credit cards

What's a 'good' credit score?

Leslie McFaddenq_v2.gifDear Credit Card Adviser,
Many cards say they are for good or excellent credit. How would I know what is good or excellent? Would anyone be able to tell me (in FICO score) what numbers constitute excellent credit?
-- Ryan

a_v2.gifDear Ryan,
That's a good and difficult question to answer. The minimum score needed to qualify for a credit card that requires "good" or "excellent" credit varies by issuer and the threshold can fluctuate.

"The scoring models and the ranges don't really move, but the criteria which the lender evaluates the consumer against shifts with the ebb and flow of the economy," says Steve Katz, the consumer communications director for TransUnion, one of the three major credit reporting agencies.

In general, though, you need a high score in today's tough lending environment to qualify for the best credit cards. The following numbers should give you a rough estimate of where your score should be.

"Probably two or three years ago, a 720 was a pretty good score," says Steve Ely, president of North American Personal Solutions at Equifax, which is also one of the three major consumer reporting agencies. "Today's 760 is what a 720 used to be."

Ely says a 760 FICO score marks the low-end of the "excellent" credit category. "Very good" scores run from about 725 to 759. He estimates that providers of premium credit cards probably won't want borrowers with a score below 720.

"If you were at 620 or below that, you might really have a hard time getting a credit card nowadays," he says. People with poor scores could still turn to secured credit cards.

Consumers can check a number of sites to get a ballpark idea of where their credit rating stands before they apply, but most issuers use FICO scores. Bankrate.com offers a free FICO score estimator and you can buy your actual scores at myFICO.com, or through TransUnion and Equifax directly. Through AnnualCreditReport.com, you can get a basic version of your Equifax FICO credit score for $5.95 after ordering your free credit report.

Bankrate's content, including the guidance of its advice-and-expert columns and this Web site, is intended only to assist you with financial decisions. The content is broad in scope and does not consider your personal financial situation. Bankrate recommends that you seek the advice of advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances before making any final decisions or implementing any financial strategy. Please remember that your use of this Web site is governed by Bankrate's Terms of Use.

Read more columns by the Credit Card Adviser. To ask a question of the Credit Card Adviser, go to the "Ask the Experts" page and select "Credit Cards" as the topic.

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