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The Highest Credit Score and How to Get it

Peter Warden
Highest credit score

Credit Sesame explores the highest credit score you can achieve, theoretically and practically.

FICO and VantageScore are the companies behind the credit scoring technologies used in nearly all lending decisions for consumers. They both agree that 850 is the highest credit score anyone can achieve.

Well, almost. FICO provides special scoring systems that have been tweaked for lenders of particular products: mortgages, credit cards, auto loans and so on. And those can go up to 900. But that’s a technicality you can ignore. For most people, most of the time, the maximum standard credit score is 850.

How Do You Get The Highest Credit Score?

So, we’ve answered the central question in short order. But, before you move on, you might be interested in discovering more about the highest credit score, including:

  • What sort of people have one?
  • Why do people want one?
  • How could you build one?

What types of people have the highest credit score possible?

People with perfect credit scores are a rare breed. CNBC reported near the end of 2021 that only 1.6% of Americans have one. It takes effort and self-discipline to build and maintain an 850 credit score. So, what are the characteristics of the 1.6%?

But, let’s clear up one myth. You don’t have to be rich to have a perfect credit score. Your income plays zero part in determining your score. Of course, it helps if you have enough money to keep comfortably on top of your debts. But most people can do that if they align lifestyle with income. So, what are the characteristics of individuals with the highest credit score?

They are Good at Managing Debt

Experian is one of the Big Three credit bureaus. In 2019, it built a profile of Americans with the highest credit scores. The credit bureau found these “unicorns” have more “tradelines” (open accounts) than people with lower scores. But they owe less. Experian says this underscores “the value of being able to manage debt while having numerous credit accounts.” That’s really what your credit score is all about: how you manage your debt.

They have Low Card Balances

People with perfect credit have more credit cards than people with lower credit scores. More cards usually means more available credit and lower utilization. That’s the key. It’s not so much about the low card balance as the “credit utilization ratio.” That’s jargon for the percentage of your credit limit that you’re using on a card.

A maxed-out card has a 100% ratio. A card with a zero balance has a 0% ratio. It can be anywhere in between. For example, people with perfect scores may use $3,000 spread across 6 cards, which works out at $500 a card. Compare that to $3,000 spread over 3 cards, which calculates to $1,000 per card.

A whopping 30% of your credit score is based on your credit utilization ratio. Consumers benefit from keeping it as low as possible, and certainly below 30%.

They are older generally

Only 4% of millennials have the highest credit score possible. That’s partly because the average age of your credit accounts plays a part in determining your score and younger people tend to have younger accounts. But, if 4% have a perfect score, it means age is not a barrier.

Baby boomers, now mostly in their sixties, make up 58% of our high scorers and Generation X-ers, now mostly in their forties, make up 25%. The silent generation, now mostly in their eighties, account for only 13%. Perhaps this is because retired people choose to borrow less than econimically active younger folk.

They live in the right places

Experian found that people in Hawaii, Minnesota and Connecticut were more likely to have perfect credit scores than those elsewhere. But the top five areas with the highest concentrations of unicorns were all in California.

However, the geography doesn’t affect your score, it just attracts people with a higher score. It is a case of correlation rather than a causation.

Why would you want a perfect credit score?

Having an excellent credit score opens doors. It almost guarantees that you’ll be approved for any loan you can afford. Moreover, a good credit score can save you tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars over your lifetime compared to someone with a poor score. That’s because you should normally be offered the lowest interest rates available and pay the lowest loan costs.

Having a great score, even if not the highest credit score, gives virtually the same opportunities.

This is because lenders tend to use credit score ranges. When deciding on your rates and fees, most will lump those with perfect 850 scores in with those with scores that are nearly as good. Lenders may offer the same great deal to anyone with a score above 800. Experian says, “In many situations, a score above 760 will qualify you for the best interest rates.”

Having the highest credit score possible means you are probably doing a great job of managing your finances and money. You can take pride in that.

How to get the highest credit score possible

It is not difficult to increase your credit score, but you need to be more persistent and borderline obsessive if you have your eyes set on perfection. Make sure you:

  • Pay every bill on time, even early to be on the safe side
  • Use several credit cards but keep each balance as low as possible
  • Open new accounts or close old ones ONLY when absolutely necessary
  • Aim for a mix of credit cards and installment loans (for example, auto, personal, home)
  • Monitor your score daily and check your credit reports annually

It may take several months to get the right balance of credit cards and loans, but spread your applications over many months and remember that a credit score of 850 doesn’t happen quickly.


Disclaimer: The article and information provided here is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice.

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Published May 5, 2022 Updated: May 4, 2022
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