A perfect credit score isn’t the most practical goal: There are hundreds of scoring models, and even the same score can vary significantly month to month, because your credit history is constantly being updated.
Of course, perfectionists don’t care about practicality. If you’re one of them, striving for that “perfect” 850 credit score (the highest on many common scales), you can check your credit history and see if any of the following five things are blocking your achievement. (You can do so by pulling your credit reports for free each year on AnnualCreditReport.com and viewing your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.)
1. You Spend Too Much
Credit utilization — i.e, how high your credit card balances are compared to your credit limits — is one of the easiest adjustments you can make to your credit score. Even if you use very little available credit, say, less than 10%, you can still see improvements in your credit scores by using even less. You could see your score fluctuate if you go from using 3% of your available credit to 2%. Either you need to have high credit limits, spend little on your credit cards, pay off your credit cards more often than necessary or a combination of the above to keep your credit utilization as low as possible.
2. Your Credit History Is Short
The only thing that can give you a long credit history is time. Even if you’re doing everything right — making payments on time, keeping credit card balances low, rarely applying for credit and maintaining a mix of accounts — there’s nothing you can do but wait for your oldest accounts to age. Generally, if the average age of your credit accounts is younger than seven years, your credit history is considered short. Have patience and keep old accounts open, unless you have a really good reason to close them.
3. You Don’t Have a Mortgage
Account mix — or having a variety of installment loans and revolving credit accounts on your credit history — makes up about 10% of your credit score. If you have a lot of credit cards but no auto, home, personal or student loans, your score could benefit from adding one of them. Conversely, if you only have student loans, adding a credit card to the mix could also help. Account mix isn’t nearly as important as making loan payments on time or keeping debt levels low, but it could be responsible for those few points that sit between you and credit score perfection.
4. There’s an Error on Your Credit Report
Review credit reports carefully, especially if you feel like your credit scores are lower than they should be. Credit reporting errors are common, and to get them off your report you need to dispute the incorrect information with the major credit reporting agencies. Inaccurate, negative information can seriously tank your scores, and the longer it goes unresolved, the more likely you’ll see effects in other areas of your finances, such as higher interest rates for credit products.
5. You Made a Mistake Years Ago
The last seven years in the U.S. economy were tumultuous, and your credit score might still reflect that. Most negative information, like late payments and debt collection accounts, can remain on your credit reports for seven years. The older the information, the less impact it has on your credit scores, but until they age, you’ll have to deal with slightly lower scores. No matter how recent a negative trade line on your credit report is, the best thing you can do is move forward. Focus on making smart credit moves to offset any mistakes from the past.
Obtaining a perfect credit score isn’t easy. Credit scoring algorithms are complicated, and even if you do attain the highest score, you likely won’t keep it forever. Once you’ve crossed that “excellent credit” threshold of about 750 (on a 300 to 850 scale), you’ll qualify for the best interest rates and credit products. Whether you have a 799 score or an 850 won’t matter to anyone but you.
More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:
- The Credit.com Credit Reports Learning Center
- What’s a Good Credit Score?
- How to Get Your Free Annual Credit Report