What It Takes to Earn a Credit Score Over 800
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In practical terms, having a credit score over 800 probably won’t make much of a difference to people who have credit scores in the high 700s. But there’s something about that 800 mark that motivates Americans to surpass it.
To get better insight into what it takes to get an 801 credit score or higher, we took a look at the credit reports of thousands of Americans with scores of at least 801 to see what the average credit report of a credit score champion looks like.
We also broke the analysis down by the millennial, Gen X and boomer generations to see how the patterns varied between them. Gen Zers were excluded because only the very oldest among the group have had a chance to begin their credit histories, and we also excluded the silent generation because the length of their credit histories distorted the overall averages.
- People with scores over 800 first and foremost pay their bills on time, every month, month after month. The average American, meanwhile, has about six late payments in their credit history.
- Average credit limits for those with 801+ scores are over $71,000. But they only use around 5% of that month to month. In contrast, people in the 50 largest American metros tend to keep their utilization rates between 24% and 35%, with implied average credit limits between $15,000 and $25,000.
- On average, Americans with 801+ scores owe about $126,306 in mortgage debt and $22,000 in other debt (including car loans). That’s fairly conservative, especially considering how much credit and loans they have available to them. Our previous research shows that non-mortgage debt tends to run around $25,000 for baby boomers and $23,000 for millennials.
- Those with scores over 800 had open accounts for almost 22 years, on average, but there are plenty of younger people with scores that high, as we’ll see below.
What goes into those 800 scores?
On-time payment history: People with scores over 800 have a 100% on-time payment history, meaning they haven’t missed a payment in the four years of payment histories reported in their credit reports.
That may be relatively easy for them because they really don’t take on much debt, despite having access to plenty of it. And the younger these score champions are, the less debt they have. For example, someone who has a credit history that’s less than five years old pays an average of $676 a month for all debt products, including mortgages.
Low credit utilization: People with scores over 800 have plenty of credit available to them – over $71,000 on average – but they don’t actually use it. Their average credit card balance is $3,685. That means they’re using around 5% of their available credit. Credit bureaus will reduce your score if your credit utilization ratio gets too high, and it’s generally recommended to use less than 30% of your available credit at any time. The upside is that paying down credit cards, such as by taking out a debt consolidation loan, will lower your utilization ratio, which could raise your credit score.
Healthy credit mix: Credit bureaus also like to see a mix of debt products, and with an average of nine open accounts, score champions certainly have that. They only had two hard credit pulls in the last two years, which shows that despite having all of those active accounts, they’re not really looking to add to their debt load — another thing credit bureaus factor into scores.
Older open accounts: A big factor in credit scores is something called seasoning, which is the age of active accounts a person has on their accounts. The older an active account, the higher the score because it demonstrates the ability to maintain a successful relationship with a lender or creditor over a period of years.
People with scores over 800 have long credit histories – an average of just under 22 years. Even millennials, the youngest generation in our study, has an average oldest account of about 14.5 years – pretty impressive for people between the ages of 22 and 38, and possibly the result of being added as users on their parents’ or partners’ accounts.
But what about people who just don’t have histories that long? Do they have a chance to top 800?
How people with short credit histories achieve 801+ scores
35 and younger
Because people with scores over 800 tend to have such long credit histories, we looked specifically at people who were under the age of 30 and 35 to see what they had in common.
Incredibly, people under the age of 30 had an average oldest account of over 14 years. This suggests that in addition to their highly disciplined borrowing and payment histories, their parents may have added them as an authorized user on some of their cards.
Further, those under the age of 35 have an average revolving credit utilization ratio of 3.9%. Those under 30 use an average of 3.3%. In general, under 35s carry less debt than their younger peers (with the exception of student debt).
Maybe the lesson here is that young people with scores over 800 are more likely to have credit savvy parents.
Credit histories under 10 years
A long credit history provides a big score boost, but it’s not absolutely required to surpass a score of 800. For those who don’t want to wait patiently for the accounts to season over decades – and who don’t have parents who can add them to accounts in perfect standing – we also looked at people who had their oldest accounts as less than five years and less than 10 years.
We found that people in this category have slightly better numbers in all the categories compared with score champions who have longer credit histories. They use less of their available credit, carry less debt overall and have made fewer credit inquiries in the last two years . Of course, they’ve never missed a payment.
People with younger histories seem to do what other credit champions do, but even better.
From November 2018 through January 2019, LendingTree researchers analyzed the anonymized credit reports of over 60,000 LendingTree accountholders with credit scores of at least 801 and who were born between 1946 and 1996.