Q&A: What Is the Highest Credit Score Possible?

Question: What is the highest credit score possible?

Answer: There are a lot of educational credit scores out there and the ranges for each one differ. But these aren't FICO scores and that's the credit score used most often by lenders. So to answer your question, I'm going to focus on the basic FICO score. I say "basic" because there are many versions of FICO scores and the ranges can vary.

The basic FICO score ranges from 300 to 850. The higher your score, the better. There are differing opinions when it comes to what constitutes an excellent score. Frankly, the "excellent range" shifts with the economy.

What's an Excellent FICO Score?

During good economic times, lenders take more risk. So an excellent FICO score might start around 720. By excellent, this means you might get the best terms for a credit card. During bad times, such as the Great Recession we experienced a few years ago, lenders are a bit stingier. An excellent range during a downturn is more like 750 to 850.

But keep in mind that your FICO score is just one tool used by lenders to help them make a decision about your credit application. They also review your credit report. So while a 740 might be considered excellent right now, whether or not you got the top rates would also be determined by your income, employment history, and any items on your report that might give a lender pause.

Is Trying to Attain an 850 FICO Score Worth It?

This is actually a better question than wondering if you can reach it at all. It's mathematically possible to reach 850, although I don't know anyone who has achieved that. And I know a lot of finance experts who have amazing credit!

But even if you get close, let's say 830, is there a big jump to better terms than if you have a 790 score? The answer to this is no. So you can jump through as many hoops as you want to achieve the Holy Grail of scores, but it won't really benefit you in terms of the APR on your credit card. The owner of the 790 score will more than likely get the same terms as the person sporting an 850.

And let's just say that you did actually reach an 850 FICO score. The reality is that you'd better take a picture of it because it likely won't last. Credit scores change when new information is reported and this means your score can change daily. Another wrinkle in all this is that, depending on what type of credit you're applying for, the lender might use a specialty version of a FICO score and the range could go higher than 850.

But don't let this discourage you. You should still strive for excellence. A high FICO score helps you save in many areas of your life, not just on your credit card APR.

What Can You Do to Achieve the Highest Credit Score?

According to myFICO.com, FICO score high achievers have a few habits in common. Here's a brief summary that you can use as a guideline:

  • They have a long credit history. Unfortunately, you can't time travel and make your history longer. But if you pay attention to the other habits, you'll be in good shape.
  • They use less than 7 percent of their credit limit. Standard advice used to be 30 percent, but keeping it below 10 percent is far better.
  • They pay all of their bills on time. All the time. According to myFICO, 96 percent of high score achievers have zero late payments in their credit reports.

Make these habits part of your credit life and you'll eventually achieve a high credit score. But instead of focusing on achieving the highest credit score possible, just focus on being very responsible with your credit. And when you get into the excellent credit range, pat yourself on the back. You don't have to earn a perfect score to be a huge success in your credit life.

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