Having great credit doesn’t make you a better person, but it can make your life easier and help you save money. With solid credit, it’s considerably easier to get approved for credit cards and loans with favorable interest rates and the best terms. Plus, you’ll have a better shot at transactions that can make your life better — for example, qualifying for a mortgage or getting a loan to start a business.
What is considered a high credit score, exactly? If you look at the FICO scoring method, which is the most popular credit score used by banks and lenders today, you’ll find that scores over 800 are considered “exceptional” while any score between 740 and 799 is considered “very good.”
This is a good range to shoot for if you want to qualify for the best credit offers available today. Fortunately, a perfect credit score (or close to it) is not overly difficult to achieve — it just takes time, using credit responsibly and following some basic credit rules.
What makes up your credit score?
To keep your credit score in the best shape possible, it helps to understand what factors are considered when your score is being determined. When it comes to the FICO scoring method, five areas of your credit history and usage come into play:
- Payment history: 35%
- Amounts owed: 30%
- Length of credit history: 15%
- Credit mix: 10%
- New credit: 10%
As you can see, your payment history is the most important factor considered, followed by the amounts you owe in relation to your credit limits, which is also called your credit utilization. Other factors like your credit history, mix of types of accounts and new credit are also considered, but to a lesser extent.
How do I maintain a score over 750?
If your credit score is already on the high end, it’s probably because you’ve mastered at least some of the factors used to determine your score. But you’ll need to put in the work if you want to keep your credit score in tip top shape. Here are some steps to take to maintain perfect or good credit:
- Pay all of your bills early or on time. Since your payment history is the most influential factor that makes up your score, this step is crucial. Make sure all of your bills are paid by their respective due dates, even if this means setting up some bills on autopay or marking your calendar so you don’t forget.
- Keep debt at a minimum. You have a better shot at excellent credit if you don’t max out your credit cards or borrow too much money relative to your credit limits. Keeping debt at a minimum will also help you avoid overpaying on credit card and loan interest every month.
- Don’t open too many new credit card accounts at a time. New credit accounts result in hard inquiries placed on your credit report, which can cause some short-term damage if you overdo it.
- Keep old credit cards open. Since the length of your credit history can impact your score, keeping old account open is a good idea — even if you don’t use them.
- Keep an eye on your credit report. It’s also smart to keep close tabs on your credit report so you can dispute any errors that pop up. You can get a free copy of your credit report from all three credit reporting agencies once per year at AnnualCreditReport.com, so there’s no excuse.
- Use credit regularly. Using your credit cards for regular purchases can help you in more than one way. Not only can you earn rewards for each dollar you spend, but your credit movements will be reported to the three credit reporting agencies. This can help you maintain and even improve your credit score even more over time.
How do I protect my credit score after paying off debt?
Paying down debt can have a marked effect on your credit score since it lowers your credit utilization — or the amount of debt you owe in relation to your credit limits. This is a good thing for sure, but you’ll need to be intentional about your goal if you want to keep your credit score high.
Fortunately, the same steps apply. Keep your credit utilization on the lower side, pay your bills on time, and don’t open or close too many new accounts. If you take all those steps and don’t let life knock you off track, you’ll have a good shot at maintaining great credit after all your debt is gone.
Can I maintain my credit if I have credit card debt?
If you still have credit card debt, it’s still possible to have an excellent credit score. The key to maintaining great credit with debt is keeping your utilization in a reasonable range and following all the other tips mentioned in this guide.
What’s the best credit utilization rate? That depends on who you ask, but Experian says that the best credit utilization rate for FICO or VantageScore is anything below 30%.
With a credit utilization rate below 30%, you would have to owe $3,000 or less for every $10,000 in credit limits you have. If your utilization is higher than that, you should strive to pay down some of your debt and avoid racking up more. You can accomplish this goal with the combination or cards and loans you have, or you can apply for a 0% APR balance transfer credit card to save on interest and potentially pay down debt faster.