Your credit score is one of the most important numbers in your life. This three-digit number indicates your creditworthiness or the likelihood that you'll repay the money you borrow. Credit scores generally range from 300 to 850. The higher your credit score, the more likely it is you'll be approved for new and better credit.
As of April 2018, 21.8% of Americans had a FICO score above 800, according to data from FICO. This makes a record-high percentage of people with credit scores over 800 and correlates directly to fewer blemishes on people's credit reports, from improvements in payment history to fewer inquiries.
Since payment history makes up 35% of the credit scoring calculation, there's a strong relationship between having a high credit score and a low number of late payments.
The Benefits of an 800 Credit Score
So what exactly do you gain by having an 800 credit score? Is this something you should strive for? Here are three benefits of having an 800 credit score:
- You're more likely to have your applications approved. Remember that credit scores indicate your creditworthiness. Along with your other financial information, your credit score helps lenders predict whether you'll repay the money you borrow. With a high credit score, lenders see you as a less risky borrower, increasing the chances that they will approve your credit.
- You're more likely to qualify for lower interest rates. Your credit score is a major determining factor in the interest rate on loans. Having an 800 credit score will help you qualify for lower interest rates and save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan. You'll see the biggest impact with larger loans that you repay over a longer period of time, such as mortgage and auto loans.
- You'll receive better credit card offers and pay less in interest. Regardless of credit score, everyone can avoid paying credit card interest by paying their credit card balance in full each month. An 800 credit score can help you qualify for credit cards that offer a 0% promotional rate on purchases and balance transfers. Having one of these credit cards in your wallet gives you the flexibility to carry a credit card balance and pay it off over time while avoiding finance charges on your balance.
How to Build and Maintain an 800 Credit Score
The elusive 800 credit score isn't reserved for people who make a lot of money or have some special privilege with the credit bureaus. Anyone who manages their credit properly can reach and maintain an 800 credit score. Here are a few tips:
- Pay everything on time. Your payment history accounts for the largest portion of your credit score. The more on-time payments you have on your credit report, the better it is for your credit score.
- Keep your credit card balances very low. Generally speaking, keeping your balances below 30% of the credit limit is best for your credit score. So, if your card limit is $10,000, you'd want your balance to stay below $3,000. If you want to reach and maintain an 800 credit score, aim to keep your credit card balances even lower than that amount. According to Experian, people with scores above 800 utilize 11.5% of their total credit on average.
- Avoid too many credit inquiries. Each time you make an application that requires a credit check, a hard inquiry is placed on your credit report. These hard inquiries are about 10% of your credit score. It's not a large amount, but it can be the difference between an 800 and a 780 depending on the other information on your credit report. When you're ready to apply for a credit card or a loan, do your homework ahead of time so you can apply just once and avoid multiple credit inquiries.
- Monitor your credit and act quickly to clear up errors. Your credit score is based on the information in your credit report at any given time. That means you can lose your excellent credit score if there are significant changes to your credit report, particularly errors. Keep an eye on your credit information by using free and paid resources—CreditKarma.com, CreditSesame.com, WalletHub.com, AnnualCreditReport.com, and myFICO.com. If you spot errors, use the credit report dispute process to clear them up right away.
- Let negative information age off your credit report. You may have a hard time achieving an 800 credit score with late payments or other negative items on your credit report. Fortunately, most types of negative information will fall off your credit report after seven years. If you can't remove negative items because they're accurate, be patient and keep paying everything else on time.
How Long Does It Take to Get an 800 Credit Score?
Depending on where you're starting from, It can take several years or more to build an 800 credit score. You need to have a few years of only positive payment history and a good mix of credit accounts showing you have experience managing different types of credit cards and loans.
A good credit mix includes a few major credit cards, a real estate loan, and another type of installment loan. These accounts must be a few years old to show that you can handle a variety of credit responsibilities over a long period of time.
Is That High Score Worth the Effort?
The good news is that many lenders consider 760 the cutoff for excellent credit. With a credit score above that number, you'll receive most of the same benefits as someone with an 800 credit score. You'll just have to work a little harder and wait a little longer if you also want the bragging rights.