You may have been able to check your credit score lately using a number of free services including from your bank or mortgage lender. But, what good is knowing your FICO score if you don’t understand what the number means on the overall reporting scale? Maybe you have a 740 FICO score. If the maximum score is 750, you’re pretty much a credit genius. If the max is over 1,000, you’re sporting a C average—not really all that impressive.
So what is the highest credit score possible, and how do you achieve it?
- Your FICO score is drawn from information found in your credit reports from the three main reporting agencies.
- The score is used by roughly 90% of financial institutions when considering giving you a loan or line of credit.
- FICO scores range from 300 to 850; under 580 is considered poor credit and 740 or higher is considered very good or exceptional credit.
- To get perfect credit, or close to it, a consumer must pay all bills on time, have a mix of loans—such as auto, mortgage, and credit cards—have paid off most of these loans, excluding a mortgage, and use no more than 4.1% of available credit.
How Does It Work?
Although there are many different credit scores, your main FICO (Fair Isaac Corp.) score is the gold standard that financial institutions use in deciding whether to lend money or issue a credit card to consumers. Your FICO score isn’t actually a single score. You have one from each of the three credit reporting agencies—Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Each FICO score is based exclusively on the report from that credit bureau.
The score that FICO reports to lenders could be from any one of its 50 different scoring models, but your main score is the middle score from the three credit bureaus, which may have slightly different data. If you have scores of 720, 750, and 770, you have a FICO score of 750. (And you need to take a hard look at your credit reports because those three numbers are considered wildly different.)
A perfect score of 850 will give you bragging rights, but any score of 800 or up is considered exceptional and will give you access to the best rates on credit cards, auto loans, and any other loans.
What’s the Range?
The best-known range of FICO scores is 300 to 850. Anything above 670 is generally considered to be good. FICO also offers industry-specific FICO scores, such as for credit cards or auto loans, which can range from 250 to 900. There are many FICO versions; FICO 10 is the newest. Mortgage lenders tend to use older FICO score versions.
Here are FICO’s basic credit score ranges:
- Exceptional Credit: 800 to 850
- Very Good Credit: 740 to 799
- Good Credit: 670 to 739
- Fair Credit: 580 to 669
- Poor Credit: Under 580
According to FICO, the higher the score, the lower the risk you pose to a lender. Still, no score says whether a specific individual will be a “good” or “bad” customer.
FICO doesn’t judge somebody’s credit risk. It only reports a score and can provide guidance based on statistical data. A person isn’t a high credit risk per se if they have a 500 FICO score. FICO just reports, based on its statistics, that people with a lower score have defaulted on loans more than those with a higher score.
The percentage of people who have a perfect FICO score of 850.
How Do I Get the Highest Credit Score?
While it is theoretically possible to achieve a perfect 850 score, statistically it probably won’t happen. In fact, about 1% of all consumers will ever see an 850, and if they do, they probably won’t see it for long, as FICO scores are constantly recalculated by the credit bureaus.
And it’s not like you can know with absolute certainty what is affecting your credit score. FICO says 35% of your score derives from your payment history and 30% from the amount you owe (credit utilization). Length of credit history counts for 15%, and a mix of accounts and new credit inquiries are factored in at 10% each. Of course, in actually calculating the score, each of these categories is broken down even further, and FICO doesn’t disclose how that works.
The credit bureaus that create credit scores may also change how they make their calculations—sometimes for your benefit. Changes were made in 2014 and 2017, for example, to reduce the weight of medical bills, tax liens, and civil judgments. However, changes made in January 2020 for FICO 10 involving trending data, credit card debt, personal loans, and delinquencies may make getting a higher score more difficult.
No need to obsess about hitting that 850 level, but if you want to try to reach it, here is what you have to do: Pay all your bills on time, eliminate nearly all of your debt (excluding a mortgage), and keep your credit utilization rate to 4.1%. And be careful with balance transfers, closing a credit card, or having too many of them. Additionally, if you have some negative marks on your credit report that are holding you back from the 850 level, one of the best credit repair companies might be able to help, so long as you are willing to pay a fee.
The Bottom Line
Although it’s nice to have a perfect or near-perfect score, it means very little, other than having a badge of honor that about 1% of the population could achieve. Once your score gets to and remains at 780 or higher, lenders see you as a low credit risk. You’ll get the best interest rates, good product offers, and are pretty much guaranteed a “yes” to any loan you apply for that appropriately fits your income level. And if you’re curious, here are the best places to get your credit score or report for free.