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From society’s standpoint, our credit score is one of the most important figures in our lives. We’re taught early on that no credit is worse than bad credit.

We embark on a journey to build our credit. But, that sometimes ends up being the exact downfall of us ever having a credit score over 800.

Credit Basics

There are 3 different credit bureau agencies that your credit information is reported to – Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Each agency has their own credit score for you.

The two main types of credit scores: VantageScore and FICO. Today, the focus here will be the FICO score because it’s what most are referencing when they speak of credit scores.

Your credit score is generally a three-digit number that indicates your credibility which is your ability to repay any loaned money. Credit scores usually range from 300 to 850, with the highest number being the best.

increase credit score

According to Experian data, only 20% of Americans had a FICO credit score of 800 and above. This means that most of our adult population falls within a less than exceptional credit score range.

How your credit score is calculated

Credit scores are dependent upon 5 different factors: late/missed payments, credit utilization, length of credit history, total debt and credit mix and recent credit activity.

Late/Missed Payments – 35%

The highest weighted factor in determining credit scores is late or missed payments. For good reason right? If you were a bank, who would you want to lend money to? The person that pays all their bills on time, or the person that makes late payments every month?

However, the good thing is, this is the easiest determinant to fix. Make yourself an accurate monthly budget and you won’t have to worry about missing payments or being late with payments.

Credit Utilization – 30%

Credit Utilization is how much credit you’ve used in relation to how much total credit you have or are allowed. This is often referred to as your credit limit.

To calculate your utilization percentage on any one credit account, you have to do some calculations. Divide how much your balance is (how much you owe) by the maximum credit limit. Then multiply that number by 100 to get a percentage.

Example: The balance on your Capital One card is $700 (you owe Capital One $700). The credit limit on that card is $1,000. You will divide 700/1000 = .7. Then you multiply that number by 100 (.7×100) = 70. Your utilization rate for this card is 70%.

To calculate your overall utilization percentage across all of your credit accounts, first you will add up the balances of all your accounts. Then add up the limits on all your accounts regardless of whether you have a balance or not. You want the total amount of your credit limit. Next, divide your total balance amount by the total limit amount and multiply that number by 100.   

Length of Credit History – 15%

This is one of the factors we have the least control over. The general consensus is the longer the account is open, the better your credit score.

When you close your accounts that have long credit history, they end up falling off your credit report at some point. When this happens, the length of your credit history is shorter.

For example, let’s say you have 3 open credit cards on your credit report and that’s your only credit. Card 1 was opened 10 years ago, Card 2 was opened 3 years ago and Card 3 was opened 6 months ago. You don’t really use Card 1 anymore so you close the account. Your credit history length just went from 10 years to 3 years which negatively affects your credit score.

If you close an account, you end the life of that account on your credit report and the bump in points that it gave your credit score. So you may find your credit score actually goes down when you close the account.

Sometimes though, you won’t have much control over this such as if your longest credit account was some type of loan versus a credit card. Once that loan is paid off, it’s going to drop off your credit report automatically. It will negatively impact your credit score if there wasn’t another credit account opened around the same time the car loan was opened.

Total Debt and Credit Mix – 10%

Though this factor has very little impact on your credit score, it is helpful to have a good mix of credit and debt. It could make the difference of a few points. A few points could be the difference of falling into the exceptional credit score category or the very good credit score category.

This means that if your debt only consists of credit cards, you should throw in a few installment loans to get a better mix. Some examples of installment loans are personal loans, car loans, mortgages and student loans.

Recent Credit Activity – 10%

Scores are affected any time a creditor pulls your credit report and credit score. When you apply for new credit, you will see some dips in your credit score whether the application is approved or not.

Thankfully, your credit score can bounce back fairly quickly as long as the other factors remain in good standing.

Checking your own credit report and credit score does not count against you and will not have an impact on your credit score.

credit score breakdown

Who uses FICO score

Most lenders use your FICO score to determine your interest rates and approval for loans and credit cards.

When you apply for a car loan, personal loan or mortgage, more than likely they are using your FICO score to decide whether they will approve the loan or not.

Chances are your FICO score is being used in rental application decision processes.

This is why it’s important to have a credit score over 800 or at least as close to it as possible.

Why are there different FICO scores

As if trying to decide whether to focus on FICO scores or VantageScores isn’t hard enough, FICO also has several scoring models within itself.

Since FICO introduced it’s scoring model back in the 1980’s, things have changed and evolved. To keep up with time, FICO has continued to make adjustments to their scoring model. Because they can’t just erase and delete the old models, when an update is made, a new FICO score version is added.

Some lenders prefer to use the older versions and some lenders prefer the newer versions.

Not only that, but different type of lenders use certain models. For instance, mortgage lenders and auto lenders don’t use the same FICO score model to determine approval.

Credit score uses

Source: myFICO

Why you need a good credit score

Remember that your credit score shows your credibility. In addition to your other financial information, your credit score will help lenders predict whether you will repay loaned money.

With a high credit score, you are considered less risky. This means you are more likely to be approved for car loans, mortgages, credit cards etc. Banks trust you with borrowed money because your credit history has shown them that you’re more likely to pay it back.

Not only does a high credit score help you live your American dream, but it also allows you to do so on less money.

Because lenders see you as low risk with a high credit score, they give you the lowest interest rates and best rewards programs. With a credit score over 800, you end up paying less during the life of the loan as opposed to someone with a credit score of say 600.

Best free credit score checker

There are a few options to check your credit score for free.

  1. Credit Sesame gives you a free VantageScore through Transunion on a monthly basis as well as credit report monitoring.
  2. Credit Karma is another option that gives you free credit score monitoring using the VantageScore model through Transunion and Equifax.
  3. Credit.com also offers free credit score tracking through VantageScore as well as an Experian score.
  4. MyFreeScoreNow gives you a 7 day free trial to check all 3 of your credits score as well as a credit report. They give you an analysis to accompany your credit score. If you continue with the membership, you get monthly credit score updates.

Those options will allow you to monitor your credit score to give you a general idea of where you stand; however, they give you your VantageScore, not your FICO score that most lenders use. These two scores can vary a great deal.

Additionally, most banks funding your credit card offer a complimentary credit score from 1 credit bureau. Browse your bank site to see if this is offered or give the bank a call.

How to find out your real credit score

To get your actual FICO score, you want to go straight to the source: myFICO which is a division of FICO.  

This is a monthly subscription service; however, they offer 3 different affordable tiers so that you can get a definitive credit score monthly. The same numbers lenders see when they are reviewing your credit to make decisions are revealed using this platform.

As I noted previously, different lenders use different versions of the FICO score. When you sign up for credit monitoring through myFICO, you get several versions of your credit score – credit card, auto, mortgage credit scores etc.

This means if you’re in the market for a mortgage lender to buy a house, you can utilize myFICO to know the exact scores your lenders are looking at. This helps you create an action plan to increase your score to be approved for a mortgage loan to buy the house you want.

credit score range

Benefits of myFICO

The basic tier gives you FICO scores as well as monthly credit report monitoring through Experian and 24/7 identity theft restoration. It is only $19.95/month.

It also provides you with a credit score simulator so you’re able to plug in certain factors to see how it would affect your credit score. For example, you may plug in something like “Reduce debt by $1,000” and the simulator would give you an estimate on how many points your credit score may increase by.

Another feature is the FICO score analysis that analyzes your credit scores and tells you the why. It tells you why your credit score is what it is and gives suggestions on what you could do to improve it.

They offer 2 additional packages that offer more advanced features that are priced a little higher. If you are just starting out, the basic package will provide you with the credit scores and credit monitoring that you need right now.

If money is tight, sign up for myFICO for 1 month to see where your credit scores stand right now and use their tools so you know what you need to work on. Then cancel the membership before you’re charged for month 2.

Is it safe to say that a lot of us can spare $20 to head in the right direction for a credit score over 800?

10 Tips To Get A Credit Score Over 800

 

1. Pay off your debt

Paying off debt is essential to raise your credit score.

When you work toward paying down your debt, you’re working on the second highest weighted factor that affects your credit score – credit utilization.

Decreasing your debt decreases your credit utilization which in turn increases your credit score.

One of the first things you can do to start paying down your debt is by splitting your debt payments into 2 payments. Basically, you would be each debt twice a month, but still paying only the minimum due. What this does is decrease the interest amount, so you have more money going to the actual principle to pay it down.

Recommended: Step By Step Guide To Paying Off Debt

2. Continuously monitor your credit report

It’s also important to always monitor your credit report because your credit report should remain clear of negative accounts.

You can get a free credit report every year from each of the 3 credit bureau agencies at AnnualCreditReport.com.

If you determine that there a negative items on your credit report, you can use the dispute tool within AnnualCreditReport.com and dispute those items.

3. Let your current accounts age

Account age is related to the length of your credit history. There are 3 factors that come in to play in regards to this factor that affects your credit score:

  • How long a specific credit account has been opened
  • How long it’s been since the credit account was last used
  • How long all of your credit accounts have been opened paying attention to the age of your oldest account, newest account and average age of all of your accounts

4. Continuously monitor your credit score

If you want to improve your credit score, you have to continuously stay on top of it and see which range you fall in.

I want you to realize that each of the 3 credit bureau agencies have a completely different FICO score for you. It’s all dependent upon what they have listed on their specific credit report for you.

You will see that some creditors report to 1 bureau and not the other 2. This means your credit score will be different for all three credit bureaus.

It important to monitor all three to get the complete picture of your credit scores that lenders see. myFICO allows you to do this at a low monthly cost. It is a needed investment if you’re looking to repair your credit.

Recommended: 10 Expenses To Cut from Your Budget. Read this article and apply some of the recommendations to make room for the $20 myFICO plan. You won’t regret it.

5. Pay more than the minimum amount due

If you’ve ever tracked how your payment is dispersed, you’d see that most of your payment goes toward interest. When you pay more than the minimum amount due on a credit account, the excess is going straight to your principal.

Doing this helps you decrease your utilization which causes your credit score to increase.

6. Use less than 30% of all credit

If your credit cards are maxed out, you’re causing damage to your credit score. This is hurting the credit utilization factor of your credit score which is the second highest weighted factor in calculating your credit score.

It is recommended to only use 30% of your total credit limits. However, if you want a credit score over 800, ideally, you want to aim for only using up to 10% of your credit limits.

If this amount is too small, you can ask your creditors for a limit increase. If you increase the limit of a $500 limit credit card to $2,000, your 10% usage goes from $50 to $200 or a 30% usage goes from $150 to $600.

So when you increase your credit limits, you can carry a higher balance.

7. Have a good mix of credit

Having different types of credit accounts on your credit report will give your credit score a nice boost.

If you only have credit cards on your credit report, adding 2-3 additional types of accounts (such as personal loan, car loan etc.) can give you a 15-20 point boost in the period of a few months doing just that one bit.

8. Pay your bills on time

Because timely payments make up the biggest portion of your credit score, you want to make sure you’re paying ALL your bills on time.

Even though you want to pay all your bills on time, sometimes life happens and that isn’t possible. When you can’t afford to pay everything in a given month, make sure you at least pay all the bills that are reporting to credit agencies on time – like your car note, credit cards, mortgage etc.

Before you miss a payment or make a late payment, always try to see if the billing company will work with you to develop a plan so that it doesn’t negatively affect your credit score.

Now that you have your credit report you can also review it and see if there are any late payments showing on your report. If so, reach out to each creditor and try to get the late payments removed.

NerdWallet has an amazing goodwill letter template that you could use to achieve this.

9. Don’t open too many new accounts

Every time you open a new account, you get what’s called a hard inquiry hit to your credit score. It happens whenever a lender pulls your credit report for reason of establishing a new credit account.

Each hard inquiry drops your credit score a few points.

10. Avoid credit checks when possible

Every time you apply for a credit check, your credit report is thoroughly reviewed thus a hard hit to your credit score. These inquiries represent 10% of your credit score.

It doesn’t make THAT big of an impact to your credit score but depending on the other information in the credit report, the difference can be between 20 and 70 points.

If you are ready to apply for a loan or credit card, do your homework in advance so you can apply once and avoid multiple credit requests.

Though it may take you some time to build your credit score to over 800, continue to be persistent and work at it.

increase credit score

The good news is that many lenders think a credit score of 740-799 is a very good credit score. Credit scores within that range will offer benefits comparable to those that have a credit score of 800 or more.

There you have it, just follow the 10 tips mentioned above and you will most definitely increase your credit score.

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Hey there, I’m Ozella!
It’s my goal to create a community of moms who are ready to get out of debt, budget better and create their dream life without money standing in the way.

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Ozella

Ozella is a millennial wife and mom on a journey to financial freedom. Having grown up financially dumb, she learned the hard way and is now working her way out of debt. She uses The Intentional Dollar to share all that she is learning with others through her own journey.
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