What is the Maximum Credit Score and How Do You Get There?

Is it important to have the highest possible score?

Woman checking her credit score online from her laptop
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Bowlers aim for a 300-point game. Students taking aptitude tests for college entry aim for 2,100 on the SAT or 36 on the ACT. Overachievers all over the world seek maximum scores and perfect scores. Credit scores are no exception.

What Is a Credit Score?

Your credit score is a number that measures your creditworthiness. It’s based on the information on your credit report, which includes a record of your credit card and loan history. Credit scores give creditors and lenders an easy way to understand how well you've handled your credit obligations in the past. Without a credit score, creditors would have to sift through all your credit information and make a more subjective decision about your credit risk. And these decisions would likely vary from one creditor to the next.

Various Credit Score Maximums

The maximum credit score you can achieve depends on the credit scoring model that’s being used. Perhaps the most recognizable credit score is the FICO score, which has a maximum possible score of 850 (minimum 300). Credit scores generated using the VantageScore 3.0 model have a maximum score of 850, while previous VantageScore versions could be as high as 990.

There are other credit scores, from the credit bureau and other third-parties. If you purchase one of these scores, the score provider will give you the scale for that score. These scores often mimic the FICO score, with a maximum of 850.

Having the maximum credit score is extremely rare. According to FICO, only 1.6% of scoreable people in the United States have a perfect 850 FICO score. 

How Important Is a Maximum Credit Score

Having a great credit score makes it easier to qualifying for new credit cards, loans, and other credit based products and services. Those with higher credit scores also have the benefit of receiving lower interest rates which translates to a lower cost of borrowing. The good news is you don't need to have the maximum credit score to access these perks. A credit score above 800 will give you similar access as a credit score of 850.

Creditors and lenders consider more than just your credit score when they’re evaluating your applications. You could be denied for certain credit products, despite having a great credit score, if you have a lot of debt or you don’t make enough money for the credit limit or loan amount you’re asking for.

Even if you achieve the maximum credit score at a specific point in time, it doesn't mean you'll always have a perfect credit score. Your credit score fluctuates as the information on your credit report changes. It's common for credit scores to gain or lose points from one day to the next. Changes in your balance, credit limits, payment history, and accounts, even changes to the credit score algorithm can impact your credit score.

What It Takes to Get the Maximum Credit Score

If you're determined to be a credit score overachiever, there are a few things you can do to get the best credit score possible. Pay your bills on time each month, even those that aren’t listed on your credit report. Avoid having too much debt and too many open accounts. Keep your credit balances to the minimum, ideally at 4% of the credit limit or lower. The more experience you have, the better. Those with perfect credit scores have 30 years of credit history.

A perfect maximum credit score is great to aspire to, but it’s ok to "settle" for an excellent high credit score. If your credit score needs help, spend some time reviewing your credit report and putting together a plan to improve your credit score.

Article Sources

  1. myFICO.com. "What is a Credit Score?" Accessed Mar. 31, 2020.

  2. Vantage Score. "How the Scores Range." Accessed Mar. 31, 2020.

  3. FICO Blog. "What Do High Achievers Have In Common?" Accessed Mar. 31, 2020.

  4. Experian. "How Often Is My Credit Score Updated?" Accessed Mar. 31, 2020.