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What Is an Excellent Credit Score?
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One of the most important keys to financial health is managing your credit score well. An excellent credit score can save you money on interest, help you find the best loan products for you and positively influence other areas of your life. To have excellent credit, you need a FICO Score of at least 800 or a VantageScore of at least 750. Below you can find out how to work toward an excellent credit score.
Do I have an excellent credit score?
When you’re checking your credit score, it’s important to understand that not all credit scores are the same. Different credit scoring companies have different credit scoring models. Two of the most popular consumer credit scores are FICO and VantageScore.
You can check your VantageScore 3.0 credit score for free using LendingTree. Checking your FICO Score for free is a little more complicated; check with your bank or credit card provider to see if they can help.
Here’s what it takes to have excellent credit according to different credit-scoring models.
Base FICO Scores range from 300 to 850. You need at least an 800 FICO Score to have excellent credit.
|Score Range||Category||What to Expect When Applying for Credit|
|300-579||Poor||Risky borrowers. Expect high interest rates or difficulty taking out loans.|
|580-669||Fair||Below the average credit score of most U.S. consumers. May be able to take out some loans including FHA mortgages. Interest rates will be higher than average.|
|670-739||Good||Around the average for most U.S. consumers. Expect to qualify for most loans including conventional mortgages.|
|740-799||Very Good||This is an above-average credit score. Expect lower-than-average interest rates on most loans.|
|800-850||Excellent||Expect your best interest rates on loan products.|
Like FICO Scores, the newer VantageScore credit scores (VantageScore 3.0 and 4.0) range from 300 to 850. You need at least a 750 VantageScore to have excellent credit.
|Score Range||Category||What to Expect When Applying for Credit|
|300-549||Very Poor||Unlikely to be approved for a loan or credit card.|
|550-649||Poor||Expect high interest rates or large down payments when taking out loans.|
|650-699||Fair||You may be approved for loans (including mortgages), but likely not at competitive interest rates.|
|700-749||Good||Expect to be approved for credit products at competitive interest rates.|
|750-850||Excellent||Expect to find your best rates and terms on all credit products.|
Why is having excellent credit important?
How important is your credit score? Your credit history has a major influence on your financial life. These are a few reasons to work toward an excellent credit score.
Better employment opportunities. While they cannot see your credit score, employers can legally use information in your credit report to decide whether to hire you. Excellent credit could give a potential employer one more reason to give you that dream job.
Excellent credit can also be especially important for military members. The Department of Defense monitors the credit of service members with security clearance. Mismanaging your debts could mean the military sees you as too risky to deploy.
Reduce security deposits for utilities. If you have poor credit, you may have to pay security deposits to turn on the lights or start phone service. People with excellent credit may avoid deposits altogether.
Lower insurance premiums. Auto insurance companies don’t only look at your driving records, they also consider your credit history. Having excellent credit could reduce the amount you pay for auto or homeowners insurance.
Lower credit card interest rates. More than half of all U.S. households have carried credit card debt. On average, people with credit card debt pay over 16.5% APR on the debt. However, people with excellent credit may qualify for an introductory 0% APR credit card offer, typically lasting 12 to 15 months.
Better mortgages. In Minnesota, for example, a person with excellent credit can qualify for an interest rate as low as 4.25% on a fixed-rate mortgage. If your credit ranks as “good,” you could pay 4.75% for the same loan. On a $200,000 loan, that rate differences translates to about $21,000 in interest savings over the life of the loan.
What factors influence my credit score?
Source: LendingTree and Fair Isaac Corp.
Credit scores developed by Fair Isaac Corp. (FICO) are used in over 90% of lending decisions in the United States. FICO does not publish its exact scoring algorithms, but it explains that each credit score has five major components for the general population. These include:
Payment history: About 35% of your credit score depends on your payment history. This includes your history of paying your bills and whether you’ve had a credit account go into collections. You are unlikely to have excellent credit if you have a history of missed or late payments.
Amount of debt: FICO Scores calculate how much you owe, how many of your credit accounts have balances and the amount you owe on credit cards relative to your available credit (credit utilization ratio). This accounts for about 30% of your FICO Score.
Length of credit history: FICO considers the age of your oldest credit account and the average age of your open credit accounts when calculating your score. Length of credit history makes up roughly 15% of your score.
Credit mix: While it’s possible to build an excellent credit score just using credit cards, lenders prefer to see a variety of loans on your credit report. Having installment loans (like student loans or a mortgage) and revolving credit (such as a credit card) is better than just having one type of loan. Around 10% of your score depends on your credit mix.
New credit: When you apply for new credit or open a new line of credit, your FICO credit score drops a bit. If you need to take out a new loan, limit your rate shopping to a 14- to 45-day window so all the inquiries will count as one (beware: FICO offers no such exemption for credit card accounts. New credit determines about 10% of your FICO Score.
Differences between the FICO Score and VantageScore
As previously noted, FICO isn’t the only company generating credit scores. Nearly 10.5 billion VantageScore credit scores were used between July 2017 and June 2018. Many free credit scores (including the credit score from LendingTree) are VantageScores. While the VantageScore is similar to the FICO Score, the mix of factors is somewhat different. The chart below shows how the VantageScore 4.0 is calculated.
Source: LendingTree and VantageScore
How can I improve my credit?
Improving your credit score from poor to excellent won’t happen overnight. However, you can take some steps to start improving your credit score now.
Make payments on time
Making timely payments on your current debts builds a positive credit history. Over time, this will increase your credit score.
Pay down credit card debt
According to FICO, most “high achievers” owe less than $3,000 in credit card debt. Paying off your credit card debt reduces your total debt load and lowers your credit utilization ratio.
Request a limit increase
Call your credit card issuers and ask for an increased credit limit. An increased credit limit can lower your credit utilization ratio and increase your credit score.
Keep your oldest credit card open
The longer your credit history, the better for your credit score. To help give your credit score a boost, keep your oldest credit account open, even if you don’t use it regularly.
The bottom line
Whether you’ve struggled with credit in the past or you already have good credit, an excellent credit score is within reach. Simple steps like paying down your debt and making timely payments will help you march toward that elusive 800 FICO Score.