What Is a Starting Credit Score? | Capital One (2024)

Dori Zinn

March 7, 2024 |7 min read

    When you check your credit scores for the first time, you might be surprised to find a three-digit number, even if you’ve never used credit before. That’s because your credit score doesn’t start at zero. In fact, the lowest possible score from FICO® and VantageScore® is 300.

    But unless you’ve had some recent trouble with on-time payments or high spending, your score likely won’t be that low. Read on to learn more about where your score starts and why using credit responsibly is important from day one.

    Key takeaways

    • There isn’t a set credit score that each person starts out with. Instead, if you don’t have any credit history, you likely don’t have a score at all.

    • Credit scores are calculated by taking into account a few factors like payment history, current debt, credit utilization, credit mix, credit age and new credit applications.

    • Once credit is established, credit scores typically range from 300 to 850.

    What credit score do you start with?

    Since everyone’s credit journey is different, there’s no one standard credit score everyone starts with. And you can have different credit scores depending on the credit-scoring model—either FICO or VantageScore.

    You won’t start with a score of zero, though. You simply won’t have a score at all. That’s because your credit scores aren’t calculated until a lender or another entity requests them to determine your creditworthiness.

    The key, and more important question, is how to establish credit and use your credit responsibly to help build the best score possible.

    How is your starting credit score calculated?

    There are some factors that have a direct impact on your credit scores. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), here are a few that can influence your scores:

    • Payment history: Your payment history indicates how well you’ve made payments on time.

    • Debt: This refers to how much current unpaid debt you have across all your accounts.

    • Credit utilization: This is the ratio that reflects how much of your available credit you’re using compared with how much you have available. Credit utilization is usually expressed as a percentage.

    • Credit mix: Your credit mix refers to how many and what kinds of loans you have, such as revolving credit accounts and installment loans.

    • Credit age: It represents how long your accounts have been open. But remember, what qualifies as your oldest line of credit depends on what’s shown in your credit reports.

    • New credit applications: This factor reflects how many times you’ve applied recently for new credit. The effect of a single application on your scores might be minor, but a lot of new applications, each of which triggers a hard credit inquiry, could still give a negative impression to lenders.

    How exactly these factors affect your scores depends on the credit-scoring model—a mathematical formula used by a credit bureau—and the company doing the scoring. A model might use information from a combination of different credit reports or from just one report. Then, each credit-scoring model might assign different levels of importance to that information.

    Credit score ranges

    FICO and VantageScore are the two credit-scoring companies that provide some of the most commonly used credit scores. Scores from both companies range from 300 to 850.

    Here’s how FICO categorizes its scores:

    • Exceptional: 800+

    • Very good: 740-799

    • Good: 670-739

    • Fair: 580-669

    • Poor: Less than 580

    And here’s how VantageScore categorizes its scores:

    • Excellent: 781-850

    • Good: 661-780

    • Fair: 601-660

    • Poor: 500-600

    • Very poor: 300-499

    What Is a Starting Credit Score? | Capital One (2)

    Source: VantageScore.com.

    At what age does your credit score start?

    Most people won’t have credit reports or scores before turning 18. You typically have to be at least that age to open a credit card in your own name. If you’ve never used any form of credit before, there’s no way to track your credit usage. And in many cases, that means credit reports and scores may not exist.

    But when you’re eligible to start borrowing on your own, you’ll see credit scores and reports as more lines of credit or loans are opened in your name. In some cases, you’ll also see scores and reports in your name if you’re added as an authorized user to someone’s account.

    How to establish and maintain good credit

    Building credit is a process. But that doesn’t mean you’re totally out of luck if you’re just starting to establish credit and considered credit invisible. There are certain things you can do to build credit for the first time:

    Apply for a credit card

    If you don’t have a credit history, you might want to consider applying for a secured credit card. Secured means you give a security deposit to the credit card issuer in order to open an account. And building your credit through the responsible use of a secured card can make you a better candidate for things like mortgages, car loans and even other credit cards.

    Become an authorized user

    If someone like a friend or a family member has good credit, being added to their account as an authorized user could help you start a credit history. Becoming an authorized user allows you to make purchases. But the primary account holder is ultimately responsible for payments. Keep in mind that while positive activity and responsible use on the account can benefit your score, negative actions can also affect your credit.

    Take out a credit-builder loan

    Credit unions may offer credit-builder loans that allow you to build your credit history. The lender deposits the loan amount in a locked savings account, and you make small payments over a fixed period to pay it back. Payments are reported to credit agencies to help you establish credit. And once the loan is paid off, you get access to the money in the savings account.

    Is it possible to have a credit score without a credit card?

    In short, yes. But to establish a credit score, you’ll still need to have a line of credit or loan associated with your name. There are different types of credit: revolving, installment and open.

    A credit card is an example of a revolving credit account. But you can build credit with any other type of account that reports activity to the credit bureaus. Here are a few examples of other types of credit accounts that can become part of your credit history:

    • Other revolving lines of credit like a home equity line of credit or personal line of credit

    • Installment loans like a mortgage, car loan, personal loan or student loan

    • Open credit accounts that report credit activity like charge cards or private or local government service companies

    How to monitor your credit score

    You can get free copies of your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus—Equifax®, Experian® and TransUnion®. Call 877-322-8228 or visit AnnualCreditReport.com to learn more. Keep in mind that there may be a limit on how often you can get your reports. You can check the site for more details.

    Consider monitoring your credit to see how your most recently reported balance impacts your scores. CreditWise from Capital One is a free tool that lets you monitor your VantageScore 3.0 credit score. Using CreditWise to monitor your credit won’t hurt your score. And it’s free for everyone—not just Capital One account holders.

    Starting credit score FAQ

    Here are some frequently asked questions about starting credit scores:

    While the lowest score possible from FICO or VantageScore is 300, your score won’t automatically start there. In general, your credit score will probably be somewhere in the middle at first. And, based on your credit history, it will go up or down over time.

    It can take about three to six months to get your first credit score after you’ve opened at least one credit account. But building up your credit score from a starting point to good or even excellent credit means maintaining your credit health for the long term. In other words, don’t panic if your starting credit score seems low—it takes time to build your credit history.

    You can ensure your credit score is accurate over time by regularly checking your credit reports. This way, you can look for any discrepancies. And if you do find inaccurate information, you can stay on top of it and take steps to have that information corrected or removed.

    Starting credit scores in a nutshell

    Even if you haven’t had any type of credit before, your scores don’t start at zero. You’ll likely start somewhere in the middle, and then you can start building your credit from there.

    As you begin your credit journey, remember there are ways to start positive financial habits right away to help you continue building better scores. And if you’re considering applying for a credit card, compare Capital One credit cards or see if you’re pre-approved today.

    What Is a Starting Credit Score? | Capital One (2024)


    What Is a Starting Credit Score? | Capital One? ›

    Good: 661-780. Fair: 601-660. Poor: 500-600. Very poor: 300-499.

    What is minimum credit score for Capital One? ›

    You need a credit score of 700 or higher (good to excellent credit) to get the best Capital One credit card offers. Other options are also available for people with lower scores, as it is possible to get approved for Capital One credit card with limited credit history or a bad credit score.

    What is your credit score when you first start? ›

    What is the starting credit score? That answer doesn't technically exist. The truth is there's no such thing as a “starting credit score.” Some people wonder whether the starting credit score is zero, for example, or whether we all start with a credit score of 300 (the lowest possible FICO score).

    What is a normal starting credit score? ›

    Depending on how well you utilize your credit, your credit score may get to anywhere from 500 to 700 within the first six months. Going forward, getting to an excellent credit score of over 800 generally takes years since the average age of credit factors into your score.

    What credit score does a beginner have? ›

    Most people's initial credit scores are between 500 and 700 points, depending on the steps taken when establishing credit. However, you won't have a credit score to report if you've never opened a credit account. Read on to learn more about your starting credit score and how to build your credit over time.

    What is the starting credit limit for Capital One? ›

    There is no general starting credit limit for Capital One credit cards. Your credit limit will be based on your creditworthiness once your application has been approved.

    Is Capital One hard to get approved? ›

    Your approval odds for the Capital One Venture X Card are best if your credit score is 740 or higher. Keep in mind, that other factors go into your application as well, including your income and relationship with Capital One.

    What credit score does an 18 year old start with? ›

    There isn't a set credit score that each person starts out with. Instead, if you don't have any credit history, you likely don't have a score at all.

    What is my credit score if I never had a credit card? ›

    Having no credit history typically means you don't have a credit score at all. This is different from having a low credit score, which can stem from having limited credit history or negative reporting on your credit reports. If you have no credit history at all, building credit from scratch should be one of your goals.

    What is my credit score if I have never borrowed money? ›

    If you have no (or little) previous borrowing history, and no track record on which to determine credit-worthiness, CIBIL will assign you scores of 0 or -1 respectively: CIBIL score 0 means that information about the borrower's credit history is available for only up to a period of less than 6 months in total.

    Can I buy a house with a 480 credit score? ›

    You can get a mortgage with a credit score as low as 620, 580 or even 500, depending on the type of loan. Some mortgage lenders offer bad credit loans with more flexible qualifying requirements but higher costs. Others offer free credit counseling to help you improve your score before applying for a loan.

    What's the difference between my FICO score and my credit score? ›

    A credit score is a three-digit number that measures your financial health and how well you manage credit and debt. FICO scores are a specific type of score that lenders can use when making borrowing decisions. The FICO credit scoring system is the most widely used credit score.

    What is a good credit score for a 25 year old? ›

    Consider yourself in “good” shape if your credit score is above the average for people in your age group. Given that the average credit score for people aged 18 to 26 is 680, a score between 680 and 690 (the average for people aged 27 to 42) could be considered “good.”

    What credit score does Capital One use? ›

    The score provided in the CreditWise tool is calculated using the TransUnion® VantageScore® 3.0 model, which is one of many scoring models.

    What credit score does a 21 year old start with? ›

    What's the average credit score for a 21-year-old? 21-year-olds have an average credit score of 670.

    Do you start with 1000 credit score? ›

    Depending on the credit reporting agency, your score will be between zero and either 1,000 or 1,200. A higher score means the lender will consider you less risky. This could mean getting a better deal and saving money.

    Can I get a Capital One credit card with a 600 credit score? ›

    According to FICO®, for example, a fair credit score falls between 580 and 669. According to VantageScore®, a fair score ranges between 601 and 660. Capital One credit cards for fair credit include QuicksilverOne, Quicksilver Secured, and the Platinum Mastercard.

    Why is it so hard to get a Capital One credit card? ›

    Some Capital One credit cards are hard to get because they require at least good credit, which means you need a credit score of 700+ for good approval odds. Other Capital One credit cards are easier for people with lower credit scores to get approved for, so it's important to choose wisely.

    What is the lowest acceptable credit score? ›

    Therefore, most financial professionals generally accept that 300 is the lowest credit score a consumer can have. A lower credit score tells a lender there's a higher likelihood that an applicant might repay a credit obligation severely late or default on the debt entirely.

    Is 650 a good credit score? ›

    As someone with a 650 credit score, you are firmly in the “fair” territory of credit. You can usually qualify for financial products like a mortgage or car loan, but you will likely pay higher interest rates than someone with a better credit score. The "good" credit range starts at 690.

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