WalletPop readers already know that credit scores fall into a range between 300 and 850. While it can be difficult — if not impossible — for most of us to reach that “holy grail” of 850, it turns out that it’s even tougher to hit the bottom of the barrel. Even people who make every mistake in the book don’t drop to a 300 score, experts say.
Part of the reason is that lenders have a tendency to stop handing money to people who blow off their bills and have to be hounded for payments. That said, though, banks once again have begun issuing credit to people with poor scores, although the cost for them to borrow is much higher.While having a bunch of credit cards in collection will certainly damage your score, it won’t drag it all the way down to 300. It will drag it down far enough, though, that applying for a slew of new credit cards and getting them is an unlikely prospect. (Not to mention the fact that applying for a whole new batch of credit cards is also a downer for your score.)
As this article points out, simply having a long credit history will protect you against ever hitting 300. Even if you’ve been foreclosed on, or had a car repossessed, you’re not looking at a 300, because the score-calculating method ranks you higher if you have a variety of loans (like a mortgage or a car loan). According to Mechel Glass, director of education at nonprofit credit counseling organization CredAbility, there’s no one single financial misstep that will drop your credit score into the depths. “It’s a combination of numerous things,” she says. “The overall factor is this person hasn’t managed their finances well.”
Glass tells WalletPop that the lowest score she’s seen was in the low 500s, and that belonged to a client who recently had both unpaid credit card bills and a bankruptcy. While so-called “subprime” credit scores (generally considered to be anything under 600) are on the rise in America, “it’s not the end of the world,” if a person’s financial problems drive down their score. “What we instruct people to do is make sure they get current on their other debts and make a new credit history for yourself,” she says. “It’s going to take time, because all this didn’t happen overnight.”