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What Is the Highest Credit Score You Can Have?

Jamela Adam • June 4, 2024

A smartphone displaying a person's credit score as a 506 out of a possible 715.

The highest credit score you can have is 850, but it’s rare for someone to have this high of a score – only about 1.7% of people in the U.S. with credit scores have a perfect 850 score.¹

If you don’t have a perfect credit score, don’t panic. You don’t need to hit the 850 mark to be eligible for the best credit cards on the market. In most cases, scores in the high 700s can help you qualify for competitive interest rates from lenders.

Here’s everything you need to know about your credit score, its significance, and practical tips to help you reach and maintain a score in the 700 or 800 range.

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Understanding FICO credit scores

FICO® scores, created by the Fair Isaac Corporation, are the most commonly used credit scores in lending decisions.² Ranging from 300 to 850, these scores help lenders assess how risky it might be to lend money to you.

Think of a FICO score as a summary of your credit report. It measures how much credit you have, how long you’ve had credit, how much of your available credit is being used, and if you’ve been paying your bills on time. The higher your score, the less risky you are, and the more likely creditors will lend to you.

How FICO credit scores work

Your FICO score is determined through a mix of credit utilization, payment history, the length of credit history, new credit inquiries, and the mix of credit types you hold. Each factor weighs differently in the score calculation, with payment history being the most significant.

FICO scores can fall into five broad categories: poor, fair, good, very good, and exceptional.² Here’s a breakdown of what the credit score ranges look like:

  • Poor: 300-579
  • Fair: 580-669
  • Good: 670-739
  • Very good: 740-799
  • Exceptional: 800-850

Understanding VantageScore

Though FICO scores are used by 90% of the top lenders to make lending decisions, VantageScore is another similar consumer credit rating product you should know about.

Developed as a collaboration between the three major credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax – VantageScore also assesses creditworthiness, but through slightly different lenses.

How VantageScore works

VantageScore’s first two credit scoring models had ranges of 501 to 990, but the two new scoring models – VantageScore 3.0 and 4.0 – use a 300 to 850 range, just like FICO scores. However, the FICO score and VantageScore differ in their scoring criteria emphasis, which we’ll explain in detail later in the article.

VantageScore 3.0, the more commonly used model, falls into five broad categories: very poor, poor, fair, good, and excellent.³ Here’s a breakdown of what each range looks like:

  • Very poor: 300-600
  • Poor: 601-660
  • Fair: 661-720
  • Good: 721-780
  • Excellent: 781-850

What impacts your credit score?

The first step to improving your financial health and creditworthiness is understanding what affects your credit scores.

FICO score factors

The five key factors that affect your FICO score are:

  • Payment history (35%). Payment history shows how you’ve paid your accounts in the past. Just one late payment can significantly harm your FICO score.
  • Credit utilization (30%). Credit utilization reflects the amount of credit you’re using compared to your total available credit, which is why maxing out your credit card could hurt your score.
  • Credit age (15%). Credit age is the length of time you’ve been using credit. Typically, the longer your credit history, the higher your FICO score will be.
  • Credit mix (10%). Credit mix refers to the different types of credit accounts you have, like mortgages, student loans, credit cards, and car loans. The more diverse it is, the better.
  • Inquiries for new credit (10%). Inquiries for new credit suggest that you’re about to take on more debt, which is why your credit score may drop by a few points when you apply for and accept a new credit account.

VantageScores factors

Like the FICO score, VantageScore is based on the same five factors. However, VantageScore doesn’t specify exactly how much weight each one carries when it comes to scoring. Instead, it lists the factors by how influential they are:

  • Total credit usage, balance, and available credit (Extremely influential)
  • Credit mix and experience (Highly influential)
  • Payment history (Moderately influential)
  • Age of credit history (Less influential)
  • New accounts (Less influential)

Why a high credit score matters

Your credit score can affect your financial life in multiple ways, primarily your ability to borrow money. A high credit score will also open more doors to financial benefits like:

  • Lower interest rates. A higher credit score typically qualifies you for lower interest rates on loans and credit lines, which keeps more of your money in your pocket since you’re paying less in total interest.
  • Higher loan amounts. Since having a high credit score indicates that you’re responsible with your money and less likely to default on your loan, lenders may be willing to let you borrow more.
  • Better rental options. Landlords will typically perform a credit check before renting you an apartment. A poor credit score could be a deal-breaker for getting a lease, while a high credit score gives you more options to choose from.
  • Easier utility service approvals. Like other creditors, utility companies often ask for your Social Security number so they can check your credit history. Having poor credit can make it difficult to get service.
  • Better employment prospects. Though not all employers check the credit histories of potential hires, some do. And unless you live in a state that bans credit checks for employment, employers could deny you employment if you have bad credit.
  • Lower insurance premiums. If you have a good or excellent credit score, you could be eligible for lower insurance premiums since insurers may see you as someone who’s responsible and less likely to file claims.
  • More credit card and loan options. Lenders typically offer better deals and more options when you have a high credit score. For example, some of the best credit cards on the market that offer generous rewards often require a credit score of at least 700.

7 tips for a higher credit score

The average FICO credit score in the U.S. is 717, while the average VantageScore 3.0 credit score is 698., If your credit score is not near these numbers, you can start taking action to build your credit score if you’re starting out.

Here are a few ways to better your credit health and get your finances on track.

1. Always pay bills on time

Your payment history is the biggest slice of your FICO score, so you’ll want to keep your bill-paying track record in top-notch shape. The easiest way to ensure you pay bills on time each month is to set them up on auto-pay. Check with your bank or service provider if you need help setting it up.

2. Keep your credit utilization low

Credit utilization measures the amount of available credit you’re using. If you are using too much of your available credit, it shows future lenders that you’re overextending yourself and could be in financial trouble. Though most financial experts recommend keeping your credit utilization under 30%, 10% is even better.

3. Limit credit inquiries

Each hard inquiry can slightly lower your score and stay on your credit report for up to two years. You may want to avoid applying for multiple new credit accounts within a short period of time. Waiting a minimum of six months between credit card applications may help keep your score high.¹⁰

4. Avoid closing old accounts

Closing your oldest account on your credit report could lower your score since it decreases the average age of your accounts and increases your credit utilization. So, unless the old account comes with a high annual fee, membership, or other maintenance costs that are burdening you financially, keeping it open may do you more good than harm.

5. Get a secured credit card

A secured credit card is designed specifically to help you build credit from scratch or improve your score. These cards typically charge no interest since they won’t let you spend more than the amount of money you put up as collateral. This way, you can build credit without the risk of accumulating high-interest credit debt.

6. Diversify your credit accounts

Diversifying your credit shows future lenders that you’re capable of managing different types of debt. If you only have one form of revolving credit, consider adding an installment loan to the mix to improve your credit score. But remember to only apply for new loans or credit lines that you truly need and can afford.

7. Check your credit reports regularly

Around 34% of consumers have an error on at least one of their credit reports.¹¹ These mistakes, like closed accounts listed as open or the same loan listed twice, can hurt your credit score if you don’t dispute them with the credit bureau that generated the report.

Federal law gives you the right to request a free copy of your credit report annually from each of the three major credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – by visiting annualcreditreport.com. So, if you haven’t already, order free copies of your credit reports to check for any inaccuracies.

Aim for a good or excellent credit score

You don’t need the highest FICO score possible to qualify for the best credit card or loan terms. Plus, trying to get the highest credit score requires a lot of work.

Instead of focusing on the 850 mark, try to make steady progress and adopt positive financial habits that will improve your creditworthiness and eventually bring you closer to a perfect or near-perfect score.

Check out our other credit guides to learn more about credit cards, credit scores, and credit-building habits.

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¹ Information from FICO's "The Perfect Credit Score: Understanding the 850 FICO score" as of May 15, 2024: https://www.fico.com/blogs/perfect-credit-score-understanding-850-fico-score

² FICO® Scores are developed by Fair Isaac Corporation. The FICO Score provided by ConsumerInfo.com, Inc., also referred to as Experian Consumer Services ("ECS"), in Experian CreditWorks℠, Credit Tracker℠ and/or your free Experian membership (as applicable) is based on FICO Score 8, unless otherwise noted. Many but not all lenders use FICO Score 8. In addition to the FICO Score 8, ECS may offer and provide other base or industry-specific FICO Scores (such as FICO Auto Scores and FICO Bankcard Scores). The other FICO Scores made available are calculated from versions of the base and industry-specific FICO Score models. There are many different credit scoring models that can give a different assessment of your credit rating and relative risk (risk of default) for the same credit report. Your lender or insurer may use a different FICO Score than FICO Score 8 or such other base or industry-specific FICO Score, or another type of credit score altogether. Just remember that your credit rating is often the same even if the number is not. For some consumers, however, the credit rating of FICO Score 8 (or other FICO Score) could vary from the score used by your lender. The statement that "90% of top lenders use FICO Scores" is based on a third-party study of all versions of FICO Scores sold to lenders, including but not limited to scores based on FICO Score 8. Base FICO Scores (including the FICO Score 8) range from 300 to 850. Industry-specific FICO Scores range from 250-900. Higher scores represent a greater likelihood that you'll pay back your debts so you are viewed as being a lower credit risk to lenders. A lower FICO Score indicates to lenders that you may be a higher credit risk. There are three different major credit reporting agencies — the Experian credit bureau, TransUnion® and Equifax® — that maintain a record of your credit history known as your credit report. Your FICO Score is based on the information in your credit report at the time it is requested. Your credit report information can vary from agency to agency because some lenders report your credit history to only one or two of the agencies. So your FICO Score can vary if the information they have on file for you is different. Since the information in your report can change over time, your FICO Score may also change.Credit score calculated based on FICO® Score 8 model. Your lender or insurer may use a different FICO® Score than FICO® Score 8, or another type of credit score altogether. Learn More

³ Information from TransUnion's "What Is a Good Credit Score" as of May 15, 2024: https://www.transunion.com/blog/credit-advice/whats-considered-a-good-credit-score

⁴ Information from myFICO's "What's in my FICO Scores?" as of May 15, 2024: https://www.myfico.com/credit-education/whats-in-your-credit-score

⁵ Information from Equifax's "What are the benefits of knowing your VantageScore 3.0 credit score" as of May 15, 2024: https://www.equifax.com/personal/education/credit/score/articles/-/learn/benefits-of-knowing-vantagescore/

⁶ Information from U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's "Pre-Employment Inquiries and Financial Information" as of May 15, 2024: https://www.eeoc.gov/pre-employment-inquiries-and-financial-information

⁷ Information from FICO's "Average U.S. FICO Score at 717 as More Consumers Face Financial Headwinds" as of May 15, 2024: https://www.fico.com/blogs/average-us-fico-score-717-more-consumers-face-financial-headwinds

⁸ Information from Equifax's "What Is the Average Credit Score by State" as of May 15, 2024: https://www.equifax.com/personal/education/credit/score/articles/-/learn/average-credit-score-state/

⁹ Information from Experian's "Does Credit Utilization Matter if You Pay in Full?" as of May 15, 2024: https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/does-credit-utilization-matter-if-you-pay-in-full/

¹⁰ Information from Experian's "How Long to Wait Between Credit Card Applications" as of May 15, 2024: https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/how-long-to-wait-between-credit-card-applications/

¹¹ Information from the Consumer Report's "Consumer Reports Investigation Finds More Than One-Third of Consumers Found Errors in Their Credit Reports" as of May 15, 2024: https://www.consumerreports.org/media-room/press-releases/2021/06/consumer-reports-investigation-finds-more-than-one-third-of-consumers-found-errors-in-their-credit-reports/

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