Published in: Credit Cards | Dec. 27, 2019

1 in 5 Americans Have a Credit Score Above 800. Here's How to Join Them

We are committed to full transparency as part of our mission to make the world smarter, happier, & richer. You should know that offers on The Ascent may be from our partners - it's how we make money. That transparency to you is core to our editorial integrity, which isn’t influenced by compensation.

Want to join the elite few Americans with top credit scores? Here's how you can do it. 

While Americans have several different credit scores, scores by the Fair Isaac Corporation -- called FICO® Scores -- are some of the most widely used. These credit scores are on a scale from 300 to 850, with higher scores preferred by lenders. 

A score is considered good once it's around 670 or higher, but you don't have to settle for just a good score. You can aim to earn excellent credit and join the elite ranks of Americans with scores above 800.  

Just 1 in 5 Americans have hit that milestone, though, according to data from FICO. Still, with a little patience and a lot of responsible borrowing behavior, you could become one of them. 

An older couple jumping on the bed in hotel bathrobes.

Image source: Getty Images

How to earn a credit score above 800

To earn a credit score above 800, you need to do pretty well on every metric that's used to determine your score. Typically, you'll need:

  • No late payments: Even a single payment that's 30 or more days late can destroy your chances at an 800 credit score. Try to automate your payments to ensure you pay every bill on time so no late payments ever show up on your credit history. If you have a late payment due to a past mistake, consider writing a goodwill letter to your creditor asking if they might remove it. 
  • A low credit utilization ratio: This is the ratio of credit used versus the amount of credit you have available. If your credit utilization ratio is above 30%, you'll have a difficult time getting a score of 800 or higher. If you've maxed out your credit cards, it will be almost impossible. The lower you can keep your utilization ratio, the better your score should be. 
  • Different kinds of loans on your credit history: Showing you've been responsible with different kinds of loans can help to boost your credit score. You should ideally have some revolving lines of credit, such as credit cards or a home equity loan, as well as some installment loans, such as a mortgage or personal loan where you borrow a fixed amount and make steady monthly payments over the repayment term. 
  • A long credit history: It takes time to earn a credit score of 800 or higher. When you're new to borrowing, your credit history isn't long enough to earn this elite score. 
  • Few or no inquiries: Inquiries go on your credit report when you apply for new credit. If you apply for tons of new credit at one time, you'll have lots of inquiries on your credit history. This can make it more difficult to earn a credit score of 800 or higher because it could be a red flag you're getting in over your head with your borrowing. 

Do you really need a credit score above 800?

While earning a credit score of 800 or higher would give you a major leg up in qualifying for loans at favorable rates, it's not necessarily essential to have a score that high. In fact, a score above 800 is generally considered to be an "exceptional" score, while scores above 740 are classified as very good and should enable most of the borrowing you want to do. 

Still, since the key to earning a top credit score is being responsible with credit, there's no harm in shooting for a score of 800 or higher. In fact, you may even want to try for the elusive perfect 850 score just for the fun of it.

Don't pay credit card interest until 2021

The Ascent just released a free credit card guide that could help you pay off credit card debt once and for all. Inside, you'll uncover a simple debt-cutting strategy that could save you $1,863 in interest charges paying off $10,000 of debt. Best yet, you can get started in just three minutes!

Find the right card for you

Cash Back & Rewards