The 800 Credit Score: What It Means and How to Get One
Your credit score is one of the most important numbers in your life. These three-digit numbers indicate your creditworthiness or the likelihood that you'll repay the money you borrow. Credit scores generally range from 300 to 850, with higher credit scores being the best.
As of April 2017, 20.7 percent of Americans have 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 lower delinquency rates.
Since payment history makes up 35 percent 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 and you have a better chance of being approved.
- You'll 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 allow you to qualify for lower interest rates and save 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, like mortgage and auto loans.
- Pay no interest when you carry a credit card balance. Regardless of credit score, everyone can avoid paying credit card interest when they pay their credit card balance in full each month. Having an 800 credit score will allow you to qualify for credit cards that offer a 0 percent 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.
Tips 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 type of 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 makes up a large part of your credit score. The more on-time payments you have on your credit report, the better it is for your credit score. Pay all your credit cards and loans on time so that your payment history doesn't suffer.
- Keep your credit card balances really low. Generally speaking, keeping your balances below 30 percent of the credit limit is best for your credit score. If you want to reach and maintain an 800 credit score, aim to keep your credit card balances even lower than that. People with best credit scores use less than 10 percent of their credit limits. On a credit card with a $5,000 credit limit, for example, a balance of $500 or less is ideal for maintaining an excellent credit score.
- Avoid too many credit checks. Each time you make an application that requires a credit check, a hard inquiry is placed on your credit report. These hard inquiries are 10 percent 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 loan or credit card, 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 at any given point in time is based on the information in your credit report at that point in 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, just be patient for a few more years, keep paying everything else on time.
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.