Your credit score isn't just a random number. Rather, it paints a picture of you as a borrower.
When you go to apply for a credit card, personal loan, or any other type of financing, a lender or credit card issuer will commonly do a hard inquiry on your credit report and check your credit score to see what it looks like. If it's high, there's a good chance you'll get approved for whatever loan or credit card you're applying for. If your credit score isn't so high, you might still get approved to borrow, but at a less favorable rate. So it's in your best interest to have as high a credit score as possible.
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Meanwhile, credit scores range from 300 to 850. And if you're thinking that getting to 850 is impossible, you should know that it isn't.
As of April 2019, about 1.6% of the scorable population in the U.S. had a perfect credit score of 850, reports FICO. And while I didn't have perfect credit in 2019, there was a point in my life when my credit score was indeed perfect. That's no longer the case, but it doesn't bother me at all.
How I got to an 850 credit score
I managed to have a perfect credit score in my early to mid-20s for a few reasons. First, back then, I used a very small percentage of my credit card's spending limit — namely, because I didn't earn as much as I do now and couldn't afford to charge more than that. I also made a point to pay off every credit card bill in full and on time, which helped my score rise.
Another thing that worked in my favor was being an authorized user on my parents' credit card. They had added me as an authorized user when I went to college so I'd have a credit card to use in an emergency.
Once I graduated from college, I don't even think I carried their credit card around in my wallet — rather, I had tucked it away somewhere safe. But because I was still on that account, and it was a long-standing one, it helped my credit score, since the length of your credit history is a factor that's also used to arrive at that number.
All told, by the time I was ready to rent my first apartment without roommates, I had a perfect credit score. But through the years, my credit score had dropped as a result of things like running up higher credit card balances some months and applying for more loans (including a mortgage refinance) and credit cards.
To be clear, I've always paid my credit card bills in full. But having a higher balance very temporarily has made it so my score isn't perfect.
Why I won't chase a perfect credit score
There are probably steps I could take, if I were so inclined, to try to get back to a credit score of 850. But I don't feel compelled to do that.
For the past number of years, my credit score has fluctuated, but it's been above 800 throughout. And that, frankly, is good enough for me.
I don't have any near-term plans to apply for a loan. But I know that if I do, a credit score of 820 or 825 is going to put me in just as strong a position to get approved and snag a favorable borrowing rate as an 850 would. So it's just not worth the effort to try to raise that number.
Now, if my credit score were in, say, the lower 700s, then I would be making an effort to raise it, even though a credit score in that range is still pretty good. But once your score tops the 800 mark, you're in really good shape from a borrowing perspective. And since that's the situation I'm in, I figure there's no need to stress myself out over the fact that I'm not still sitting at 850.
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