I'm not sure if a 0 credit score is the same thing as having 'no credit history'. I'm wondering how long it would take a credit score to drop to 0 (something Dave Ramsey says happens eventually after you pay off all of your debt/close all accounts). I looked online and people seem to suggest that there is no such thing as a 0 credit score and that it will take between 10 years and never for your credit history to go away. I think I've heard Dave Ramsey say it takes between 6 months and a year but I can't seem to find anything to verify this. Does anyone know how long it would take for your credit score to drop to 0? Or if there is such a thing for that matter as a 0 credit score?


Additional info:

My goal is a 0 credit score, and I would see that just as a small personal accomplishment. All of my debt/accounts are now paid off and closed so I just want to know if this is something that will happen and if so approximately when. This question is entirely driven by personal curiosity.

This is the form I saw where people said there is no such thing as a 0 credit score: http://www.city-data.com/forum/personal-finance/1139747-how-long-does-take-credit-score.html

Final thoughts:

I selected the 'correct' answer because its seemed to be the most popular. Some answers contradicted each other. At the very least it sounds like a 0 credit score used to be possible, if it is now I still don't know. Based on those answers it sounds like after 10 years the best I can get is insufficient credit history. And like I said this was more out of personal curiosity the last account I had open was a mortgage, and now that is closed I shouldn't ever have another reason to borrow money again.


6 Answers 6


The thing about credit scores that many people do not understand is that the standards change. What was true a few years ago, certainly is not true today and could be vastly different in a few weeks.

There is no such thing as a 0 credit score, only that you could have insufficient history to provide a score. People in certain disciplines see a big difference in a value such as zero, and "cannot be calculated". Saying that a score is zero is careless wording.

However, in the future, very few adults will have the ability to have no score. FICO intends to use utility payments to determine a score even if you don't have open credit accounts. See the article New FICO Score Factors in Utilities & How Often You Move

In my opinion it is just as foolish to attempt to achieve a no-score as it is to achieve an 825 or above. A credit score does not represent wealth or what kind of person you are. Let it go, set goals where you can achieve the outcome, and take care of your loved ones. Credit score is something you cannot directly control.

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    825 is for amateurs. A year ago, I worked to get our scores to 850. When I called our bank to renew and increase our HELOC, it was great to hear the agent say "holy crap, I've never seen this before, 2 850 FICO scores." They asked for proof of assets, i.e. 401(k) and IRA statements, via email, and nothing else, not even the tax returns I was ready to send. Even the house appraisal was a drive-by. Yes, 800 probably would have had the same result. Oct 26, 2018 at 19:52
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    Given my youthful ignorance and lack of personal responsibility, I am ecstatic to have a score of 847. I didn't do anything other than pay my bills to get it there. I don't feel I have been or done anything foolish (in this respect). Oct 26, 2018 at 23:47
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    A zero score is not achievable in most systems, but one can always aim for bottom percentile :)
    – user3490
    Oct 27, 2018 at 10:47
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    Perhaps there's still some confusion. There's a difference between a low score - which means you have really bad credit because you borrow money and don't repay it - and not having a score at all. And if you make a habit of not running up big charges and paying things on time, eventually you'll get a credit score in the 825+ range.
    – jamesqf
    Oct 27, 2018 at 16:31
  • 1
    +1 for noting the difference between null and zero. They mean vastly different things, and although that's only recognized in 'certain disciplines' I think it's relevant in a wide variety of everyday circumstances.
    – Nicholas
    Jan 28, 2019 at 14:13

To clarify part of your question, the range for FICO scores is 300-850, so to start with, there is no such thing as a "zero" credit score.

To answer the rest, a lack of credit history will not put you at the low end of the scale. You would need to have a long history of bankruptcy, missed payments, judgments, etc., to approach the 300 end of the scale. If you have no credit history at all, you will be in the "fair" credit range which will not get you the best available rates on loans, but it will not be impossible to obtain credit at higher rates.

Dave Ramsey is only telling part of the truth about your score declining if you close all of your accounts. Yes, your scores will decline immediately as your oldest open accounts are closed and the average age of your open credit lines will effectively become 0. The age of current credit lines is only a small portion of the score. Payments (on time and late) are in your history for 7 years, but that doesn't mean your credit history is completely clean even after 7 years. Even if you closed all accounts and waited for everything to age out of your credit report, you would still be back to possibly high 500s with your score immediately improving as soon as you started creating a good payment history again.

  • If you get a secured credit card, cancel the card, then get the money back that you loaned to the credit card company, this is probably the most effective way to get your credit score up without paying high interest rates. There really doesn't appear to be any other way to profit off of credit card companies. It takes a lot of patience and some time and it's not always worth it depending on your situation.
    – user51292
    Oct 27, 2018 at 19:08

It is possible, it happened to me

I don't know when it was reset, but I moved out of the US in 2005 and was living abroad for 11 years. When I returned to the US to resettle in 2016, a week after I arrived I went to a dealership to lease a car. When the salesman ran my credit he said it came back as zero, and he'd never seen that before. My stepfather cosigned the lease.

While away I had no credit and no loans or debts. So it went down to zero at some point, but I'm not sure when. After about a year of structured planning for credit, I was back up to about 700. I was able to get a mortgage earlier this year, with my own credit.

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    You didn't have a zero, you had no data. 11 years will do that. Most stuff ages off in 7 years, bankruptcy takes 10. Oct 27, 2018 at 13:19
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    As a computer person, my take on that is that the 0 was an encoded value. It takes a lot of extra programming to create a number that could be "unspecified" beacuse there's not enough data. It's easy to map that "unspecified" value onto an unused number. Since credit scores dont' go below 300, 0 worked perfectly.
    – Cort Ammon
    Oct 27, 2018 at 23:14
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    @Cort Ammon: Only if you stick with integer math. If you use floating point, the "unspecified" numbers are built in to the hardware as NaNs. For the curious: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NaN
    – jamesqf
    Oct 28, 2018 at 18:27
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    @jamesqf The issue is NaNs show up for unintentional errors, so you want to be able to distinguish between "successfully found no credit record" and "the database is broken and we got garbage back".
    – user71659
    Oct 28, 2018 at 18:49
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    @user71659 No, sometimes we use NaN quite deliberately. You cannot make assumptions as to their intentionality without domain knowledge. Oct 29, 2018 at 10:49

The Dave Ramsey 6 months to a year is not correct. Bad credit stay on for 7 years, but an account in good standing when closed will show for 10 years. When I check my own credit report, I see pages of accounts long closed.

I am curious how you'd plan to rent a car or reserve a hotel room. These are the 2 things that come to mind which are pretty annoying to do without a credit card.

Edit - I added a link to back up my 10 year claim. And I shake my head at the downvote with no comment. Even though I was not critical of The David.

  • 2
    My credit was 759 when I close all the accounts, don't know if that helps. Also looking online it looks like you can rent a car or book a hotel room with a debit card. I've only ever booked a hotel once and I used a debit card for that. Also those seem like such out of the ordinary things for me to do a little extra work might not be too bad, since its so rare. :) Also I've never had an account in bad standing, don't know if that helps either. Thanks for your answer. Oct 26, 2018 at 20:10
  • My answer remains, 10 years for all accounts to fall off the system. But be mindful of Pete’s answer, which may mean no one can fully hide from FICO, at least not without much effort. As others have noted, there’s no such thing as a zero score, just one who is no longer in the system. Oct 26, 2018 at 20:34
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    It is possible to live a quite comfortable and satisfying life without renting a car or reserving a hotel room, you know. I haven't done either in a decade or more, and even then, it was my employer who made the reservations. OTOH, buying things on-line and paying for gas without having to walk into the store and ask for change are things I'd really miss if I didn't have credit cards.
    – jamesqf
    Oct 27, 2018 at 16:41
  • @jamesqf I don’t exactly know what you are saying. Do you just walk into hotels hoping for an available room, or do you mean one can live a happy life never spending a day in a hotel? Oct 27, 2018 at 16:45
  • @JoeTaxpayer: The latter.
    – jamesqf
    Oct 28, 2018 at 2:53

I had a zero credit score when completing the purchase of my house in the USA, in 2006. They key seems to be only having lived there 9 months and had no US debt or utility bills as they were included in the rent. Several people expressed surprise that the credit union would lend to us with a 0 credit score.

  • 3
    In this case, someone is conflating a NULL score with 0, having no credit history or basis for score is not the same as having the worst score imaginable. But, I don't believe it is possible to have a score so bad that it hits zero, so it makes sense that they just adopted 0 as meaning no basis, rather than worst imaginable.
    – Hart CO
    Oct 26, 2018 at 18:14
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    The paper print out said fico score 0. I toyed with getting it framed
    – Ian Turton
    Oct 26, 2018 at 18:15
  • Looks like the scale might actually only be from 300-850? I hadn't read that before but that's interesting. blog.credit.com/2017/04/…
    – Hart CO
    Oct 26, 2018 at 18:19
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    Also: 2006. We know what happened next.
    – Raydot
    Oct 26, 2018 at 21:40
  • apparently our mortgage was too poor to resell as sub-prime!
    – Ian Turton
    Oct 27, 2018 at 8:24

The ambiguous term, “zero credit score,” is causing confusion here.

The sources telling you it’s impossible to achieve mean a FICO score of zero. Some of the answers interpret it to mean the worst possible FICO score. Wrecking your finances to get one of those would be a terrible idea. If you really want to borrow a large amount of money and not pay it back, do what the pros do and start a limited-liability company.

What Dave Ramsey means is a blank credit report. (I do not personally agree that this is good advice for most people, but that’s another question.) By law, the credit bureaus can only keep events on your credit report for a certain number of years. This is also what the car salespeople who told other posters that they had a credit score of zero meant: the customers had been living in another country or had never had an account under their own names, so they had no reportable credit history at all. Lenders would treat them very differently than someone who came in with a long history of taking out big personal loans and defaulting!

You might confuse people less if you talked about “a clean slate” or “a blank credit report.”

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