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How Do I Get a Perfect Credit Score?

Aug 08, 2018 5 min read Roger Wohlner

Key Takeaways

  • A perfect credit score is possible, though achieving it requires a laser focus.
  • Even if you miss perfection, an excellent credit score will serve you well.
  • Credit file matters can impact other areas like employment and insurance.


Being assigned a numerical rating in any area of your life can spur questions like, "How do I compare to others?" and, "What's the best score possible?" Credit scores are no different. The good news is there is data available that can tell you how you measure up and how to achieve a perfect credit score.


According to Fair Isaac Corp., the company behind the FICO scoring model, just under 3 million Americans have a perfect credit score of 850. That’s 1.4% of the 200 million U.S. consumers who have FICO credit scores.

FICO scores range from 300 to 850, but there may be some variation in the score classifications among different lenders making a credit decision about you. While perfection is something to strive for, keeping your score as high as possible will save you money in interest costs over your lifetime. Generally, a score in the very high 700s or above will get you the best credit terms. Good credit habits, a solid credit score, and an unblemished credit history can be integral to building wealth.

Visit Get my free credit report Opens in a new window to see how you can get a free copy of your credit report.

The three major credit bureaus

There are a number of credit bureaus, but three major credit bureaus dominate the market: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. These are publicly traded companies and not government organizations.

Your score from each credit bureau might vary based on who reports your credit information and when they report it. It's up to you to ensure that your information is accurate and up to date.

How to improve your credit score

Some factors related to credit scoring are beyond your control. For example, it is difficult for a 20-year old to have a long credit history. Other factors can be mitigated by making informed choices about how you manage your credit. If you are within striking range of 850 and would like the bragging rights (any score over 800 is considered exceptional by lenders), or just wish to improve your credit score overall, here are tips to do that:

  • Always pay your bills on time. This factor alone accounts for 35% of your credit score. You will want a spotless record of on-time payments going back at least seven years for mortgage payments, credit card bills, student loan payments, and others.
  • Avoid negative situations like bankruptcy, any sort of lien including tax liens, charge-offs of credit card bills, or having your debts sent to collection. These events stay on your credit history for 10 years and will prevent you from attaining a perfect credit score during that time.
  • Keep your credit utilization under control. This is the percentage of your available credit that is being used. Credit utilization comprises about 30% of your FICO score and 23% of your VantageScore credit score. Credit utilization of 30% or less is considered optimal. Credit utilization is calculated both in aggregate across all available credit lines and on each available credit card and credit line.
  • Be careful when closing credit card accounts, especially if your credit history is short. Ideally, you will have open accounts with a history of 10 years or longer. This means that closing longstanding accounts, even if you rarely use them, can potentially hurt your score.
  • Ensure that you have a good mix of different types of credit. For example, having at least one credit card account open (and active) as well as mortgage, student loans (if applicable), an auto loan, and others shows stability and responsible use of credit. This assumes that your debt load isn't excessive and that you are consistently current on all payments.
  • Avoid applying for too much new credit. Multiple credit inquiries Opens in a new window in a short period of time can hurt your score as well. Keep this in mind when you pass a credit card kiosk offering bonus miles to apply, or when a clerk suggests taking 10% off your purchase if you apply for store credit. These casual inquiries can work against you.

Maintaining a high credit score requires you to be diligent about your credit history not just once, but on an ongoing basis. The benefits can save you tens of thousands of dollars over your lifetime via better interest rates and terms on mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, and other types of credit.


Good/bad credit also affects other areas of your life

Maintaining a high credit score is important for reasons beyond obtaining new credit. The information used to calculate your credit score is used for other purposes, such as:

  • Applying for a job. Information from your credit file is used as part of your pre-employment background check in many cases. Blemishes like tax-liens, bankruptcies, collections, and similar events can look bad to a prospective employer.
  • Obtaining insurance. Credit-based insurance scores can be used by insurance companies to determine your rates and even whether they will accept you as a customer. Some states limit this practice to property-based policies like auto and homeowners insurance, but other states allow insurance companies to use the information when deciding on your application.
  • Renting an apartment, applying for utility service, and obtaining cell phone service. Landlords, the electric company, and cell phone providers all want to know that you are likely and able to make your monthly payments. Poor or no credit history can result in higher rates, deposits being required, or even being turned down as a tenant or a customer.



What you can do next

Obtain a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus via Annual Credit Report.com Opens in a new window. Do this every year and be sure to report any discrepancies to the appropriate credit bureau.


Roger Wohlner is a financial writer and advisor. His work has been featured in Investopedia, Yahoo Finance, Go Banking Rates, Morningstar, US News, and other publications. Roger writes extensively for various financial services firms, asset managers and financial advisors


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