This Is How You Get a Perfect 850 Credit Score

published Feb 27, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Jin Chu / EyeEm / Getty Images)

In the world of credit, establishing a credit score of 850 is like being granted a lifetime achievement award. Both FICO and Vantage—widely used credit-scoring models—consider 850 to be the highest possible credit score. The score is perfect. Exceptional. Untarnished. But… is it possible?

The short answer, according to experts: Well, yes. But an 850 credit score takes time and strategy. And, if we’re being completely honest, it may not be all that it’s cracked up to be.

Here’s what you need to know about the exclusive 850 credit score club:

How common is an 850 credit score?

In 2018, 21.8 percent of people fell into a broad “exceptional” credit category, with scores ranging between 800 and 850, according to data from FICO. The number of consumers with exceptional credit has been on a mostly steady increase since April 2005, when 16.2 percent of people were in the top credit tier.

That number is about the same when it comes to Vantage scores, with 22.3 percent of Americans achieving scores between 781 and 850, according to an Experian report.

But how many people have an actual 850 score? About 1.4 percent of the population, says FICO.

A 2011 analysis from SubscriberWise, an analytics-driven risk management firm, found less than two-tenths of a percentage of the scores it analyzed were perfect 850s. The average age of the highest-scoring consumers was 61.

This makes sense as credit has been shown to increase with age brackets. While the current average credit score in the United States is the highest it’s ever been, registering at 704, according to FICO, there’s still a big credit score gap between generations: The average score among 18-to-29 year olds is 659 compared to 747 for those who are 60 and up.

How do you get an 850 credit score?

All of the factors affecting your score need to be perfectly aligned to get you to that magic 850 score, explains Rod Griffin, Experian’s director of consumer education.

“For instance, you may have a low credit usage rate and perfect payment history, but if you are fairly new to credit, the short length of your credit history will impact your score,” he says. “As your credit history matures, your score increases alongside it, as long as you also pay your bills on time, keep your credit balances low, and limit the number of times you apply for credit.”

It could take at least 20 years to achieve a perfect credit score, says Logan Allec, a Certified Public Accountant who runs the finance site Money Done Right. This is because credit history accounts for 15 percent of your FICO credit score, he explains.

“So even if for all practical purposes you are doing everything perfectly credit-wise—which will get you well into the 800s—the fact that you simply haven’t had credit history long enough could prevent you from achieving the elusive 850,” he explains.

It’s not clear how much time credit needs to be established to be considered “long enough,” says Allec. But, he points to the SubscriberWise analysis that found the average length of credit history for those in the 850 league was 30 years, with the shortest duration of those analyzed being 17 years.

Experian also reports that, among consumers with perfect FICO credit scores, the average credit utilization rate is only 5.8 percent.

If you’re aiming for perfect credit, it’s important that you pay your bills on time and in the full amount if possible, says Nishank Khanna, chief marketing officer with Clarify Capital.

“You can’t have a single late payment on a credit card account to get to 850,” Khanna says.

He recommends checking your scores regularly and disputing any errors you find, like collections accounts that have not been removed from your report after seven years from the original delinquency date.

But unlocking an 850 score didn’t involve any special tricks for Eric Quanstrom, a 46-year-old chief marketing officer with Cience, a sales specialization agency. His score hit the mark about a year ago. He says he has six credit cards, three of which he uses regularly.

“I always pay off my credit cards on-time, every month,” Quanstrom says.

While he doesn’t carry balances, he does use his credit cards for big purchases to earn frequent flyer miles.

Is an 850 credit score worth it?

An 850 score is certainly brag-worthy. But, does it actually help you out financially?

Nah, say the experts.

“Nothing magical happens when your score ticks up to 850,” says Alison Norris, Certified Financial Planner and advice strategist at SoFi, a personal finance company. “There’s no little financial advantage to having a perfect score over a great score.”

Mortgage lenders will typically lump potential borrowers in tiers, Norris explains. You’ll often get the same terms if you have a score of 850 or 760, as both are considered exceptional, she explains.

“Unless you get pleasure from the pursuit of chasing a perfect score, your time is likely better spent reviewing your holistic financial picture and seeing if changes need to be made to your budget, investments, insurance, tax, or estate plan.”

But, having a high score does afford you some cushion should you need it.

Still want to ascend into the 800-and-up credit score club? Check out these credit-building tips from those who have exceptional credit.