The Perfect Score: 7 Ways to Max Out Your Credit Score


As high school and college students, we’re taught to shoot for the “perfect score” whenever exam time rolls around. Once you get out in the real world, however, you find out there’s no such thing as getting an A+ for folding laundry or making it to work on time. Perfect scores don’t seem so important anymore, unless of course you’re talking about your credit.

Credit scores are a mystery to some people and the question of how you go about getting that perfect 850 FICO credit score is a head-scratcher. If you’re in the dark about how to beef up your credit score, all you really need is a crash course in the basics.

Read on to find out which factors impact your credit the most and what you need to be doing now to give your score a boost.

The rundown on credit reporting

Your credit history is compiled by the three credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Each of them uses information that comes from your creditors to generate a credit file, which means you have three different credit reports altogether.

The kinds of creditors that report to the credit bureaus include:

  • Credit card issuers
  • Mortgage lenders
  • Auto loan lenders
  • Retailers
  • Finance companies
  • Financial institutions
  • Student loan lenders
  • Health care providers

Some creditors may not report to all three bureaus. You might have an account that shows up on your TransUnion report, for example, but not the other two. If you’re serious about working on your credit score, you’ll need to compare notes from each report.

Your credit score factors

All the information that goes into making up your credit report is what’s used to calculate your credit score. There are five crucial factors you need to know about so let’s take a quick look at each one.

  • Payment history – Your payment history carries the most weight when it comes to your credit score. Essentially, it tells lenders how good you are at paying your bills.
  • Amount owed – The next factor that influences your score is how much you owe. Specifically, lenders are looking at how much debt you have versus your total credit limit. If you want a perfect credit score you’ll want to limit the amount of credit you’re using to 10 percent or less.
  • Length of Credit History – Part of your score is also based on how old your credit accounts are on average, which account is the oldest and when the last date of activity for each one was.
  • New Credit & Inquiries – Every time you apply for or open a new credit account, an inquiry shows up on your credit report. Checking your own credit, however, won’t affect you.
  • Types of Credit – Your credit report lists out all the different credit accounts you have, including credit cards, mortgage debt and student loans.

Now that you know what affects your credit the most, you can work your way towards the perfect score. Check out these seven tips for taking your score from okay to outstanding.

1. Hit the books

Well, not really. But you will want to order a copy of your credit report and go over it with a fine-toothed comb. Check for errors or any discrepancies. Reporting any errors or inaccurate information and getting them cleared off your report will only help in reaching that high score you’re aiming for.

2. Don’t be late

Nothing makes creditors and lenders happier than getting a payment on time. Paying by the due date or a little before every month is priority #1 when you’re trying to improve your credit.

3. Ace all your classes

To get a really great score, you can’t just be a good credit risk in one area–you have to focus on the big picture. Having a healthy mix of loans– from traditional loans and mortgage loans, to credit cards and student loans — and managing them wisely will make you even more attractive in the eyes of lenders.

4. Don’t go overboard

Making too many requests for credit within a short period of time can hurt your score. There are exceptions when you’re shopping for a mortgage loan, auto or student loan but for other types of credit applications like credit cards and personal loans, you want to be sparing with your inquiries for new credit.

5. Use it or lose it

While teachers said this to get you to use your head, the same principle applies to your credit. Using your credit card, even if it’s just a once a month to pay for gas, can help you tremendously as long as you’re paying on time. It also keeps your creditor from closing down your account for inactivity, which could send your score into a nosedive.

6. Be a model student

Don’t go overboard and max out all your credit cards and loans. Creditors like to see that you can use your credit responsibly, which means watching your credit limits and keeping your balances as low as possible.

7. Get a tutor

While most of the responsibility falls on your shoulders for getting that perfect credit score, there are educational services that help consumer monitor and manage their credit. Credit Sesame gives you access to your free credit score and you’ll get free monthly updates which makes keeping an eye on your score a breeze.

There’s no such thing as a quick fix and it takes time to establish good credit. Paying your bills on time, limiting what you owe, keeping older accounts open, using different kinds of accounts and limiting how often you apply for new accounts can help you get to the head of the credit class.