The majority of Americans with a credit score over 800 can chalk up their successes to diligently managing their finances, not complicated tactics and hidden strategies only a select few can access. And the efforts to increase your credit score are likely worth the time, as borrowers with excellent credit have access to some of the best credit card sign-up bonuses and low mortgage rates.
The truth is, everyone can follow a few simple strategies to increase their credit scores. With that in mind, in the video below, Motley Fool analysts Michael Douglass and Nathan Hamilton discuss a handful of disciplined strategies that people leverage to land sky-high credit scores.
Michael Douglass: This statistic actually surprised me, but one in nine Americans has a credit score of 800 or higher. And the number suggests that the overwhelming majority of Americans are basically overlooking very simple steps to improve their financial lives. Here at The Motley Fool, we believe pretty strongly in applying your biggest lever to your biggest opportunity.
Nathan Hamilton: Yes.
Douglass: Focusing [and] prioritizing on what matters most. With your credit score, the two things that matter most are your payment history -- that's 35% -- and your credit utilization -- which is 30%. There's some other stuff, but that's 65% of it right there between those two. What are things people can do to boost those numbers?
Hamilton: We'll go over two things today, and it's funny you mentioned at the beginning [that] one in nine people have a credit score above 800. Looking at that differently, eight in nine people -- the overwhelming majority of us -- either aren't paying attention, or giving our credit scores the attention they need...
Hamilton: ...or budgeting correctly to get the score high enough. So looking at some actionable steps that people can use -- how people with 800-plus credit scores manage their credit card debts, their revolving debt so they increase their credit score -- the first one is set your payments on autopay. It's rather simple and straightforward, but here's why it matters. You mentioned at the beginning, 35% of your FICO score is based upon your payment history, which is simply paying your bills on time and not having accounts go into collection.
Hamilton: So the easiest way to do that -- whether you're carrying debt and paying it off, or paying your balance monthly -- is just simply put it on autopay. There's other things to worry about in life -- getting your kids to soccer practice [or] meetings. Credit card debt and managing it shouldn't be the focus. So take advantage of it. Use autopay. It's [for] your benefit.
Douglass: And that way, you don't have to think about it. You don't have to remember it. If you've had a stressful month, you don't miss it.
Douglass: And that's huge. And then the other thing is paying off balances either biweekly -- so twice a month -- or paying it off once a month before the statement date.
Hamilton: And why that matters is, when you pay off biweekly, it does two things. First off, it gets you in the routine of spending what you can afford. [With] credit cards, you're essentially not linked up like it is a debit card, where there's cash in the account so it's easier to spend money [and] make sure you're hitting your budget and goals.
The second part is it insures that, no matter what, you're paying your balances before the statement date. And why that's important is 30% of your credit score is affected by what's called the "credit utilization ratio." And on the statement date, your credit card reports to the credit scoring bureaus [that] cardholder X has this amount of debt. That affects your ratio, which impacts your credit score. So the easiest way to lower your credit utilization ratio is pay before the statement date so that essentially $0 is reported to the credit scoring bureaus.
Douglass: Absolutely, [and] a great pair of things that people can do. Be sure to check us out at fool.com/credit-cards, where we have a list of the best cards for excellent credit if you happen to be one of this one in nine.
Hamilton: And there's some in there for good credit, as well.
Douglass: And also, for everybody else, we have our overall best credit cards for 2017, so there's a little something there for everyone. We've also got a lot of other tips about personal finance. Thinking about debt management and really making sure that you're taking control of your financial future. So check us out there. Thanks, Nathan.
Hamilton: Thank you.