates, sign-up bonuses and other money-saving benefits. You will be eligible for better rates than someone with fair credit.

If you have excellent credit, then you can take your pick of cards with favorable terms and generous limits. Here are some selections to consider from US News’ Best Credit Cards for Good Credit:

Can You Get a Credit Card if You Have No Credit History?

If you choose the authorized user path, “The activity on that card will be reported to the credit bureaus, but the main cardholder is still the one responsible for the account,” says Maliga.

But you may not need to piggyback on someone else’s credit to build your own. You will find cards designed for students with no credit history, for example.

How to Improve Your Credit and Get Better Cards

You can improve your credit score and qualify for better cards, but you will need to be patient: It won’t happen overnight.

“Establishing credit from scratch or rebuilding credit following financial setbacks can be challenging,” says Maliga.

Also, pay your bills on time and in full because payment history, Arkali says, makes up the bulk of your credit score.

“Be sure there are no negative entries older than seven years,” Maliga says. “If there are, you can initiate a dispute with the credit bureau to have them removed.”

You can access a free weekly report from each credit bureau – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – through 2023.

Taking these steps and others should result in improving your credit score over time.

“Your score will move up or down as the underlying information in your credit report changes,” Arkali says. That means “a low score doesn’t have to haunt you forever,” he adds.

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