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What It Takes to Earn an 800 Credit Score

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A FICO Score between 800 and 850 is considered exceptional and can open financial doors for consumers.

Analysts looked at anonymized credit reports of more than 100,000 LendingTree users to provide insight into the profile of people with credit scores of 800 or higher. It’s no surprise that those with exceptional credit have solid habits, including paying their bills on time every month.

Matt Schulz, LendingTree’s chief credit analyst, says having an 800 credit score is great to aim for but isn’t necessary.

“Generally speaking, once your FICO Score hits 750 or 760, you’re pretty much going to get the best terms on most any loan that you apply for,” Schulz says. “At that point, an 800 credit score is really little more than gravy.”

Key findings

  • People with credit scores of 800 or higher pay their bills on time every month. This aligns with payment history being the most important factor of a credit score. In comparison, residents of the 100 largest U.S. metros generally have an average of six late payments on their credit history.
  • Average credit limits for those with 800-plus credit scores are down dramatically since 2019. The average credit limit for these consumers is $58,514, down from $71,353 when LendingTree researchers last analyzed this topic. Baby boomers have the highest average limits.
  • But consumers are only using a sliver of their credit limits each month. The average credit utilization ratio for people with credit scores of 800 or higher is 5.7%. In contrast, people in the 100 largest U.S. metros tend to keep their utilization rates between 16% and 33%.
  • The oldest active account for those with 800+ scores averages nearly three decades. Those with scores of 800 or higher have had an open account for an average of more than 27 years, though plenty of younger consumers have high scores.
  • Americans with 800+ credit scores have average debt in the six figures. These consumers have an average debt of $138,154, owing average monthly payments of $1,064. The average debt is highest among Gen Xers.

What goes into an 800 score?

If you want to achieve an 800 credit score, you can learn from LendingTree users. Analysts found that consumers with credit scores of 800 or higher pay their bills on time every month. Also, they keep their credit utilization ratio low (5.7%) and tend to keep older accounts open (their oldest account averages more than 27 years).

Credit report profile of people with credit scores of 800 or higher
Everyone Gen Zers Millennials Gen Xers Baby boomers Silent generation
On-time payment rate 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Total debt $138,154 $56,724 $147,249 $165,602 $126,145 $100,429
Monthly payments $1,064 $263 $1,045 $1,377 $961 $619
Credit card limit $58,514 $41,754 $52,506 $59,500 $60,085 $55,966
Credit utilization ratio 5.7% 4.6% 4.6% 6.3% 5.7% 4.8%
Age of oldest active account (months) 329.8 222.3 204.4 287.4 370.9 438.6
Number of open accounts 7.9 7.1 8.3 8.1 7.8 7.1
Credit inquiries in past 2 years 2.5 2.2 2.8 2.7 2.4 2.3

For this study’s purposes, Gen Zers are ages 18 to 24 in 2021, millennials are 25 to 40, Gen Xers are 41 to 55, baby boomers are 56 to 75, and silent generation members are 76 and older.

Payment history

Your payment history accounts for 35% of your credit score and is the most crucial factor, so it’s logical that those with a score of 800 or higher pay their bills on time every month. LendingTree researchers conducted a similar study in 2019 and found the same results.

Amounts owed

The amount of revolving debt you carry (think credit cards and lines of credit) accounts for 30% of your credit score, making it the second-most important factor. The less you owe compared with how much credit you have available, the lower the credit utilization ratio. You generally want your credit utilization ratio to be lower than 30%, so it makes sense that those with scores of 800 or higher range from an average of 4.6% (millennials and Gen Zers) to 6.3% (Gen Xers).

Length of credit history

The length of your credit history represents 15% of your credit score, and having a longer credit history generally helps boost it. In 2019, LendingTree analysts found that consumers with scores above 800 had credit histories of just less than 22 years, on average. In 2021, analysts found that the time frame spiked to an average of more than 27 years.

Credit mix

Your credit mix determines 10% of your credit score, so having various credit accounts — such as credit cards, installment loans and mortgages — can help improve your score. Those with a score of 800 or more have an average of 7.9 credit accounts open, and those accounts likely come from various products. Millennials have the most credit accounts open — 8.3, on average.

New credit

How often you apply for new credit and the length of time since you opened a new credit account contributes to the final 10% of your credit score. On your credit report, the number of credit inquiries can provide insight into how you’d score here. Those with credit scores of 800 or above have made an average of 2.2 to 2.8 new credit inquiries in the past two years. While these new inquiries potentially represent a relatively small portion of these consumers’ open accounts, it shows they could be applying for new credit.

How people with short credit histories can achieve 800+ scores

Being older can make it easier to earn a good credit score, as you’ve had a longer time to achieve a good payment history and to keep accounts open. The oldest active account for those with scores of 800 or higher averages more than 27 years. While younger consumers can’t reach such steady account ages just yet, an 800 credit score is still obtainable.

Americans 35 and younger

LendingTree analysts wanted to examine what other factors contributed to consumers 35 and younger achieving a minimum credit score of 800.

Alongside good credit habits like making on-time payments every month, it looks like some of these consumers have been getting a helping hand from Mom or Dad.

The average age of the oldest active account for those 30 and younger (190.1 months) is almost 16 years old. Since most teens aren’t opening credit accounts on their own, this data suggests that their parents added them as an authorized user on one of their credit cards, with the likely intent of helping them start building their credit at a young age.

“Time is the enemy for younger folks when it comes to building an 800 credit score,” Schulz says. “That’s just the way most credit scoring formulas are built, and it makes sense.”

It stands to reason that the longer you’ve shown you can manage credit wisely, the more likely a lender is to trust you to do so in the future. Determining that trustworthiness is a major point of credit scores from banks’ perspective.

Credit report profile of younger people with 800+ scores
30 and younger 35 and younger
On-time payment rate 100% 100%
Total debt $100,499 $129,309
Monthly payments $628 $871
Credit card limit $46,725 $50,195
Credit utilization ratio 3.5% 3.9%
Age of oldest active account (months) 190.1 194.0
Number of open accounts 8.2 8.4
Credit inquiries in past 2 years 2.6 2.7

Americans with less than 10 years of credit history

Account age is not the only reason a lack of credit history can make it harder to obtain an exceptional credit score.

When you’re just getting started with credit, every mistake can be magnified in the eyes of a lender, Schulz says. That’s because there aren’t many other data points to compare to that mistake and make it look like an aberration. That’s why it can be so important to make on-time payments early on.

Think of credit like borrowing the car keys from your parents. “The first time you ask, Mom and Dad probably are going to be really nervous,” Schulz suggests. “They’ll make a bunch of rules and restrictions because you’ve never shown them that you can handle the responsibility.”

However, if you show you’re reliable by always being home by curfew, regularly putting gas in the tank and avoiding speeding tickets and accidents, eventually they’ll become more comfortable with handing the keys over.

On the other hand, if you bring the car home late with an empty tank and a scratched-up bumper, it may be a while before you get to use the car again. Banks are the same way. The more you’ve shown you can handle your business, the more likely they’ll lend to you.

Those who have a short credit history but obtained 800 or higher credit scores nonetheless make up for their age in other ways. For example, analysts found that those with short credit histories have low credit utilization ratios (an average of 2.5%) and various active accounts (an average of 8.9). As with the other groups, they’re paying their bills on time every month.

Credit report profile of people with 800+ scores and short credit histories
Less than 10 years
On-time payment rate 100%
Total debt $98,408
Monthly payments $687
Credit card limit $51,289
Credit utilization ratio 2.5%
Age of oldest active account (months) 97.1
Number of open accounts 8.9
Credit inquiries in past 2 years 2.7

3 ways to build credit fast

While it takes time to build your credit if you’re looking to have a top-tier credit score, there are some easy steps you can take to build your credit quickly.

  • Pay down your debt. “Paying down debt is always the best way to improve your credit,” Schulz explains. “That’s because becoming debt-free is absolutely life-changing, and not just for your credit.”
  • Decrease your credit utilization. Your credit utilization is the second-biggest factor in FICO credit scoring formulas behind your payment history — and you don’t have to pay down debt to impact it. Increasing your available credit can have a huge impact, too. You can increase your available credit by applying for a new card or asking one of your current card issuers for a higher credit limit. “That works far more often than you might expect,” Schulz says.
  • Remove inaccuracies from your credit report. “There are far more mistakes on credit reports today than people realize, and they can really weigh down your score,” Schulz warns. If you haven’t checked your credit report in a while, do it today. Having good credit is hard enough. The last thing you want is for someone else’s mistake to make things even harder for you.

Methodology

LendingTree researchers analyzed the anonymized May 2021 credit reports of 100,000 randomized LendingTree account holders with credit scores of at least 800.

We defined generations as the following:

  • Generation Z (born after 1996; ages 18 to 24 in 2021)
  • Millennial (born between 1981 and 1996; ages 25 to 40 in 2021)
  • Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980; ages 41 to 55 in 2021)
  • Baby boomer (born between 1946 and 1964; ages 56 to 75 in 2021)
  • Silent generation (born in 1945 or earlier; ages 76 and older in 2021)
 

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