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Prime Time for Understanding Credit Scores

When you hear “prime,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Prime rib? Prime numbers? Optimus Prime? Chances are your brain doesn’t go immediately to anything related to financing. Understanding different credit levels can help you focus on building or maintaining a good credit score.

It’s also important to remember that scoring models from credit bureaus, financing companies and FICO® can range from 350 to 850. So keep in mind that the credit tier you fit into can vary depending on who you’re financing with.

Conditions and Requirements

Depending on your credit score and history, lenders might ask for:

  • Proof of income, like a pay stub
  • Proof of residence, like a bill
  • Personal references
  • Down payment

Prime: >680

If your credit score is above 680, congratulations! You’re considered a “prime” customer, and you can typically expect lower interest rates and fewer requirements or documentation to get financed. Rates vary, but prime customers can look forward to interest rates in the single digits.

If you’re considered prime, that doesn’t mean your work is done. Continue to maintain healthy credit habits by strengthening your financial standing and striving for a lifetime of good credit.

Near Prime: 620-679

Just below prime credit scores are those that are considered “near prime.” Times change and so do scores. If you were in the “prime” range and have experienced something that brought your score down, it’s worth looking into reasons why your credit score dropped.

With scores typically ranging from 620 to 679, these customers can anticipate credit rates in the high single digits or low double digits. They also might be asked to provide additional conditions and requirements.

Sometimes, near-prime consumers simply need to adjust a few of their credit habits to move into prime territory. Knowing how credit works, how credit is built and how often to check your credit report are a few ways to make sure you’re on the right path.

Subprime: <620

Credit scores that are less than 620 are considered “subprime” or “nonprime.” Lenders consider consumers with these credit scores to be higher risk, so those who are subprime will probably be looking at interest rates in the mid-teens and up.

These consumers will also likely be asked to provide conditions and requirements and a higher down payment.

If your credit score is considered subprime, there are steps you can take to help improve it. Know what makes up your credit score and begin developing productive credit habits to start getting on the right path.

Scooter Hendon
By Scooter Hendon, GM Financial

GM Financial's Scooter Hendon might have a funny name, but he's serious about educating customers about financing their vehicles – and no, not the foot-powered kind on two wheels.


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