How high a credit score do I need to get a good mortgage?

By Sabrina Karl

Whether you’re applying for a new mortgage or just refinancing, your three-digit credit score will factor heavily into how attractive a rate you can get, or if you’ll be approved at all. While those with the highest scores enjoy the lowest rates, mortgage lenders classify applicants into four tiers of scores to determine their offer.

The credit rating lenders rely on is your FICO score, which ranges from 300 to 850 based mostly on how often your payments have been on time, how much you owe, and how long your credit history is

Generally, the lowest score that can secure a mortgage is 620. One big exception is the government’s FHA program, which helps those with subprime credit. While an FHA loan can be secured with a score as low as 500, or 580 for the low-down-payment option, most applicants with scores this low are denied.

Once you surpass 620, you’ll have more options – and a chance at better rates – from conventional bank lenders. Boost your score higher to 660 and the number of lenders willing to take your application will increase again, with rates coming down further.

The next threshold is a score of 700 or better. Applicants with these “very good” scores have exceptional odds of approval, and the rates offered will be close to the best available.

So what then is the brass ring that earns the very best rates? That threshold generally sits around 750. Some lenders set the bar at 760, while others have published a 740 minimum, so it’s worth asking any lenders you approach what threshold they’ve set.

Knowing your score before applying for a mortgage can be a money saver if you find you’re close to the next tier. A few smart credit moves might be all it takes to earn yourself to a better rate.