You don’t have to be a millionaire to know what achieving that financial ranking means.
Being a millionaire means you have crossed a huge economic threshold. Doors open. Opportunities are offered. Rewards are granted. You aren’t invulnerable, but you do have a comfortable status.
If you aren’t a millionaire – but like the privileges that go with being one – try pushing your credit score up to 800 and you too will qualify for some really nice perks. Bankers are your best friends. Credit card companies are begging for your business. Loans are practically automatic.
Granted, the people in the “800 Club” don’t have the same cache or economic clout as millionaires, but it’s still an elite status in today’s economy. And the “800 Club” is a lot easier to join. More than 40 million American consumers have 800 or better credit scores. Only 12 million are millionaires.
And all you gotta do to join the 800 Club is pay every bill, every month on time and be ultra, ultra conservative about using a credit card for spending.
OK, that’s not ALL you have to do, but it is most of it.
“Paying your bills on time, every time, is the most critical factor involved in building and maintaining your credit score,” said Rod Griffiin, Director of Consumer Education for Experian, one of the “Big Three” credit reporting bureaus in the U.S. “Missing payments is a key barrier for people trying to improve credit scores. One missed payment can quickly drop your credit score significantly.”
On-time payment (35%) and credit utilization (30%) make up the bulk of your credit score. The rest comes from the length of credit history (15%), new credit (10%) and mix of credit (10%).
So how do you get all those percentages to add up to an 800 credit score? We just listed the five factors so let’s go over each one and see how that gets you to 800.
1. Pay on Time
You don’t have to be a perfectionist to become a member of the 800 Club, but it does help.
Lending Tree, one of the prominent online lenders, did a study on consumers with 800-plus credit scores in 2019 and found mostly predictable characteristics, perfection being the first one.
Member of the 800 Club pay on time 100% of the time. Not some of the time or most of the time, but 100% OF THE TIME! Doesn’t matter if you’re talking about Baby Boomers or GenXers or Millennials, if they’re in the 800 Club, they never miss a payment.
The rest of us do. In fact, studies indicate that the average consumer has six late payments on his/her credit report. Those are costly. Just one 30-day late payment can bust your score down by as much as 100 points.
2. Limit Credit Use
If you have a credit card, surely you have heard that it’s best not to spend more than 30% of the credit limit on your card, or $300 on a $1,000 credit limit.
Unfortunately, that’s not good enough to get in the 800 Club.
Not surprisingly, members of the 800 Club have $71,000 in credit available every month. Shockingly, they spend only $3,685 with all that credit available. That is barely 5%!
For those of us with a card that has a $5,000 credit limit, 5% would mean spending under $250. That barely covers the cost of a weekly visit to the grocery store, let alone paying the bill for trips to a clothing store, restaurant, gas station or movie theater.
So, OK, 5% is probably unrealistic. So too is 10% and maybe even 15%.
But if you could drop your credit utilization down to 20% of your limit, that would be a giant step in the right direction.
“We also recommend keeping your balances low,” Griffin said. “Pay attention to the risk factors that come with your credit scores. Risk factors describe what you need to focus on to improve your credit scores.”
3. Mix and Match Methods of Borrowing
The algorithms that calculate credit scores love diversity, meaning they smile when they see you paying on a mortgage, car loan, student loan and credit card. What that says to them is that you can multi-task when bill paying time rolls around each month.
Members of the 800 Club, naturally, take it a step further. They average nine open accounts, which does wonders for not just the methods of borrowing, but also helps the credit utilization category immensely.
In most cases, the extra accounts are credit cards and here is how that helps.
As demonstrated above, if you rely on just one credit card to pay for all your expenses, your credit utilization likely is going to 50%-75% or higher. The credit score algorithms don’t care that you pay that off every month. They want the credit utilization under 30%.
So add three more cards to your wallet, each with $5,000 limits on them and suddenly your credit utilization is up to $20,000. If you spend the same amount with cards that month, your utilization drops dramatically, probably under 20%.
Not all of us are comfortable carrying that much credit in our pocket so be careful with this one.
Credit History Matters
The longer you’ve been using credit, the more it means to your credit score. Members of the 800 Club average just under 22 years of using credit. Even the youngest ones, Millennials, average more than 14 years.
That probably means that credit-savvy parents put their kids name on credit cards as an authorized user at a very early age. If you want to jump start your child’s credit score, go for it.
If you want to inch yours closer to 800, don’t close one credit card when you get another. Keep cards open and use them once a month, just to show their active.
Don’t Apply for Credit … Too Often
This category is meant to restrain credit score enthusiasts from trying to increase their card supply and lower their utilization rate by applying for a bunch of credit cards at the same time.
That strategy will backfire.
Member of the 800 Club only average about one hard credit pull on their account a year. They do things gradually or as their income allows and financial acumen matures.
In other words, there is no rush here. The race to 800 usually is won by those who take their time and make prudent financial decisions.
“If you are just starting out, reaching an 800 score is not going to happen overnight,” Griffin said. “You’re going to need patience as you work toward your goal. It takes time.”
So, Is an 800 Score Worth It?
The answer is yes! But a credit score of 750 is probably just as good.
“Aiming for 800 and above might be enticing, but it’s not always necessary,” Griffin said. “Scores of 800 or above may earn you bragging rights, but they won’t net you better terms. Your goal should be to have a score high enough to get you the best rates and scores greater than 750 will qualify you for the best rates.”
So, the numbers game for credit scores is like every other statistical measurement in your life: How high is high enough?
If you’re happy at 750 and getting the best rates you can … go for it!
But if you want to feel like a millionaire – without have the bank account to prove it – take your best swing at 800 and let the privileges fall where they will!
McFadden, K. (2019, April 3) What It Takes to Earn a Credit Score over 800. Retrieved from https://www.lendingtree.com/debt-consolidation/what-it-takes-to-earn-an-excellent-credit-score/
Stolba, S.L. (2019 September 6) What Is the Average Credit score in the U.S.? Retrieved from https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/what-is-the-average-credit-score-in-the-u-s/
Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it in 2012, helping birth Debt.org into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering the high finance world of college and professional sports for major publications, including the Associated Press, New York Times and Sports Illustrated. His interest in sports has waned some, but he is as passionate as ever about not reaching for his wallet. Bill can be reached at [email protected].