If you’re asking yourself: how do I get an 850 credit score? You’re probably looking to gain the maximum financial benefits that a high credit score can offer.
After all, a credit score of 850 places you at the upper end of FICO and VantageScore’s 300 to 850 credit score range. So in absolute terms, a score of 850 is the A+, super-prime, top credit score you can obtain.
But achieving this score isn’t necessary. You don’t need a credit score of 850 to get access to the top lending terms available in the market. And there aren’t any “850-only” credit offers out there either.
Yes, the reality in today’s world is that having a high credit score does matter. But achieving a score of 850 won’t help you extract more credit perks if you already have an excellent credit.
I know this because I have a credit score of 850. This is how I did it.
Getting to an 850 credit score
I’ve known most of my adult life that having a great credit score is important – something I first learned a while ago when I applied for my student loans. Back then, I’d just started to build credit.
Over time, I decided I wanted my credit score to be in the upper range. Perhaps above the mid-700’s. I didn’t set out to target a specific high number. So getting a credit score of 850 wasn’t part of my thinking.
In fact, I hadn’t even realized I was part of the 850 credit score club until I started doing additional research for this piece. I logged in to my credit card app to check up on some transactions, saw the FICO score link and decided to click it…And there it was.
How did I do it? I’d like to claim I’m a credit expert. But the reality is simpler than that. I come from a family that’s always lived way below their means, uses credit, and avoids debt whenever possible. And it stuck with me.
I’ve been following my personal money principles on revolving and installment debt for many years. And figured they’d get me a top credit score. Eventually.
What makes a perfect credit score?
The blueprint for achieving an 850 credit score is straightforward.
- Pay your bills on time – all the time. This includes not just your credit card bills, but also your mortgage, loans and other debt obligations including medical debt.
- Keep your credit card balance and other revolving credit close to or at zero. When using credit cards, pay them off every month. And use a small percentage of your overall credit limit: less than 7%.
- Maintain a long credit history. Longer than 15 years, in fact. If you have several credit card accounts, you need to keep your older accounts open.
- Use different types of credit responsibly. Having different types of credit shows you can manage different types of debt.
- Request credit sparingly. Keep your credit inquiries well spaced out – preferably once every 12 months.
Is achieving an 850 credit score worth it?
You don’t need a perfect credit score to get the white-glove service from lenders. A score in the excellent range – higher than 750 – is generally considered enough to get you some of the best interest rates currently available.
The incremental value of a higher score in terms of lower rates generally fades once you cross the 750 mark. Car insurance rates, car loans, mortgages and personal loan rates aren’t going to get any lower once you’re in the top credit bracket.
So is working towards a perfect credit score worth it? If you’re currently outside of the excellent credit range, the answer is a resounding yes. Building your credit to the high 700’s can get you access to the best terms mainstream lenders have to offer.
Expert sites on how to get an 850 credit score
Here’s a compilation of notable financial websites from around the web with select tips on how to achieve a perfect credit score.
I’ve added a comment after each suggestion to compare it with the approach I’ve followed on my way to getting an 850 credit score.
Have a high credit limit
In this post, WalletHub mentions that people who have a credit score of 800 or more have credit card limits totaling about $46,700 on average. And that in general, they use less than 5% of it, as reported by VantageScore.
My comment: In my case, my overall credit limit has never gone past $30,000. In fact, it hasn’t changed in over 10 years. I didn’t need a credit limit high enough to cover the price tag of a high-end SUV to reach a perfect credit score.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t use my credit card. I do and often. When I use it, I charge less than 7% of my overall credit limit every month. I don’t need any more than that. But if I ever do, I’ll probably look to increase my overall credit limit.
Having a high credit limit can help your credit score, but it’s only part of the formula to reach a perfect credit score of 850. You also need to carry almost no debt on your credit cards, which means that your credit utilization needs to be very low. Less than 7%, in my particular case.
If you have a credit limit of a few thousand dollars, increasing it can help you drive down your credit utilization and help your credit.
Stay away from negative items
An article on Credit Karma reports the results of an interview with people who achieved an 850 credit score. One of their findings is that in order to get a perfect score, nothing negative can show up on your credit report. They discuss late payments as one example, mentioning that you can’t have late payments on your credit card.
My comment: I remember one instance in the past when I’d completely forgotten about my credit card bill. It was a silly mistake: I’d switched phones and forgot to set a new bill payment alert. My credit score fell by about 25 points because of it. I believe it took 3 to 4 months for it to go back to 850.
Absent that lone slip off, I haven’t had any other negative items on my credit report for a long while.
Keep a credit account mix
This article from Nerdwallet discusses several tips to get every possible point on your way to the highest credit score. One of these tips is to have several credit accounts, including installment loans. Even if you succeed in getting the highest credit score, it points out, you’re unlikely to keep it month after month.
My comment: Save for my student loans, which I paid off several years ago, I’ve only had credit card and mortgage accounts. No car loans, though: I buy used cars with cash. So my current credit profile includes both revolving debt (credit cards) and amortizing debt (mortgage).
Early on, though, I made the mistake of closing several of my credit card accounts and eventually ended up with just two. I’ve stuck to using only one of them for the past 10+ years.
» Further reading: 19 Simple Ways to Improve Your Credit Score.
Maintain a low to zero balance
A post on MagnifyMoney reveals that in order to get a top 850 score, you need to forget about carrying a credit card balance. Your balance needs to be at zero percent or close to zero percent, the post explains.
My comment: For the past 14 years, I’ve been the type of customer credit card companies call a “transactor.” That is, I pay my credit card bill in full every month and I don’t carry a balance. If something is too expensive to pay off, I don’t charge it. I save for it.
» Learn more: How to Save Money Consistently: 9 Easy Ways.
Pay on time
Credit Card Insider gives several tips to reach the best credit score, including always paying your bills on time. That includes paying your loans, credit cards and any other debt—even medical bills, on time.
My comment: Payment history is the most important component of your credit score. Indeed, the one time when I didn’t pay my credit card bill on time, it had a negative effect on my score within a matter of weeks.
Paying on time is key. It’s the one credit scoring factor that carries the most weight in the credit models used by both FICO and VantageScore at 35%.
Develop a long credit history
MyBankTracker mentions in an article that a long credit history is important to reach a high credit score. The site clarifies that this not only refers to the age of each of your open accounts, but also to their combined average age, as reported on your credit report.
My comment: I do have a long credit history and can attest to the importance of the above tip. It unfortunately takes time to get the top score of 850. In my case, I’ve had revolving and amortizing debt for over 15 years.
Pay attention to new credit accounts
This post on Business Insider recommends paying attention to the number of new credit accounts you open. They mention that it’s not as influential a factor, but paying attention to it may help you raise your credit score to the next level.
My comment: Hard credit checks have a small negative effect on your credit score. But when you have several such inquiries in a short period of time, it can be a red flag. It sends the signal that you’re seeking borrowing on multiple fronts.
To credit scoring companies, that increases the perceived risk that you might end up overextended.
In my situation, I haven’t had more than one credit inquiry within a given year. And I’ve kept that discipline for the past 15 years.
Monitor your credit reports
This article in Money Under 30 recommends monitoring your credit reports and correcting any errors you find, among several other tips. They suggest disputing any errors you find and correcting them quickly.
My comment: Up until recently, I’d never requested my credit reports. My credit seemed to be progressing fine over the last few years, so the idea of checking for errors didn’t cross my mind.
But requesting your credit reports and seeing what’s there is important. You might find reporting errors which you’ll want to rectify as soon as you can.
Your credit reports are available for free from the three main credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Get them at AnnualCreditReport.com
Use credit only when needed
This article on CreditCards.com points out that you shouldn’t treat credit cards like cash. And that it’s best to only use them when you absolutely have to.
My comment: Having revolving credit and managing it well can help your credit score. But if you overdo it and end up carrying a balance month to month, it’ll keep you from reaching the top score.
If you want to get an 850 credit score, you’ll need to avoid carrying a credit card balance. In my case, I haven’t carried a balance for the past 14 years. I still use my credit card, but I pay it off before the due date.
» Additional reading: 7 Crucial Steps to Get Out of Credit Card Debt.
A perfect score is not necessary
This post from Credit Sesame reports that a perfect credit score is not necessary when your score falls in the range of excellent. That’s because lenders generally base their credit decisions using ranges, rather than specific scores. Having a credit score of 850 is a great goal that may not be realistic – only a small fraction of people under 30 have a FICO score above 780, they point out.
My comment: I applied for a mortgage when my score was in the mid-700’s and got the best rate the bank had to offer. Of course, there’s multiple other factors affecting your mortgage rate. But other things being equal, my score didn’t need to be at the absolute top of the range to get me the best deal.
Lenders want your business. So once your credit score hits 750+, you’ll likely have access to the same deal as if your score were 850.
Final word on how to achieve a high credit score
The perfect credit score of 850 is reachable, but you don’t need it to access the lowest interest rates. Achieving an excellent credit score will do just fine.
If your credit score isn’t in that range yet, don’t worry. What’s important is that over time, your credit score keeps moving in the right direction: up.
Having a credit score of 850 is nice, but beyond the bragging rights, it’s not necessary. An excellent credit score is good enough.