If you’ve earned an 800-plus credit score—well done. That demonstrates to lenders that you are an exceptional borrower and puts you well above the average score of U.S. consumers. In addition to bragging rights, an 800-plus credit score can qualify you for better offers and faster approvals when you apply for new credit. Here’s what you need to know to make the most of that 800-plus credit score.
- An 800-plus credit score shows lenders you are an exceptional borrower.
- You may qualify for better mortgage and auto loan terms with a high credit score.
- You may also qualify for credit cards with better rewards and perks, such as access to airport lounges and free hotel breakfasts.
Credit Score Basics
First, a refresher on credit scores. A credit score is a three-digit number that summarizes your credit risk, based on your credit data. The most common credit score is the FICO score, which is calculated using five main categories of credit data from your credit reports. Here they are, along with what percent of the score they account for.
- Payment History (35%). Whether you’ve paid your past bills on time
- Amounts Owed (30%). How much credit and how many loans you’re using
- Length of Credit History (15%). How long you’ve had credit
- Credit Mix (10%). The types of credit you’ve had (e.g., mortgage, auto loan, credit cards)
- New Credit (10%). Frequency of credit inquires and new account openings
FICO scores are based on a range of information on your credit report, but they don’t consider your age, education, employment history, gender, income, marital status, race, or zip code.
While each lender has its own credit risk standards, the following chart from FICO is a general guide to what each score range represents:
The 800-Plus Club Is Growing
Today, the average FICO score in the U.S. is 704—the highest it’s been since FICO began tracking score distributions. After bottoming out at 686 in October 2009, the national average FICO score has increased for eight years in a row, representing a steady upward trend in U.S. credit quality.
There are also more people scoring in the very high super-prime score range above 800. As of April 2018, 21.8% of consumers now score in the 800 to 850 range, compared with 20.7% the previous April. According to FICO, several factors have contributed to the higher average and greater numbers of consumers scoring in the 800-plus range, including:
- Fewer profiles have negative blemishes. The percentage of consumers with third-party collections on file decreased steadily between 2014 and 2018. As payment history makes up 35% of the FICO score calculation, the drop in late payments is a clear contributor to the uptrend.
- People are seeking credit responsibly. The percentage of consumers with one or more “hard” inquiries hit a four-year low in April 2018. Having a greater number of inquiries has been shown to indicate increased repayment risk.
- Consumer education seems to be helping. Research by FICO and Sallie Mae in February 2018 found that consumers who frequently check their FICO scores are more like to have higher credit scores and make better financial decisions.
The Benefits of an 800-Plus Credit Score
You’ve worked hard for that 800-plus credit score, so be sure you make the most of it. In addition to bragging rights, your exceptional credit score sets you up to take advantage of several financial benefits, including:
You’re more likely to be approved when you apply for new credit.
Keep in mind that your credit score indicates your creditworthiness and how likely you are to repay money that you borrow. If you have a high credit score, lenders will view you as less risky, which means you’re more likely to be approved for a line of credit or loan.
You’ll qualify for lower interest rates and higher credit limits.
With an 800-plus credit score, you are considered very likely to repay your debts, so lenders can offer you better deals. This is true whether you’re getting a mortgage, an auto loan, or trying to score a better interest rate on your credit card.
In general, you’ll automatically be offered better terms on a mortgage or car loan if you have an exceptional credit score (assuming everything else is in order). If you have an existing loan, you might be able to refinance at a better rate now that you have a high credit score. Like any refi, crunch the numbers first to make sure the move makes financial sense.
Credit cards are different, and you might have to ask to get a better deal, especially if you’ve had the card for a while. If your credit score recently hit the 800-plus range—or if you’ve never taken a close look at your terms before—call your existing credit issuers, let them know your credit score, and ask if they can drop the interest rate or increase your credit line. Even if you don’t need a higher limit, it can make it easier to maintain a good credit utilization ratio (how much you owe versus your available credit).
You’ll qualify for better credit cards with better rewards.
Using the same credit card you’ve had for decades can be good in terms of length of credit history, but you could be missing out on valuable benefits. With an 800-plus credit score, you might qualify for perks such as access to airport lounges (great if you have a long layover), free breakfast in hotels, and the ability to earn cash back and airline miles at a faster rate—for example, one-and-a-half miles per dollar spent instead of the standard one mile per dollar.
One easy way to find a better deal is to call your existing credit card issuer and ask if you qualify for a different card with better rewards and benefits. If so, your issuer can explain the application process (it might be something you can do over the phone or online) and get you switched over to the new card. You can also research credit cards online to find one that work best for you.
Checking Your Score
By law you’re entitled to one free credit report from each of the “big three” credit rating agencies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—every year. If you stagger your requests, you can get a credit report once every four months, so you can keep an eye on your credit report throughout the year. There is only one place to get your free, federally mandated report: AnnualCreditReport.com.
While your credit report doesn’t include your FICO score, you may be able to check it for free if your credit card issuer takes part in the FICO Score Open Access program. According to FICO, more than 170 financial institutions participate in the program, including Bank of America, Barclays, Chase, Citi, Discover, HSBC, Huntington Bank, the Navy Federal Credit Union, PNC Bank, and Wells Fargo.
If your credit card issuer participates, you'll be able to check your score when you log into your account online, or it will be included in your monthly statement (or both). If you don't have access to your credit score through your credit card issuer or other lender, you can purchase it online from one of the three credit rating agencies or at myfico.com.
The Bottom Line
Your credit score affects your ability to get credit and the terms lenders will offer, such as the interest rate on a mortgage. Your score can also impact your job opportunities (employers often run credit checks) and housing options (landlords also run credit checks). Your score can even be factored into the rate you pay for auto and homeowner’s insurance. Because this one number is so important, it’s a good idea to keep track of it—and take steps to improve it, if necessary.
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