How do you get an excellent credit score (or even perfect credit)?

You have no credit and you want to build one so you can apply for a credit line or loan. Or you may have a good score already, but you wonder, can you get a perfect or exceptional credit score? What score is excellent credit? What does it take to achieve a score of 850? And what perks could you enjoy with that?

What is an Excellent or Perfect Credit Score?

For the three major credit bureaus, a perfect credit score may look far beyond your reach, but it’s not impossible to achieve. FICO Score, which is what most lenders use, ranges from 300 to 850, with 850 as the perfect score. However, getting 800 is already exceptional. Using the VantageScore credit scoring models, the excellent credit score is 750 and higher.

FICO ScoreRatingWhat the Score Means
<580Poor• Well below average
• Demonstrates to lenders that you’re a risky borrowe
580-669Fair• Below average
• Many lenders will approve loans
670-739Good• Near or slightly above average
• Most lenders consider this a good score
740-799Very Good• Above average
• Demonstrates to lenders you’re a very dependable borrower
800+ Exceptional • Well above average
• Demonstrates to lenders you’re an exceptional borrower

What percentage of the population has a credit score over 800?

FICO score is a scoring system created by the Fair Isaac Corporation, and today, 90% of US lenders use it for evaluating borrowers. About 20% of Americans have scores between 800 and 850 and 1.2% have 850 scores. The average score among Americans is 720, which already gives you favorable credit terms.

How to Get an Excellent Credit Score?

So, what can you learn from these factors that make up a perfect credit score? How can you get an excellent credit score of at least 800? Here are some tips:

1. Make On Time Payments

Your payment history is the biggest factor that affects your score. It accounts for 35% of your FICO score. Of those who have an 800+ score, 95% have never missed a payment. A 30-day late or missed payments could cut it by 100 points in most financial services.

2. Keep Your Credit Utilization Ratio Below 30%

Credit utilization accounts for 30% of your credit score. It refers to the amount used versus your credit limit. Experts recommend keeping it to no more than 30% of your credit, lest it becomes negative to creditors. So, keep your debt as low as possible.

3. Keep Your Credit Accounts For As Long As Possible

The age of your credit accounts makes up 15% of your score. That’s why it’s important to keep your accounts open even when you don’t plan to use them. You can ask your credit card company to waive your annual fee.

4. Have A Diverse Portfolio Of Credit

A good credit mix makes up 10% of your credit score. It helps to have a credit card, student loan, mortgage loan, car loan, and so on. However, remember that you have to be responsible for making on-time payments and getting one only when you need it. That brings us to the next point.

5. Avoid Applying For And Opening New Credit All At Once

Don’t apply for multiple personal loans or credit lines in a short period. Credit applications prompt “hard inquiries” on your own credit report, which affects 10% of your credit score. Inquiries can remain on your credit report for two years.

The more inquiries you have on your credit reports, the more you are perceived as high risk because you’re more likely to declare bankruptcy, according to FICO. Apply only when you need it so that you won’t be tempted to use credit more than you can afford to pay back.

6. Check Your Credit Report From Time To Time To Ensure Accuracy

Monitoring your credit report is important, especially as identity theft is rampant. There may also be reporting errors from your creditors, so you need to be vigilant. Ask for your free annual copy from the three national credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. They also offer a free credit monitoring tool that allows you to track your credit report regularly.

When you see errors from your credit reports, contact the credit bureaus or your creditors to dispute and request corrections. It may take 30 to 60 days before any changes are applied.

7. Practice Good Money Habits And Mindset

Remember that credit is not free money, so having a high credit limit doesn’t mean you should spend to the maximum of that limit. You must establish good money habits—save, invest, and spend within your means.

How Can an Excellent Credit Score Help You?

Having a good credit score can already give you good chances of getting approved on loans, but a perfect score opens more opportunities.

1. Higher Chances Of Getting Approved On A Credit Application

When you have an 800+ credit score, you qualify for pretty much any credit line. It’s a good indicator of your creditworthiness, so creditors view you as a less risky borrower especially if you have a good payment history. No annual fee credit card? Check. Auto loan with zero percent intro rate? Check. Airline or hotel credit card? Check.

2. Lower Interest Rates And Favorable Credit Terms

Because having an 800+ credit score means you’re more likely to pay your debt, creditors offer you lower interest rates and favorable credit terms. Banks and credit unions can offer you as low as 2% on car loans or 3.6% on mortgages.

3. Higher Credit Limits

Some credit card companies can offer up to a $5,000 credit limit for those with a good score. But if you have 800+, that can go as high as $10,000. Higher credit limits can help improve your credit utilization ratio.

Some credit card companies can also offer you great rewards, such as a free vacation, high upfront bonuses, and cashback.

4. Lower Insurance Premiums

Insurance companies factor in your credit scores when calculating premiums, be it for a car or a home. With a perfect credit score, you are perceived to be less risky to insure, so companies offer you lower premiums. On the other hand, bad credit means you’re more likely to make a claim, so they charge you more.

5. Easier Apartment Rental Approval

Perfect credit scores suggest that landlords won’t have a headache trying to collect rent from you. As such, you’ll find it easier to get approved for an apartment rental. Otherwise, landlords may not accept you as a tenant, or they would ask you for large deposits.

Does Income Affect Your Credit Score?

Income doesn’t affect credit scores in the sense that it’s not included in the computation. You can achieve a perfect score or improve your credit score even with a low income. Data from Experian showed that 38% of Americans with perfect scores earn an average of $75,000 or less each year.

Although having more money could mean you can pay more, getting a score of at least 800 is not about how much you earn. It’s about paying your bills on time consistently and keeping your debt low.

How Long Does It Take to Build a Credit Score?

It takes at least six months to build your first good credit score. Meanwhile, reaching a perfect or excellent credit score will take several years. You need to have a couple of years of only good credit history and a good mix of different credit lines to build an excellent score. 

Does age matter in getting perfect credit scores? Age is not the only factor but yes, age affects your ability to get a perfect score.  FICO research showed that older people tend to have higher credit scores. Remember that long-standing credit history contributes 15% to your credit score.

Older people tend to have long tradelines, and if they’re in good standing, they drive higher credit scores. On average, Americans with 800 to 850 scores are 61 years old.

If you have a low credit score, there’s no overnight fix to that. But your efforts will pay off over the long term. If you have negative items on your credit report, recovery can take time, and it varies per person. In general, paying your bills on time can increase your credit score noticeably in six months.

Here are the average times to recover:

  • Missed or default payments: 18 months
  • Maxing out a credit card: 3 months
  • Applying for new credit: 3 months
  • Closing a credit account: 3 months
  • Bankruptcy: 6 years or so

One success story on Rocket HQ shared that it took at least 15 years for her to pay her debt and rebuild her credit score to 800+. It took years of slowly but surely steps of good money habits and paying off debts.

Wrapping Up

Getting a perfect credit score is ideal and many think it’s just impossible to achieve and maintain. But with proper money habits, you can achieve it, like the 1.2% of Americans who did and enjoy many perks. Keep in mind our tips above on how to make my score better and even achieve a perfect score. It takes time, but with patience and discipline, you’ll get there.

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