440 Credit Score: Is it really that bad?

by Stable MARK | Updated: August 17, 2022
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Although a credit score of 440 is not ideal, it is still possible to get a mortgage, car loan, or unsecured credit card with this score. There are many resources available to help you improve your credit score and get the financing you need. With a little effort, you can improve your financial situation and reach your goals.

If you have a credit score of 440, it may seem like you have no hope of ever getting credit. But there are actually things you can do to improve your credit and increase your chances of getting approved for loans and credit cards in the future. Keep reading to learn more about how to improve your credit score.

A 440 credit FICO score
Figure 1: 440 falls within the FICO credit score range concidered poor or very poor

15.5% of consumers have FICO® Scores in the Very Poor range (300-579).

Although a 440 credit score is not the highest score possible, it is still higher than the lowest score of 300. This means that although you may have had some payment problems in the past, you are still eligible for loans and unsecured credit cards. You may just need to focus on rebuilding your credit reputation before trying to get a mortgage, car loan, etc.

How to improve your 440 credit score

Although your FICO® Score of 440 is well below the average credit score of 711, there is still plenty of opportunities to increase your score. A smart way to begin building up your credit score is to obtain a copy of your FICO® Score report. This report will spell out the main events in your credit history that lower your score. Because the information is drawn directly from your credit history, it can pinpoint issues you can tackle to help raise your credit score.

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96% of customers have FICO® Scores higher than 440

How to build a better credit score

If you want to improve your FICO® Scores, it's important to understand your credit history and identify any missteps that you may have made in the past. Your FICO® Score report can help you prioritize which mistakes you need to address first. However, it's also a good idea to get your credit reports from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion so that you can familiarize yourself with their contents. This way, you'll know what to avoid as you work on building up your credit. By developing better credit habits, you should see improvements in your credit scores over time.

Of consumers with FICO® Scores of 440, 14.5% have credit histories that reflect having gone 30 or more days past due on a payment within the last 10 years. This shows that these consumers are reliable and trustworthy. They are the perfect candidates for credit products.

What makes an impact on your credit scores

While it's true that bankruptcies and other public records can have a negative impact on your credit score, there are ways to lessen the damage. Settling any liens or judgments as soon as possible is a good first step. In the case of bankruptcy, time is the only thing that can help. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy will remain on your credit report for up to 10 years, but your credit score may begin to recover years before that. Even so, some lenders may refuse to work with you until the bankruptcy is no longer on your record.

The average credit card debt for those with FICO® Scores of 440 is $7,657

Your credit utilization rate is one of the most important factors in determining your credit score. This is the percentage of your credit limit that you are using at any given time. To calculate it, simply divide your current outstanding balance by your credit limit and multiply by 100. You can also calculate your overall utilization rate by adding up the balances on all your credit cards and dividing them by the sum of their credit limits. Most experts recommend keeping your utilization rate below 30% on each individual card and overall to avoid damaging your credit score. In fact, utilization makes up as much as 30% of your FICO® Score. Therefore, it's important to keep close track of this number and work to keep it low.

Paying bills on time and consistently is the best way to promote a good credit score. This can account for more than a third of your FICO® Score. So if you want to improve your credit score, make sure you're paying your bills on time from now on.

If all other factors are equal, a longer credit history will usually result in a higher credit score than a shorter history. The number of years you've been using credit can affect up to 15% of your FICO® Score. Newcomers to the credit market can't do much about this factor, but they can improve their score over time with patience and care.

Your credit score is a reflection of your total outstanding debt and the types of credit you have. The FICO® credit scoring system favors users with several credit accounts and a mix of revolving credit and installment credit. If you have just one type of credit account, expanding your portfolio could help your credit score. Credit mix is responsible for up to 10% of your FICO® Score.

If you're looking to maintain a good credit score, it's important to be mindful of your credit activity. Applying for new loans or credit cards can trigger hard inquiries, which are recorded on your credit report and reflected in your credit score. A hard inquiry occurs when a lender obtains your credit score (and often a credit report) in order to decide whether or not to lend to you. Although hard inquiries can cause your credit score to drop a few points, it typically rebounds within a few months as long as you keep up with your bills and avoid making additional loan applications. (Checking your own credit is a soft inquiry and does not impact your credit score.) New credit activity can account for up to 10% of your FICO® Score.

Improving your credit score

If you have a very poor credit score, it's important to remember that you can't convert it to a fair or good score overnight. However, by developing habits that promote good credit scores, you can start to see some steady improvements within a few months. Here are some good starting points:

Pay on time

It's important to remember that your payment history is a key factor in your credit scores. So, by making timely payments on accounts that report to the three main consumer credit bureaus, you can help build a positive payment history.

If you accidentally make a late payment, try to call your lender as soon as possible. They may be able to help you resolve the issue before it's reported to the credit bureaus. However, if it has already been reported, it can be difficult to remove from your credit reports.

Keep your balances low

It's important to keep your credit card balances low in order to maintain a good credit utilization rate. This is the percentage of your available credit that you're using at any given time. Most experts recommend keeping your utilization rate below 30%. However, if you can manage to keep it even lower than that, it will be even better for your credit score. There's no credit-building benefit to carrying a balance on your cards if you can afford to pay off the full balance each month. So when it comes to credit-building strategies, it's best to make consistent charges to the account while keeping the total amount owed under 30% of your credit limit. If possible, pay your statement balance off in full and on time each month so you aren't charged interest on those purchases.

Debt-management plan

If you're struggling to repay your loans and credit cards, a debt-management plan (DMP) could be a good solution for you. You would work with a non-profit credit-counseling agency to develop a realistic and manageable repayment schedule. Once you enroll in a DMP, all of your credit card accounts would be closed. This can cause your credit scores to go down significantly in the short term, but they will rebound more quickly than if you declare bankruptcy. If a DMP sounds too extreme for you, you could still consult with a credit counselor (not a credit-repair company) to come up with a plan for improving your credit.

Credit-builder loan

Credit unions offer small loans to help their members build or rebuild their credit. These loans can be a great way to improve your credit score, as long as you make regular, on-time payments. One type of credit-builder loan is especially popular: the credit union issues you a loan and places the money in an interest-bearing savings account. Once you've paid off the loan, you get access to the money plus the accumulated interest. This loan not only helps you save money, but also improves your credit score over time. Before obtaining a credit-builder loan, make sure the credit union reports payments to all three national credit bureaus.

Apply for a secured credit card

A secured credit card can help you build or improve your credit score in several ways. First, most secured cards have a small borrowing limit, often just a few hundred dollars. You put down a deposit in the full amount of that limit when you open the account. As you use the card and make regular payments, the lender reports those activities to the national credit bureaus. This positive activity is then reflected in your credit files and FICO® Scores. Additionally, by making timely payments and avoiding maxing out the card, you can help to improve your credit score even further.

Credit cards and loans with a 440 credit score

While it may be difficult to borrow money with a 440 credit score, it is not impossible. There are plenty of other types of loans and lines of credit that people with credit scores below 540 have been approved for dating back to 2008. So while you may not qualify for a mortgage with a 440 credit score, you still have options.

Credit Cards For Poor Credit Score

Card
Suitable For
 
Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card
rebuilding credit
Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card
Mission Lane Visa® Credit Card
low annual fee
Mission Lane Visa® Credit Card
Discover it® Secured Credit Card
secured card with rewards
Discover it® Secured Credit Card
Self-Credit Builder Account with Secured Visa® Credit Card
building credit with savings
Self-Credit Builder Account with Secured Visa® Credit Card
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
low-interest credit-building
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
Discover it® Student Cash Back
rotating cash-back bonus categories
Discover it® Student Cash Back
Milestone® Mastercard®
fraud protection
Milestone® Mastercard®
Indigo® Mastercard®
bankruptcy forgiveness
Indigo® Mastercard®

Store credit cards

If you're looking to build your credit, store credit cards are a great option to consider. These cards typically incentivize you to shop at a particular retailer, and can be either secured or unsecured. So if you're looking for a new credit card, be sure to check out store credit cards as an option.

If you have poor credit, you might still be able to get approved for a store credit card. These cards often come with high interest rates, but they also offer rewards and benefits that can be useful if you already shop at that store. It's worth considering if you want to improve your credit score and take advantage of store perks.

If you've looked into all of your options and still can't find a credit card that you can get approved for, consider asking a family member or trusted friend to add you to their account as an authorized user. But first, make sure you understand the pros and cons of being an authorized user on a credit card.

Unsecured credit cards

If you can't afford a security deposit, you might be able to find an unsecured credit card. The trade-off is that it will potentially come with an annual fee — which is arguably worse than a security deposit because it's typically nonrefundable. However, the upside is that you won't have to pay a security deposit, and you may still be able to get a decent interest rate. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide what's best for your situation.

Secured credit cards

If your credit still needs some work, applying for a secured credit card might be your best bet. With a secured card, you’ll pay a security deposit upfront, which typically sets your credit limit. So if your security deposit is $400, for example, your credit limit will also be set at $400. This gives the issuer some insurance in case you close the account without paying off your debt.

Because secured cards pose less of a risk for credit card issuers, they may be more readily available to someone with poor credit. And if the lender reports your on-time payments and other credit activity to the three main credit bureaus, a secured card can actually benefit you as a borrower.

Personal loans with a 440 credit score

Although it may be more complex, getting approved for a personal loan with poor credit scores is still possible. Given your current situation, you may be unable to shop for the best loans with the lowest interest rates. However, there are still options available to you. You may be able to find a personal loan with a high-interest rate, but there are also other options that could work for you as well. There are many different types of personal loans available, and each one has its own set of terms and conditions. It is important to do your research and find the loan that best suits your needs. A personal loan can be a great option, especially if your intention is to consolidate high-interest credit card debt. The APR on your personal loan could be just as low as the interest rate you’re currently paying on your credit cards.

If your goal is to finance a major purchase with a personal loan, you should ask yourself whether it’s something you need right now. If you can wait until after you build up your credit, you may qualify for a personal loan with a lower interest rate and better terms.

If you’re in a pinch for cash and having trouble qualifying for a personal loan, you might be considering a payday loan. While everyone’s situation is different, you should generally be wary of these short-term loans that come with high fees and interest rates. They can quickly snowball into a cycle of debt that’s even harder to climb out from.

Auto loan rates for poor credit

Although there is no minimum credit score required to qualify for a car loan, having poor credit can make it more difficult to get approved. Even if you do qualify for a loan with poor credit, the interest rates will be much higher than if you had good credit, making it very expensive to borrow money.

If you have time to build your credit before you apply for a car loan, you may be able to get better rates eventually. But if you need a car now and can't wait to improve your credit, there are some strategies that can help you get a loan.

Consider a co-signer if you have a trusted family member or friend with good credit who is willing to share the responsibility of the loan with you. Seek out alternative lenders, such as a credit union or an online lender. Ask the dealership if they have financing options for people with poor credit. Use buy-here, pay-here financing only as a last resort.

Benefits of improving your score to:

450 470 490 515 540 565 590 640 670 710

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