You know that you want a good credit score so you can get better terms for any loans or lines of credit. In most cases, the highest credit score is 850 (more on this in a moment), but reaching that “perfect” score isn’t essential or even all that common. Even so, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive for your scores to be the best they can possibly be.
An impeccable payment history, low balances and a well-established track record all work to boost your likelihood of reaching a high credit score. However, before you can get there, it’s important to understand more about the highest score, what determines your score, and how to improve your numbers.
What Is the Highest Credit Score Possible?
There is more than just one credit score and, as we mentioned, 850 is typically the highest score. But there are some exceptions based on which type of score a lender is reviewing.
Lenders have access to several types of scores, each of which has its own range. So, what is the highest credit score you can get? The answer depends on the scoring model that the lender uses. Typically, 850 is the highest, although some VantageScores go as high as 990. The ranges of the most popular scoring types are as follows:
- FICO: 300–850
- Vantage 3.0: 300–850
- Vantage 1.0 and 2.0: 501–990
- Experian PLUS: 330–830
- TransUnion: 300–850
- Equifax: 280–850
Factors That Determine Your Credit Score
Beyond knowing the highest score, it’s important to understand how credit bureaus calculate your scores — these components are what you can address in your own financial behaviors to improve your scores. In general, no matter which scoring model lenders use, they include an assessment of five major factors.
- Payment History: This is one of the most important of the five categories because it typically accounts for 35% of your score. It represents whether or not you have a good habit of making your loan or credit payments on time.
- Credit Utilization: The second-most important factor that accounts for 30% of your score is the amount you currently owe in relation to how much credit you have. Experts recommend keeping your debt at 30%, ideally 10% of your overall credit limit.
- Length of Credit History: How long you’ve managed credit is one of the components of your scores (making up 15% of the score). This is one of the factors you can’t really do anything (other than let time pass) with — However, it is an important element to remember if you’re thinking about closing a credit card, as doing so could damage your credit history.
- Credit Mix: This accounts for 10% of your score and includes the spectrum of retail accounts, loans, mortgages and credit cards you may have. This is considered because it tells lenders how you manage different types of accounts. (Note: Just because this is considered does not mean you should open other types of accounts just to add variancy to your credit profile.)
- Credit Inquiries: Any time your credit is reviewed, like when you apply for a new credit card or a loan, a hard inquiry is placed on your credit. Doing this too often in a short timeframe can make you appear like a risk to lenders. This accounts for 10% of your scores. (Remember: Checking your own credit is seen as a “soft” inquiry and won’t harm your scores.)
How to Get the Best Credit Score
Now you know what components of your financial behaviors are impacting your potential of reaching the perfect score. Breaking down the items above, here are some things to consider to make sure you’re on the right track to build the best credit scores you can.
- Pay your bills on time
- Maintain a good credit utilization ratio
- Limit the number of hard inquiries you make on your credit
- Consider keeping your accounts open, even after you pay them off
- Remedy any mistakes you find on your credit reports, as these errors could be bringing down your scores
As noted by the Federal Trade Commission, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the three main credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian) to give you a free copy of your credit reports every 12 months. You can get these by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. You’ll want to get and review copies of each, as the information likely won’t be identical on all three, as not every place will report to all three bureaus. Reviewing your credit report regularly allows you to gauge where you stand and create a plan for improving your score on a go-forth basis. As you work to improve your scores, you can monitor your progress by viewing two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.
Now that you know the highest credit score, the question becomes whether or not you can reach it, or if you even need to. The highest credit score is typically next to impossible to reach and maintain, as it often is paired with exceptionally high credit limits with zero carried balances and no negative marks on your credit report. However, according to an Experian report, scores between 740 and 799 can still help you qualify for lower interest rates and puts you above the average U.S. consumer’s score.