It’s the mountaintop. It’s a badge of honor. It’s a totem of success. It’s like finding a four-leaf clover. It’s the tippy-top — the cream of the crop.
It’s a perfect credit score. And it’s a rare accomplishment.
How many people do you think have an absolutely perfect, flawless credit score? And do you think you could be one of them?
Here’s your answer: About 1% of Americans have a perfect credit score. And yes, you could be one of them — if you play your cards right.
They’re Totally Judging You
Your credit score ranges from 300 to 850. Lenders use it to predict whether you’re going to pay them back.
So, who achieves perfection?
Well, about 200 million American consumers have FICO credit scores, according to Fair Isaac Corp., the company that created FICO scores back in the 1980s.
At any given time, roughly 1% of them score perfect 850s. And FICO tells The Penny Hoarder that nearly 22% of U.S. consumers have FICO scores between 800 and 850. Experian, one of the major credit bureaus, tells us that more than 4 million consumers have a score higher than 830.
So let’s get those competitive juices flowing! You’re not going to let these people outdo you, are you? Heck no!
You can do it, too. We’ll tell you how.
Check Your Report Card
Your credit score is based on factors such as your payment history, amount of credit limit used, diversity of credit and length of credit history. Lenders and creditors use it to decide whether to lend you money and what interest rates to charge you. The higher your score, the better deal you’ll get on a mortgage, car loan or credit card.
Once upon a time, your score was a mystery kept under lock and key. You had to shell out money to see it.
Now it’s easy to see it for free. You can get your credit score and a “credit report card” for free from Credit Sesame. It breaks down exactly what’s on your credit report in layman’s terms, and how it affects your score.
It gives you personalized tips on how to fix any problems — which can help you in your quest to achieve a perfect score.
Here are the kinds of things it’ll suggest you work on:
1. Don’t Max out Your Cards
An important part of your credit score is “credit utilization.” That’s a fancy-pants way of saying “how much of your available credit you’re actually using.”
Let’s say you have a credit card with a $2,000 limit on it, and you have a balance of $1,000 that you haven’t paid off. You’re using half your credit. Your credit utilization is 50%.
It should really be lower. Many experts suggest keeping your ratio no higher than 30%. But the lower, the better.
This makes more difference than you might think. Your credit utilization accounts for 30% of your credit score.
2. Dispute Wrong Information
One out of every five credit reports has an error in it, according to a study by the Federal Trade Commission.
So take a look at your credit report, and dispute any incorrect information. If you find an “unpaid” credit card that you know you paid, or a bill in collections that you know never existed, you should file a dispute.
The three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — are each required to give you a free credit report once every 12 months..
You can file a dispute online for free with the appropriate credit bureau. After you fill out an online form, most disputes get investigated within a month.
3. Be Smarter With Your Credit
Here are your other strategic, chess-like moves to get yourself closer to an 850 credit score, day by day:
- Pay your bills on time, every time. Your payment history accounts for 35% of your credit score.
- Mix up your credit use with credit cards, loans, etc. Your credit mix accounts for 10% of your score.
- Get started with credit early if you can. If you have a longer history of managing your credit, banks view you as less risky. The length of your credit history accounts for 15% of your credit score.
- Be choosy when applying for new credit — Credit Sesame will let you know your chances of being accepted for credit cards, mortgages and other loans.
You can do it!
You can get a perfect credit score. You can reach the mountaintop.
Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. His current credit score is way better than it used to be.
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