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The 800 credit score: What it means, why it helps and how to get one

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There are a number of perks that come with top-notch credit, and the good news is that you don’t have to hit that perfect 850 credit score to start enjoying them. Just getting your credit score over 800, officially an excellent credit score, gives you the same advantages and benefits that come with a perfect credit score.

Experian reports that 21 percent of all consumers have achieved excellent credit, compared to just 1.6 percent with a perfect 850 credit score.

When you have an 800 credit score, you’ve done everything you need to do to prove that you are a creditworthy consumer. Banks and credit card issuers will be eager to loan you money, often at very favorable terms. People with 800+ credit rarely hear the word “no,” whether they’re asking for a mortgage preapproval letter or turning in a rental application.

Let’s take a close look at what it means to have a credit score over 800, how to get an 800 credit score and some of the perks that come with it.

What it means to have a credit score over 800

Is 800 a good credit score? Having a credit score over 800 isn’t just good. According to the FICO credit scoring system, it’s exceptional. Although both the FICO and VantageScore credit scoring systems go all the way up to 850, you actually don’t need to hit 850 to reap the same benefits as those with a perfect credit score.

If you have an 800 FICO score, you have an extremely positive credit history. There are no missed payments or credit utilization issues to lower your credit score from its exceptional ranking. You’ve likely been using credit successfully for many years, and probably have a healthy mix of credit accounts that includes both revolving credit (like credit cards) and installment credit (like a mortgage).

In short, you’re the ideal credit consumer—responsible, financially savvy and unlikely to default on your credit obligations.

Essentially, having a credit score over 800 means there isn’t anything else you can do to make your credit score better. All you can do now is maintain the healthy credit habits that got you your 800+ credit score in the first place.

Perks of having an 800 credit score

In addition to receiving all of the perks that come with having good credit, there are some additional 800 credit score benefits that you should be aware of. In many cases, these are the same benefits that people with very good or excellent credit scores receive—but they might be a little bit better due to your exceptional credit score.

Better credit offers

One of the biggest perks of having an 800 credit score is access to better credit offers. With such a high credit score, you’ll be an ideal candidate for all of today’s best credit cards, including credit cards for people with excellent credit.

If you travel regularly, you might want to consider a premium travel credit card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® or The Platinum Card® from American Express®.

People with a credit score over 800 are also likely to be accepted for other lines of credit, including personal loans, mortgages and car loans. Not only will most banks and credit issuers be eager to loan money to a person with a near-perfect credit score, but the terms of the loan will often be more favorable than the terms offered to people with lower credit scores.

Lower interest rates

Among the many 800 credit score benefits, lower interest rates have to be near the top of the list. When you have an exceptional credit score, you’ll probably be offered interest rates that are well below the national average, which is currently lingering above 16 percent. Those low interest rates can save you a lot of money over time, especially if you get a low fixed interest rate on a long-term loan like a 30-year mortgage.

If you already have a loan or mortgage, consider refinancing your loan after you achieve your 800 credit score. Refinancing to a lower interest rate can be an extremely smart financial move, so don’t assume you’re stuck with the interest rate you got when your credit score was lower.

Higher credit limits

Another benefit of having an 800 credit score is access to higher credit limits. Not only do higher credit card limits increase your purchasing power, but these high limits also make it easier to maintain a low credit utilization ratio—which in turn will help you maintain your near-perfect credit score.

What if you want to use those high credit limits to fund a large purchase? As long as you pay off any outstanding balances before your current billing cycle ends, charging large amounts of money to your credit cards is unlikely to hurt your 800 credit score. Plus, every purchase you put on your credit card can help you earn rewards—and as a person with exceptional credit, you’ll be eligible for some of the best credit card rewards on the market.

How to get an 800 credit score

Want to know how to get an 800 credit score? Start by learning how to build credit—but don’t stop there. In addition to practicing responsible credit habits like making all of your payments on time and paying down your balances regularly, you’ll also want to take a few extra steps to improve your chances of earning an 800 credit score.

Keep your credit utilization low

Aim to keep your credit utilization as low as possible. This means paying off your balances in full on a regular basis. According to FICO, people with credit scores over 800 have a credit utilization ratio around 7 percent.

This means if your total credit limit is $10,000, you should never carry a balance larger than $700. (That doesn’t mean you can never put more than $700 on your credit cards, just that you should pay off any excess balance as quickly as possible, preferably within the same billing cycle.)

To gauge whether your card balances are dampening your credit score, check out Bankrate’s credit utilization ratio calculator and establish the next steps toward improving your financial opportunities.

Monitor your credit score

Make sure to check your credit score regularly. Many popular credit monitoring services provide you with an updated credit score every week, along with an analysis of why your score might have changed. Learn what is likely to raise your score and what is likely to lower it, and avoid anything that might bring your credit score down.

Check your credit reports

It’s also a good idea to review your credit reports with the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Believe it or not, millions of Americans have errors on their credit reports—and those errors could inadvertently lower your credit score.

Make sure all the information on your credit reports is accurate and learn how to dispute credit report errors with the credit bureaus.

Add to your credit portfolio

If you feel like you’re doing everything right and your credit score hasn’t yet passed 800, you might simply have to wait. Fifteen percent of your credit score comes from the length of your credit history. Even if you’ve been practicing responsible credit habits since you opened your first credit card, it might take a while for those habits to earn you an exceptional credit score.

It might also be hard to achieve an 800 credit score until you have a mix of credit under your name. We’re not saying you should take out a mortgage or a car loan just to get your credit score over 800, but if the only credit accounts on your file are credit cards, you might struggle to reach that 800 credit score.

If that’s the case, don’t worry. Having excellent credit is just as good, and you’ll receive nearly all of the benefits that come with a near-perfect credit score.

By simply using your existing credit cards responsibly, you will be establishing a strong credit history. However, it is important to remember patience is a virtue in this scenario because this process takes time!

What to do with an 800 credit score

Once you’ve earned your 800 credit score, continue the same good credit habits that got you there. People with exceptional credit scores never miss a payment, so stay on top of your credit card and loan payments by setting up mobile alerts or signing up for autopay.

People with very high credit scores also keep their credit utilization as low as possible. Try to pay off every credit card statement balance in full before your grace period expires.

Is there anything you shouldn’t do once you earn an 800 credit score? Don’t assume you can get away with letting things slide a little just because you’ve put in the work to earn near-perfect credit. Even a single missed payment could drop you out of the exceptional score range—and it might be hard to earn your way back up to 800.

That said, as long as you are maintaining responsible credit habits you shouldn’t worry much about day-to-day credit score fluctuations. If you apply for a new credit card and generate a hard credit inquiry, for example, your credit score might drop below 800 by a few points. But it will probably bounce back fairly quickly, especially when you factor in your new line of credit. Likewise, you might see your credit score dip below 800 after you make a large purchase, only to rise again after you pay it off.

The bottom line

Is 800 a good credit score? Absolutely. Is it worth it to try to earn an 850 credit score, just so you can say you have the highest credit score possible? No, since you can get all of the benefits of near-perfect credit once your FICO score passes 800, there’s no reason to put any extra effort toward earning 850 credit score points.

Instead, your goal should be to maintain your exceptional credit score by making on-time credit payments, keeping your credit utilization as low as possible and practicing the same responsible credit habits that got you an 800 credit score in the first place.

Written by
Nicole Dieker
Personal Finance Contributor
Nicole Dieker has been a full-time freelance writer since 2012—and a personal finance enthusiast since 2004, when she graduated from college and, looking for financial guidance, found a battered copy of Your Money or Your Life at the public library. In addition to writing for Bankrate, her work has appeared on CreditCards.com, Vox, Lifehacker, Popular Science, The Penny Hoarder, The Simple Dollar and NBC News. Dieker spent five years as writer and editor for The Billfold, a personal finance blog where people had honest conversations about money. Dieker also teaches writing, freelancing and publishing classes and works one-on-one with authors as a developmental editor and copyeditor.
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