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500 credit score - what does it mean?


April 28, 2023



min read

Understanding a 500 Credit Score: What It Means and How to Improve It

A credit score is a crucial factor in determining an individual's financial health. It plays a significant role in the approval process for loans, credit cards, and even rental applications. The lower your credit score, the more challenging it may be to access financial products and services. So, what does a 500 credit score mean for you? In this article, we will discuss the implications of having a 500 credit score, compare it to other credit scores in the US, and provide insights on how to improve it.

Comparing a 500 Credit Score to Other Credit Scores in the US

A 500 credit score is significantly lower than the average American credit score. Here's how a 500 credit score compares to other credit score ranges:

  1. Poor (300-579): A 500 credit score falls within this range, indicating a higher likelihood of defaulting on loans and struggling with making timely payments. Individuals with scores in this range will have limited access to credit and may be required to pay higher interest rates and fees.
  2. Fair (580-669): Moving up the credit score ladder, individuals with fair credit scores have a better chance of getting approved for credit products, albeit with less favorable terms. Improving from a 500 credit score to a fair credit score can significantly increase your access to financial products and services.
  3. Good (670-739): A good credit score demonstrates a healthy financial history and responsible credit management. Individuals with good credit scores are more likely to be approved for loans and credit cards with competitive interest rates.
  4. Very Good (740-799): A very good credit score indicates a low risk of default and a high level of creditworthiness. Lenders will offer the best interest rates and terms to individuals in this range.
  5. Excellent (800-850): An excellent credit score represents the pinnacle of creditworthiness. Individuals with scores in this range have access to the most competitive interest rates and the most favorable loan terms, as well as the highest credit limits.

Is a 500 Credit Score Good or Bad?

A 500 credit score is considered a bad credit from a lender's perspective. It signifies that you have had difficulty managing credit in the past or that you have a limited credit history. Lenders view individuals with low credit scores as high-risk borrowers, which can lead to higher interest rates, stricter loan terms, and limited access to credit.

Can you get a credit card with a 500 credit score?

It is possible to get a credit card with a 500 credit score, though your options may be limited. Traditional unsecured credit cards might be difficult to obtain with a credit score of 500, as issuers may consider you a higher-risk borrower. However, there are alternative options available, such as secured credit cards and credit cards specifically designed for individuals with poor credit.

Secured credit cards require a refundable security deposit, which typically serves as your credit limit. These cards are designed to help individuals build or repair their credit. By making on-time payments and using the card responsibly, you can potentially improve your credit score. Some secured credit cards may also offer a pathway to upgrade to an unsecured credit card after demonstrating responsible credit usage.

Credit cards for poor credit, sometimes known as subprime credit cards, may also be an option. These cards can come with higher interest rates and fees compared to standard credit cards. It is crucial to use these cards responsibly and pay off the balance in full each month to avoid accumulating debt and potentially damaging your credit score.

When applying for a credit card with a 500 credit score, it is essential to research your options, read the terms and conditions carefully, and select a card that best suits your needs and financial situation. Additionally, focus on building good financial habits to improve your credit score over time.

Lastly, if you're in need of funds, you can consider personal loans as another option. So while it would provide a revolving limit, it could help you in the short-term as you build up your credit profile to apply and be approved for a secured credit card, for example.

Ways to Improve a 500 Credit Score

If you have a 500 credit score, don't despair – there are steps you can take to improve your credit and increase your chances of accessing better financial products and services. Here are some ways to improve your credit score:

  1. Make timely payments: Your payment history is the most significant factor in determining your credit score. Focus on making all of your payments on time and in full. Setting up automatic payments and reminders can help ensure you don't miss a due date.[1]
  2. Pay down debt: Your credit utilization ratio – the amount of debt you owe compared to your available credit – also plays a significant role in your credit score. Aim to keep your credit utilization below 30% to demonstrate responsible credit management.[2]
  3. Monitor your credit report: Regularly review your credit report to ensure there are no errors or inaccuracies that could be hurting your credit score. You can request a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) once per year at[3]
  4. Build a diverse credit portfolio: Having a mix of credit types, such as installment loans and revolving credit, can help improve your credit score. However, it's essential to only take on new credit if you can manage it responsibly.[4]
  5. Limit hard inquiries: When you apply for credit, a hard inquiry is recorded on your credit report, which can temporarily lower your credit score. Avoid applying for multiple credit products within a short period, and only apply for credit when necessary.[5]
  6. Consider a secured credit card or credit-builder loan: If you struggle to get approved for traditional credit products, a secured credit card or credit-builder loan can help you establish a positive payment history and improve your credit score over time. With a secured credit card, you'll provide a deposit that acts as your credit limit, and the lender reports your payment history to the credit bureaus.[6]
  7. Be patient: Improving your credit score takes time. Focus on building healthy financial habits and demonstrating responsible credit management, and your credit score will gradually improve.[7]


A 500 credit score is considered poor and can significantly limit your access to credit and financial opportunities, including secured and unsecured credit cards or a car loan. However, by taking proactive steps to improve your credit score, you can increase your chances of securing better interest rates, loan terms, and credit limits. Remember, rebuilding your credit takes time and consistent effort, but the long-term benefits may be well worth the investment.

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