The highest credit score you can achieve (under perfect circumstances) is 850 using the FICO model. However, any score over 740 is generally considered to be great and puts you in range for the best interest rates on things like credit cards, mortgages and car loans.
Introduction to Understanding the Highest Credit Score Possible
Let’s back up for a minute. Notice that we mentioned anything over 740 is generally considered to be great? That’s because credit scores are generally broken into the ranges poor, fair, good, very good, and excellent. The chart below outlines these various credit score ranges. As you can see, Excellent is generally defined as anything above 800 and 850, while a Good credit score is considered anything between 670 and 739.
|Credit Score Ranges||Credit Score Values|
|Excellent Credit Score||800 & above|
|Very Good Credit Score||740 - 799|
|Good Credit Score||670 - 739|
|Fair Credit Score||580 - 669|
|Poor Credit Score||580 & below|
We’ll dive into more detail on ways to achieve the highest credit score later in this article, but for now let’s look at why it’s important to have an understanding of the highest credit score and how it can impact you.
Why is understanding the highest credit score important?
If you’re like most of the U.S. population, your credit score falls somewhere under 621. In fact, you can see from the chart below that 38 percent of people under 30 years old have a score less than 621. That said, 29 percent of people under the age of 30 are doing a bit better with a score of 621 to 680. When you consider that only 2 percent of people in this age group are actually achieving a 780 score or above, it’s clear that there’s lots of room for improvement if having the “highest credit score” is the goal.
|Age||> 621||621 - 680||681 - 720||721 - 780||780 <|
|30 - 39||41%||18%||10%||19%||12%|
|40 - 49||34%||17%||10%||18%||21%|
|50 - 59||25%||16%||10%||19%||30%|
Understanding the credit ranges and what the highest credit score is can give you the motivation and knowledge needed to improve your credit score and, therefore, improve your financial ability to get better interest rates on everything from mortgages to credit cards.
Is the perfect credit score necessary?
You might be asking yourself, “Is a perfect credit score really necessary when there’s such a big range from ‘excellent’ to ‘perfect’?” No, while obtaining an 850 is a great goal, it might not be realistic. And, remember that just falling into the “Excellent” range can often reap the same benefits as having a perfect score.
An 850 score is theoretically the highest possible credit score, but 20.7 percent of Credit Sesame members have a score above 800. What’s more, as we saw in the data presented earlier, only 2 percent of people in the U.S. under 30 years old have a FICO Score greater than 780. In other words, an 850 credit score is a great goal, but it’s also an anomaly.
|Credit Score Range||Value Range||Members|
|Excellent Credit Score||800 to 850||22.5%|
|Very Good Credit Score||750 to 799||23%|
|Good Credit Score||700 to 749||16%|
|Fair Credit Score||650 to 699||15.6%|
|Poor Credit Score||550 to 649||14.9%|
|Bad Credit Score||550 & Below||8%|
Why does this matter? When you purchase a car or apply for a mortgage, the lender is generally looking for you to fall within a certain range. The mortgage interest rate you qualify for will likely not change inside that particular range. For example, if you qualify for a 3.5 percent interest rate with a “Good” credit score of 720, that rate is likely not going to improve unless you reach the next tier of “Very Good” or drop below to “Fair.”
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|Learn How to Build Credit
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What is the highest possible credit score you can achieve?
At this point, it should be noted that each credit bureau (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax) and each scoring model (FICO vs. VantageScore 3.0) have slight variations in their scoring ranges. What’s considered “Excellent” for TransUnion might be slightly different than what’s considered “Excellent” for Equifax.
|Credit Bureau||Excellent||Good||Fair||Poor||Very Poor|
|TransUnion||781 - 850||720 - 780||658 - 719||601 - 657||300 - 600|
|Equifax||760 - 850||725 - 759||660 - 724||560 - 659||280 - 559|
|Experian||750 - 850||700 - 749||650 - 699||550 - 649||350 - 549|
As you can see by the above table, different credit scoring agencies vary on what credit scores fall into what range. The primary reason for these differences is the scoring algorithm each credit bureau uses. One reason for this is that each agency’s definition is different when it comes to what score corresponds with which category.
Now, let’s look at how you can take this information and utilize it to not only improve your credit score but also improve your financial situation.
Benefits of knowing the maximum credit score
As we mentioned before, knowing the maximum credit score is important because it gives you a framework for what’s possible and it helps you understand how much improvement you need to make in order to break into that “Excellent” threshold.
If you’re like most of the U.S. population, you have some room for improvement. Let’s look at some of the ways you can improve your credit score.
Ways to improve your credit score
According to recent Credit Sesame data, 72 percent of Gen Z and 83 percent of millennials are actively trying to improve their credit score. The same data (below) show that older generations (Gen X and Baby Boomers) are not focused on improving their score as much, perhaps indicating that they’ve already made these efforts and have a credit score they’re happy with.
|Age||Improving (2014)||Improving (2015)||Improving (2016)||Improving (2017)|
|Gen Z (up to age 23)||67%||69%||71%||72%|
|Millennials (23 - 34)||73%||77%||81%||83%|
|Generation X (35 - 54)||70%||69%||67%||66%|
|Baby Boomers (55+)||38%||36%||36%||34%|
If you’re looking to improve your score, there are some basics that you can work on. Those are:
- Pay your bills on time
- Keep your credit card balances low
- Make an effort to keep your oldest accounts open
- Manage your available credit vs. debt ratio
- Don’t have too many inquiries for new credit
- Keep an eye on your credit report
If you put some of these strategies into play, it’s not difficult to move from one credit ranking to another. In fact, we surveyed consumers over the course of 24 months to see how long it took to move between credit ranges. Here’s what we found:
|Credit Score Range (Start)||Credit Score Range (End)||Average Time Taken|
|Poor Credit Score||Fair Credit Score||8 Months|
|Fair Credit Score||Good Credit Score||14 Months|
|Good Credit Score||Excellent Credit Score||7 Months|
How to keep a great credit score
It may come as no surprise that many of the same strategies used to improve your credit score are the ones used to maintain a great credit score.
As you can see below, an overwhelming number of Credit Sesame members note paying their bills on time as a great way to maintain a good score. You’ll also see that keeping your credit card balances low, keeping old accounts open, and managing your debt are a few other best practices.
|Method||Millennials||Generation X||Baby Boomers||Silent Generation|
|Pays Bills on Time||79%||78%||68%||60%|
|Low Credit Card Balances||75%||75%||73%||69%|
|Retain Old Credit Accounts||72%||69%||73%||74%|
|Restrict New Applications||67%||68%||68%||69%|
|Watches Credit Report||74%||71%||70%||68%|
These strategies, of course, are directly related to the factors that contribute to your overall score. For example, paying your bills on time accounts for roughly 35 percent of your credit score. Signing up for automatic payments to avoid missed or late payments can be a way to keep your high credit score.
Similarly, your credit utilization (which is the total available credit you have vs. the total debt you have), accounts for 30 percent of your credit score. When you keep your balances low, this improves your credit utilization and therefore helps keep your score high.
For more detail on the factors that impact your score and how to maintain them, be sure to explore this recent article on credit score factors.
If you’re wondering if achieving a high credit score is realistic, read how Hillary, one of our Credit Sesame members, was able to increase and maintain her score in just one year.
How Hillary grew her credit score from good to excellent in 1 year
Member Since: 10/14/2016
|We interviewed Hillary on May 14, 2018. She earns $54,000 a year, is 42 years old and lives in Fresno, Calif. She is married with two children and owns a house with her husband.|
|What is the most helpful thing you’ve done to achieve a high credit score?|
|Setting automatic payments on all of my credit cards has been extremely helpful. My credit card payments are due at different times during the month, along with all my other bills. I used to get overwhelmed even when I had the money to make my monthly payment. Automatic payments ensure my payments are submitted on time, which has not just improved my credit score, but taken away a lot of stress.|
|How do you continue to maintain your high score?|
|I’m always sure to make on-time payments, only use 30 percent of my available credit, and monitor my credit so I can be made aware whenever my credit report changes. When my score decreases, I look to see what caused the drop and then work to fix the problem. Credit Sesame is very useful for keeping an eye on my score each month.|
Hillary’s story is a great reminder that monitoring your credit can be a good way to educate yourself on how little actions can have big impacts on your score. When you see the impact that on-time payments or better credit utilization can have on your score, for example, it makes it easier to know how to improve and maintain a great score. Watching your score fluctuate via a credit monitoring service can give you the insight you need to learn and make adjustments.
Conclusion & summary
When you’re familiar with what the highest credit score is, how to achieve it, and how to maintain it, you’re putting yourself in a better financial situation. Your credit score impacts your ability to make big purchases like a home or car, and it also impacts smaller things like whether or not you have to put a deposit down when applying for utilities or a cell phone.
While getting a perfect score of 850 may be a long shot, getting a score in the “Good” or “Excellent” range is certainly attainable and, if you follow some of the steps outlined in this article, you’ll be well on your way to financial freedom.