Perfect Credit: How to Get the Highest Credit Score

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BY Rebecca Lake
Aug 1, 2022
Key Takeaways:
  • The highest possible credit score for the most popular scoring models is 850.
  • Only about 1% of consumers have perfect credit scores.
  • However, about 20% of Americans have credit scores over 800 – making them eligible for the best credit terms.

What is the highest credit score possible? It depends on the credit scoring model. 

Most credit scores, as measured by the FICO and VantageScore models, range from 300 to 850. The highest credit score you can have on either scale is 850. That's considered "perfect" credit in the eyes of lenders. Some industry-specific scoring models and older models range from 250 to 900. But most people mean 850 when they use the term highest credit score or perfect credit score.

Achieving perfect credit is challenging and you might wonder whether it's worth the effort. Here's a closer look at what it means to have the highest credit score--and how to get it. 

Does Anyone Have a Perfect Credit Score?

There are people in the U.S. who have perfect credit scores, though they're a fairly small group. According to FICO, just 1.6% of the scorable population has a perfect 850 credit score. "Scorable" means that you have enough credit history to generate a credit score. 

So what do people with the highest credit score have in common? 

FICO analyzed specific behavioral characteristics of people with perfect credit. The analysis found that people with 850 credit scores:

  • Pay on time. Payment history is the most critical factor in FICO score calculations. People with the highest credit score have no reported history of missed payments, collection accounts, or derogatory information. 

  • Have low credit utilization. People who have perfect credit scores don't avoid using credit entirely. But they do keep their credit utilization very low overall – under 10% of their available credit – and they don’t carry balances.

  • Have an established credit history. Credit age is another important element in FICO score calculations. Someone with the highest credit score typically has an average account age of 30 years. 

  • Apply for new credit sparingly. Inquiries for new credit influence 10% of FICO scores, and each one can temporarily knock a few points off your score. Those with perfect credit still apply for credit, though they do so only when it's necessary.

Geographically speaking, the majority of people with the highest credit scores in the U.S. live in Hawaii. According to FICO's data, 2.62% of the state population has a perfect credit score. Connecticut, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Maine round out the list of the top five states for highest credit scores. 

These states also tend to fare better for things like healthier lifestyles and higher education levels. So there could be a correlation between those factors and healthy credit habits that lead to higher scores. 

Age and income don't affect your credit score calculations directly. But age can work in your favor since the older you are, the longer your credit history is likely to be. Higher income doesn't necessarily guarantee a perfect score if you're not paying on time and keeping credit utilization low. 

Perfect vs. Average Credit

The average FICO credit score is 716, which is well below the 850 needed for a perfect credit score. In terms of where that puts you in the overall credit score range, 716 is a "good" credit score

A good credit score can mean easier approval for loans and lines of credit. For example, you should be able to qualify for credit cards, vehicle loans, or even a mortgage with good credit. You should also be able to qualify for low interest rates, though the lowest rates possible are usually reserved for people with the very highest credit scores. 

People with average credit scores are doing some things right with credit, including:

  • Paying on time

  • Keeping their balances low

  • Using different types of credit 

However, they may be doing things that keep them from reaching the highest credit score. For example, they may carry more significant debt levels and use more of their credit line. Or they may have a missed payment or two on their credit history that's costing them points. 

Pursuing Perfection: From Excellent to 850

Getting the highest credit score can take time, but it's possible if you're willing to do the work. If you'd like to raise your score to perfect credit status, here are some of the most effective ways to do it.

1. Start building credit if you aren't already

Your credit scores are based on the information in your credit report. The credit bureaus compile credit reports using details provided by your lenders. 

If you don't have any credit accounts in your name, you'll need to open some to start working toward perfect credit. There are a few ways you can do that, including:

  • Applying for store credit cards

  • Getting a secured credit card

  • Becoming an authorized user on someone else's account

Store credit cards are usually easy to get, even if you have a limited credit history. The only catch is that they can come with high interest rates. That could make anything you buy with a store card more expensive if you carry a balance from month to month.

Secured credit cards require a cash deposit to open. Your deposit doubles as your credit limit. These cards can also have high interest rates, but they can be a great way to start building credit if you have the cash for a deposit. 

Becoming an authorized user means someone else adds you to one of their credit card accounts (make sure it’s one that gets reported to the major credit bureaus). You don’t necessarily use the card and you're not responsible for repaying the balance. The primary cardholder's good credit history also appears on your credit reports. 

You might also consider a credit builder loan or a small personal loan. Part of your credit score depends on the types of credit you use. So having a credit card in your name and also a personal loan could boost your score if you're paying them both off responsibly. 

2. Pay on time

Payment history is the most critical factor in FICO score calculations. If you're hoping to get a higher credit score, then paying on time is a must. 

Setting up automatic payments can ensure that you never miss a due date. You can also set a bill due date reminder in your calendar to track when credit card and loan payments are due. 

3. Keep balances low

People with perfect credit scores don't charge up loads of debt that they can't pay off. You can follow their example by maintaining low credit utilization. 

Paying credit cards in full each month is best if you can manage it. But if you can't, aim to keep your credit utilization as low as possible. Routinely asking for credit limit increases can improve your utilization ratio as long as you're not charging up new balances. 

4. Don't go overboard with credit applications

Opening a new credit card account might be tempting, especially when preapproved offers land in your mailbox. But again, each new inquiry can ding your score, so it's essential to choose wisely when opening new cards. 

If you're interested in earning rewards, for example, you might have one card that earns cash back and another that earns travel points or miles. Keeping the number of cards you have to a minimum can also help you to avoid paying too much in annual card fees. 

5. Check your credit regularly

Checking your credit reports and scores yourself won't hurt your score. And it's a good idea to review your reports regularly. There may be errors or inaccuracies in your reports that are hurting your score. If you spot them, you can have them corrected or removed. 

That, along with the other tips outlined here, can be a simple and effective way to grow your score to 850. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the highest credit score possible?

Generally, the highest credit score possible for consumers on the FICO and VantageScore models is 850. An 850 credit score is considered to be perfect credit. However, some score models go as high as 900, though these are only used in very specific lending scenarios. 

Is it possible to get a perfect 850 credit score?

An 850 credit score is possible, though only a small percentage of Americans have a score this high. Reaching an 850 credit score comes down to how you use credit. Paying on time, keeping credit utilization low, having older credit accounts, and limiting how often you apply for new credit can help you to get closer to the perfect score range. 

What is the lowest credit score?

The lowest credit score on both the FICO and VantageScore ranges is 300. Someone with a 300 credit score has very low odds of getting approved for loans or lines of credit. Other scoring models go as low as 250. It’s even harder to get the lowest credit score than it is the highest – according to TransUnion data, only .01% of scoreable consumers have a 300 FICO score. 

Is it possible to have no credit score at all?

You won’t have a credit score if you’re deemed “unscorable.” According to MyFICO, these are the minimum requirements to generate a score:

  • At least one account opened for six months or more, and

  • At least one account reported to the credit bureau within the past six months, and

  • No indication of deceased on the credit report 

You may meet guidelines with a single account or multiple accounts on a credit file.