According to FICO, as of April 2019 only 22.3% of Americans had a credit score over 800. So the 800 credit score club (the group of people with a FICO score between 800 and 850) doesn’t have that many members.
In fact, if you have a FICO score of 800 or higher, your score is in the excellent range. With a score like that you are likely a low risk borrower, and you will normally qualify for lower interest rates.
If you do borrow money, that matters.
Why having a higher FICO score can help
For example, did you know that making only the 2% minimum payment on a $15,000 credit card debt will take 50+ years to pay off and cost you $43,000+ in interest if it has an 18% interest rate?
That’s pricey, but the costs go down as your interest rate does. Lower interest rates are easier to get if you have a good or excellent score.
So today I want to talk to you about how to break the debt cycle and how increasing your score can help.
But first, a little backstory on how I became a member of the 800 credit score club.
According to NerdWallet, the average household has over $40,000 in credit and student loan debt. I was fairly average in that regard.
I got my first credit card at age 18. I had no idea what I was doing. In fact, I proceeded to bury myself $30,000 in debt by age 22!
I finally put my first budget together at age 27 and turned my personal finances around in the process.
I became a self-taught debt management and credit card expert—reading 15 personal finance and investment books and writing three of my own along the way. In my mid 30s, I finally gained access to the exclusive 800 credit score club.
Here are four tricks I have for folks looking to raise their FICO score.
Think of it as your roadmap on the way to the 800 credit score club.
1. Download Your Annual Credit Report (It’s Free!)
To raise your credit score, you need to know what is influencing it. This is where your credit report aka your credit history comes into play. You are legally entitled to your credit report, and it’s free!
Visit AnnualCreditReport.com today to download your credit report from each of the three major bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. In fact, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for a limited time you can download your report from each bureau each week through April 2021.
If you’ve never downloaded your credit report, I created a helpful how-to video. This instructional video shows you exactly how to access your credit report and what to look for once you download it.
I also cover how to correct any errors you find on your credit report in the video. Fixing inaccuracies and errors is one way to quickly start raising your score.
2. Prioritize Improving The Two Factors that Impact 60% of Your Credit Score
Think of your credit report like the classes you take during the semester. Your credit score is like your GPA. It reflects how well, or poorly, you manage your credit. There are five major factors that influence your FICO credit score.
- Payment History (35%) – how consistently you pay your credit off and/or on time
- Amount You Owe (30%) – amount of credit you owe as compared to the total amount of credit you have (also called your “credit utilization”)
- Length of Credit History (15%) – how long and well you’ve been using credit
- New Credit (10%) – tracks whether you’ve recently opened a loan or line of credit
- Types of Credit (10%) – the mix of credit you have open (loans, store and/or personal credit cards)
As you can see from the influencing factors in this list, Payment History and the Amount You Owe are over 60-percent of your credit score!
Stated another way, making positive payments each month and keeping your credit utilization (amount you owe) at $0 can quickly raise your score.
A best practice is to pay your credit cards off in full each month. Becoming debt-free and responsibly managing the credit I do use month-to-month is how I keep a high FICO credit score.
3. Accelerate Payments on One of Your Outstanding Balances
As we’ve learned, your outstanding balance is a significant portion of your credit score (30-percent). Additionally, your payment history impacts your score (35-percent). You can use this to your advantage!
Instead of making only the minimum payment, target a credit card or loan you want to pay off and accelerate payments on the outstanding balance (while continuing to make the minimum payment on your other credit). This will have two immediate benefits.
First, by increasing your monthly payment, you’ll positively improve the influence of your Payment History. Secondly, as you pay off this credit card or loan balance your credit utilization goes down, which is another factor that increases your credit score. By taking one action you get two positive benefits for your credit score.
4. Use Your Good Credit Score If You Need to Access Cheaper Credit
CBS News reported that improving a credit score from “fair” to “very good” can save over $56,000! It sucks, but the fact of the matter is that having bad credit itself costs you more money. What does that mean?
For example, a person with a credit score range of 580 to 669 (fair) will cost you $3,000 more in interest charges when compared to someone with a “good” credit score of 740 to 799. In other words, improving your credit score literally helps you save money! This is not limited to credit cards.
Car payments, mortgage costs, and personal loan interest are all less for people who have a good credit score. This should act as additional motivation to raise your credit score. Good credit gives you access to cheaper credit, which in turn helps you pay off your credit quicker and own assets at a lower cost.
As you raise your credit score, you can call your lenders and ask for better interest rates. If they aren’t negotiable, review your options to refinance to a lower interest rate as you move towards paying down your debt on your way to debt freedom and financial independence.
The Bottom Line
The focus of today’s post is raising your credit score for those who want to join the 800 credit score club. However, as a general #LifeHack, you may want to continue this practice until you reach debt freedom.
Paying down debt raises your credit score and keeps you from spending money on high-interest debt in the future.
Remember, debt costs you more than just money. It cost you time too. You can always make more money, but you can never make more time.
Marcus Garrett is the author of the Amazon Kindle bestselling book, D.E.B.T. Free or Die Trying: How I Buried Myself $30,000 in Debt and Dug My Way Out, creator of “Life After Debt: Your Roadmap to Wealth,” and a recovering auditor. FAQ: How much debt can you afford on a 30, 50, or $100,000 salary? Find out for yourself at TheMarcusGarrett.com/salary, or follow him on Instagram at TheMarcusGarrett and Twitter @TheMarcusGarret.