If achieving the highest credit score possible is your goal or if you want to get as close to perfection as possible, listen up!
Some years ago MyFico.com published a report about consumers they consider to be “high achievers” or consumers with FICO scores of 785 or higher. Fast forward to 2022, the report remains relevant.
Higher credit scores typically translate into better rates and terms. Even a small difference in interest rates could mean saving thousands of dollars over the lifetime of a loan.
All consumers have a chance to achieve high credit scores. The high achievers exhibit “strikingly similar” credit habits, regardless of background and life experience.
Traits of High Credit Score Achievers
- Pay on time. Consistently make on-time payments on all of their credit obligations.
- Decrease balances. Keep balances low and use an average of only 7 percent of their available revolving credit. High achievers never max out credit cards.
- Limit credit cards. Carry an average of seven credit cards, which include both open and closed accounts.
- Don't carry balance on all cards. Average four open credit accounts with balances, including both credit cards and traditional loan accounts. The key is those balances represent just 7 percent of the high achiever's available revolving credit. (Credit cards are considered revolving credit).
- Have a long credit history. Open new accounts sparingly — high achiever’s oldest credit is an average of 25 years ago. There's a reason why older Americans tend to have higher credit scores. Every time you open new credit cards, the average age of your credit history is impacted. Overall, high-achievers' average credit account is 11 years old.
Manage debt wisely
High credit score achievers are not necessarily debt free, they just tend to manage their accounts better. In fact, the report showed one-third have total balances of more than $8,500 on non-mortgage accounts while the rest have total balances of less than $8,500. What the above traits do establish is that it’s never too late for consumers to rebuild credit scores.
Manage missed payments
While 96% of high achievers showed no missed payments whatsoever on their credit reports, if you have missed payments you can still attain a high credit score. Neutralize missed payments by re-establishing a good track record as soon as possible through making payments on time. Your credit score can recover fairly quickly by making on-time payments.
High Achievers aren't perfect
Being in the high achiever category does not mean you have to be perfect. Some have experienced a bankruptcy or been hit with a tax lien. In fact, about one in 100 high achievers with excellent FICO scores have a collection on their credit report and about one in 9,000 has had a tax lien or bankruptcy.
What makes the difference in high achievers is their ability to move forward after making financial mistakes. High achievers do not wallow in bad credit – they take action to rebuild credit scores.
Actions you can take immediately to be a high credit score achiever
Steady responsible financial behavior pays off over time. Anything above 750 is considered excellent, but many consumers still strive for the exceptional credit score in the 800s.
The main habits to achieve an excellent score is to:
- Keep low balances on revolving accounts. Try not to max out any of your accounts, and don’t carry balances on more than one or two cards. It’s better to keep your debt below 7% of your credit limit.
- Consistently make payments on time, even if it’s just the minimum required. Payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO score, so paying on time is critical. Credit cards, mortgage payments, student loans and payments on any other installment debt, such as a car loan, are reported to the credit bureaus.
- Keep old accounts open. Keeping your oldest accounts open and remember to use them from time-to-time so the accounts remain active. Avoid opening new accounts, because that can bring down the average age of all your credit lines.
- Keep a good credit mix. Showing that you can handle different types of debt is good for your score. An example of a good credit mix is a mortgage or other types of loans (student or personal or car) and several credit cards.