How to get an 800 credit score.

I didn’t think it existed. Well, ok, I thought that if you were 80 years old or so, had no debt, and owned several mansions, perhaps you could have a credit score of 800. I felt pretty good about my score of 764 — until I found out that my friend Brian, age 32 HAS A CREDIT SCORE OF 800.

Seriously? Seriously.

How did he do it?

It’s pretty simple, really. It didn’t involve any sort of complicated “piggybacking” strategies, or transferring balances from one card to another one with a higher credit limit. Here’s what he did:

Paid off his car And then kept it. He drives an old-ish Volkswagen Jetta - its aged well, and is still a fine, debt-free way to get around town. Many people are tempted by the car commercials, and go from one car loan (or lease) to the next, but there’s really nothing wrong with a 10-year old car. Especially if you’re not making payments on it.

Paid off his credit cards Actually, this wasn’t too hard for him because he never racked up that much credit card debt in the first place.

Rents My rent never appeared on my credit report before I bought my house. But my mortgage payment does - and definitely affects my debt to income ratio. Brian lives in a nice house with his girlfriend, and they both pay about $600/month in rent — less than they would be paying on a mortgage for a similar house. Long live renting.

Saves, and lives within his means I don’t mean to paint a picture of this guy like he’s scrimping and saving — he just got back from a trip to Europe. He spends tons of money on comic book collecting. But if your lifestyle is such that you’re putting away a few hundred dollars each month (instead of paying a few hundred dollars of interest on credit cards), you have a nice little savings fund to finance such adventures. And then you don’t have to look at the bills from it for months (or years) to come.

Doesn’t carry debt His only loans are school loans, which show up as installment loans on a credit report (not revolving loans, like credit cards).

He only has a few credit cards, but has the right ones His oldest card is a Visa that he opened up before he graduated high school, 15 years ago. The longer your (favorable?) credit history, the higher your score. Also important for some inexplicable reason — department store credit cards. Having a store credit card somehow adds points to your credit rating. I know that Brian has a Gap credit card (he talked me into getting one too — they give you great rewards), I’m really not sure if he has any others.

Pays his bills on time They’re due when they’re due. He puts everything on autopay so that it comes out of his checking account when it’s due. The catch with this plan is that you have to make sure that there’s money in your checking account when the bills come out — Brian doesn’t balance his accounts more than once a month, but keeps a habit of keeping around $2000 in his account, so he doesn’t have to worry about it.

That’s it. He isn’t doing anything complicated, novel, or groundbreaking at all. Just plain old common sense stuff.

Now, my humble little score of 764 isn’t bad, either. According to the folks at Truecredit.com, I’m still higher than 83% of the rest of the population.

Why am I not at 800?
While I pay my bills on time, every time, I do have a lot of them. I have a mortgage payment that’s pretty big — I own a duplex, and my renters cover more than half of my actual mortgage payment, but the credit reporting agencies don’t see it that way. I also refinanced a $20,000 HELOC balance onto a credit card (lowering my interest rate from 10% to 2.99%, and saving myself about $1400/year in interest). And I have some other miscellaneous credit card debt (all transferred to 2.99% interest rates for the life of the balance) that I’m slowly paying off.




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