Most adults in the United States have a credit report containing a wide range of information submitted by landlords, employers, banks, and other creditors. That data is compiled and used to produce a credit score, which falls along a credit score scale between 300 and 850.
It’s also possible that if enough data isn’t available to a credit bureau, they won’t be able to produce a credit score at all, although the credit bureau will continue collecting data until they have enough information to generate a credit score using their models.
The highest credit score available under the FICO® model is 850, although it’s a little misleading to describe an 850 credit score as a perfect credit score. After all, the point of a high credit score is to help you get approved for credit — but each time you apply for credit, your score goes down by a few points, because the number of your recent applications for credit is one of the factors your credit score takes into account. The ends sabotage the means to some extent.
According to Credit Sesame data taken from a subset of our 7 million members, the majority of members fall in the “fair” category, which is a 550-639 range, based on the TransUnion credit scoring model. This means they still have room to improve to reach the good, or even excellent range. Below is a chart that shows the average credit scores, taken from a subset of Credit Sesame’s 7 million members collected October 2015.
[Related: What Affects Your Credit Score]
What causes your credit score to change?
Besides recent applications for credit, your score will also vary from month to month, or even day to day, because of fluctuations in factors like your overall credit utilization (the amount you borrow in relation to your total available credit) and how much you utilize each of your lines of credit. In plain English, that means even if your overall credit utilization is low, dollar-wise, you may suffer a hit to your credit score if you use a high percentage of your available credit line on a single credit card.
Your credit utilization is also known as your “credit grade,” just like the grades you used to receive on your report card when you were in school. Here’s a chart that illustrates a subset of Credit Sesame members taken from Q4 of 2015. How do you compare?
To account for those regular fluctuations in credit scores, lenders usually judge applicants’ credit scores using a credit score chart broken into ranges, from “very poor” credit scores, those below 500, to “excellent” credit scores between 720 and 850.
For example, since an 800 credit score and a 750 credit score are both “excellent” on any credit score scale, if your score is anywhere in that range you’ll probably have the easiest time being approved for credit and be offered the lowest rates on any new credit cards or loans. A person with a merely “good” 700 credit score may pay slightly higher rates or be approved for lower credit limits on new accounts.
Question: What’s the highest credit score you can have?
Answer: Since the credit score range is 300 to 850, the highest credit score possible is 850, although any score of 720 or higher is considered “excellent” and will usually afford you a lender’s most favorable credit terms.
Did you know? While 850 is theoretically the highest possible credit score, the highest credit score among actual Credit Sesame users is 839 — and just 0.006% of members actually have that score. In other words, an 850 credit score is an anomaly, not a goal!
While the credit bureaus are responsible for collecting data about consumers, the FICO® Credit Score is actually a proprietary formula developed by FICO® (formerly the Fair Issac Corporation). This matters because each credit bureau has slightly different information on file, which will typically result in slightly different FICO® Credit Scores.
For example, if you apply for a new credit card with a lender who only checks your Equifax credit report, that application will only be indicated on your Equifax credit report. Recent applications for credit have a small negative effect on your credit score, so as a result, when applying the FICO® Credit Score formula your Equifax credit score will be slightly lower than your TransUnion or Experian credit scores, all else being equal.
Here is the formula FICO® Credit Score uses when they are evaluating your credit score.
Since recent applications for credit are just one of many factors used by the FICO® formula, these differences are typically small — if your credit score falls in the excellent credit score range with one bureau, it’s very likely you have an excellent FICO® Credit Score with all three.If your credit score falls in the excellent credit score range with one bureau, it’s very likely you have an excellent FICO® Credit Score with all three.Click To Tweet
Where can I get a free credit score?
Since 2003, consumers have been entitled to a free three bureau credit report each year by placing requests with each credit bureau via AnnualCreditReport.com. However, since FICO® is a third-party algorithm, the credit bureaus are not required to provide a free FICO® Credit Score with your free credit report.
Fortunately, consumers now have a range of options to find out what’s in their credit report and to see their FICO® Credit Score.
To start, get a hold of your free report from each of the three credit bureaus once every year via AnnualCreditReport.com.
To find out your FICO® Credit Score based on the information in your Experian credit file, you have several options. Discover recently launched a free service on monthly statements & online providing your FICO® Credit Score and some of the information contained in your credit report using the Experian credit bureau. Discover credit card customers receive their FICO® Credit Score based on the TransUnion credit report, although Discover provides you with the “key factors” that go into your credit score, not a detailed breakdown.
Chase Slate® credit card customers also receive access to a free FICO® Credit Score, although Chase doesn’t provide a detailed breakdown of your credit report like Discover does.
Citi®-branded consumer credit cards offer users a FICO® Credit Score based on your Equifax credit report, again with no details. Don’t rely on a free FICO® Credit Score provided by Citi® to check for mistakes in your credit report.
Best credit cards for excellent credit
Once you’ve achieved an excellent credit score, you have a good chance of being approved for the best credit cards. There are a couple of considerations you may want to make when selecting the best credit card for you: which credit card to apply for; and when to apply for it. The ideal credit card to apply for is one with the right benefits for you, and it wouldn’t hurt if there was a bonus offer that you would be eligible for.
Wyndham Rewards® Visa® Card (Barclaycard)
The Wyndham Rewards® Visa® from Barclaycard earns 3 points per dollar spent on eligible purchases for every participating hotel stay at Wyndham Vacation Rental North America properties, and on-property spend and maintenance fees at Wyndham timeshare properties. Earn 2 points per $1 spent on eligible gas, utility and grocery store purchases (excluding Target® and Walmart®). Earn 1 point per $1 spent on purchases everywhere else (excluding Wyndham Vacation Ownership timeshare down payment transactions at Club Wyndham, WorldMark by Wyndham and Shell Vacations Club properties, which do not earn points). That’s a big deal, because Wyndham Rewards charges a flat 15,000 points per night for a standard room at their participating properties, making this card one of the fastest ways to earn hotel nights with a credit card.
Offers are subject to credit approval. If approved, benefits will vary depending upon the card for which you are approved.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®
If you’re interested in a simple all-in-one travel credit card, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® earns 2x miles per dollar on all purchases that can be redeemed towards travel statement credits starting at 10,000 miles for $100 toward all or a portion of qualifying travel purchases of a $100 or more made in the last 120 days. And it offers you 5% of your miles back as a travel redemption bonus, to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem for travel statement credits.
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