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A credit score between 350 and 399 is higher than the lowest credit score of 300, but it’s still a long way off from the highest credit score of 850. Both FICO and VantageScore (the main scoring models used by the three major credit bureaus) consider your score to be within the lowest credit score range.
In this article, we’ll take a detailed look at what life is like with a credit score between 350 and 399 and what you can do to take control of your credit and start working toward a strong financial future.
What does a low credit score mean for your life and finances?
Having a bad credit score makes it very hard to get approved for a loan or a new line of credit. What’s more, even if you do get approved, you’ll end up paying much more than you would if you had a good credit score. Here’s a realistic look at life with a credit score between 350 and 399.
You’ll pay higher loan fees and interest rates
Although you may be able to get a new loan or credit card with a credit score this low, the incredibly high fees and interest rates you’ll be offered will take a toll on your finances, meaning it may not be worth it.
The table below shows how much higher your interest rates will be with a bad credit score than they’d be if you had fair, good, or great credit.
Average Interest Rates According to Credit Score
|Credit Score Tier||Avg. Credit Card APR |
|Avg. Auto Loan Rate
|Deep subprime (300-499)||23.9%||14.39%|
|Near prime (601-660)||22.6%||7.65%|
|Super prime (781-850)||17.5%||3.65%|
For example, although there is no credit score too low to get an auto loan, waiting until your score improves could save you hundreds of dollars each month and thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.
The same is usually true for car loans, home loans, student loans, personal loans, personal lines of credit, and unsecured credit cards.
You’ll have difficulty getting a job, apartment, and other essentials
You often need a credit score to rent a house or apartment, and many landlords and employers run credit checks. There’s no universal minimum credit score required to rent an apartment, but many landlords look for a score of at least 620–650.
With a credit score between 350 and 399, you’ll probably also end up paying more for the following services:
- Utilities (e.g., water, gas, and electricity)
- Cell phone contracts
Explained: Your credit score in 1 minute [Video]
How your credit score was calculated
Your credit score is a number reflecting your risk as a borrower, and may be calculated based on either FICO or VantageScore’s credit scoring models.
FICO is by far the most commonly used model by lenders, although some credit bureaus, creditors, and credit monitoring websites use VantageScore.
FICO credit scoring factors
- Payment history: This is a record of whether you’ve made on-time payments on your credit accounts.
- Credit utilization rate: Also known as your debt-to-credit ratio, this is how much you’re spending on your revolving credit accounts (like credit cards and store credit cards) as a percentage of your credit limit.
- Length of credit history: This refers to the age of your oldest and newest accounts as well as the average age across all of your accounts.
- Credit mix: Your credit mix indicates the diversity in the types of credit accounts you have (specifically revolving accounts and installment loans).
- New credit: This factor includes the number of recent hard inquiries you have from credit applications, the number of new accounts you have, and how old your newest account is.
FICO credit scoring factor weights
What’s the difference between FICO and VantageScore?
Although there are some minor differences between FICO and VantageScore in terms of how they evaluate and weight the above factors, if one scoring model is giving you a credit score between 350 and 399, then the other one will probably give you something similar.
VantageScore credit scoring factor weights
How to recover from a low credit score
With a credit score between 350 and 399, it’s likely that you have several derogatory marks on your credit report. These may include very late payments or potentially even more serious black marks, such as foreclosures, repossessions, or bankruptcies.
This sounds bad—and it is—but don’t lose hope. It’s possible to repair even the most damaged credit score with the right tools and strategies. You should investigate both:
Quick fixes for your credit score
If you want to fix your credit quickly, your best bet is to remove some of the negative marks from your credit report. To do this:
- Request copies of your credit reports (you can get them for free once per year from AnnualCreditReport.com)
- Dispute any items you find on your credit reports that you believe were added in error (e.g., missed payments on credit cards that don’t actually belong to you)
- Contact your creditors and debt collectors and negotiate with them to remove your legitimate negative marks, which you can do by requesting a goodwill deletion or offering pay for delete
To dispute questionable marks on your credit report, write a dispute letter using the free downloadable template below.
If you do manage to remove some of the negative marks on your credit report, you may be able to improve your credit score significantly in a matter of just a few months—much faster than you’d ordinarily have to wait.
Long-term strategies to rebuild your credit
Your credit score is low enough that, while the methods listed above may improve it somewhat, you’ll need to do more if you want to bring it up to a decent level. After all, even if you can remove some of the negative marks on your credit report, you probably won’t be able to remove all of them.
Truly rebuilding your credit requires a long-term outlook. For a more complete recovery, you’ll need to change your habits. Going forward, try to:
- Make use of low-risk, easy-to-get credit accounts like secured credit cards and credit-builder loans to add positive information to your credit reports, which will eventually outweigh your negative marks
- Make sure you’re practicing good credit management in the future; use your credit cards in moderation and try to pay off your credit cards in full every month
- Make an effort to get out of debt (and stay out of it once you do)
- Add alternative data to your credit report (such as utility bills) with Experian Boost or a third-party rent-reporting service, like PayYourRent or eCredable
If you’re consistent about sticking to these strategies, you can be confident that your credit score will recover, although it might take a while.
How long will it take for your low score to fully recover?
Negative marks stay on your credit reports for a maximum of 7 years (except for certain bankruptcies, which remain for 10). This means that in 7–10 years at the most, your score will have made a full recovery (assuming that you don’t incur any more negative marks from this point onwards).
In most cases, your score won’t actually take the full 7–10 years to recover. As mentioned, if you successfully delete any of your negative marks, you may see a moderate improvement in your score in just a few months, and if you stick to the credit-rebuilding best practices outlined above, your score will see a much more significant improvement in a matter of 1 to 2 years.
Credit cards you can get with a credit score between 350 and 399
With a credit score this low, it’s possible to get a credit card, but don’t expect great rewards and perks. Most likely, you’ll:
- Need to pay a deposit to get a secured credit card
- Be subject to paying extremely high interest rates
- Need to pay fees of some kind to use the card
That’s true for most subprime credit cards, but there are exceptions. You can browse the best credit cards for bad credit below.
Try to apply for cards that have a pre-approval process, and definitely don’t apply if your credit score doesn’t meet the credit card company’s minimum requirements. Most applications will trigger a hard inquiry, and hard inquiries take a few points off your credit score for up to 12 months.
Loans you can get with a credit score between 350 and 399
Although you’ll have more options if you wait until your score improves, several auto loan companies offer bad credit car loans that you can qualify for. Here are the best car loans for people with bad credit scores:
Alternatively, you can avoid taking out an auto loan altogether by simply paying in cash for a used car. Just make sure to get the car inspected by a mechanic before you buy it so that you don’t end up facing car repair fees that could further damage your finances.
Unfortunately, it’s very unlikely that you’ll qualify for a mortgage with a very low credit score. The minimum credit score to get a mortgage backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is 500. Until your credit score is high enough to qualify you for an FHA loan, you’ll probably need to rent a house or apartment instead.
You’re unlikely to qualify for a personal loan with a low credit score. The minimum credit score to get a personal loan is generally in the 600s or higher, depending on your lender.
You can try applying for a secured personal loan, finding a cosigner, or borrow money from a credit union if you’re already a member, but you’ll probably need to wait until you have at least fair credit before you’ll be approved.