It's an ambitious goal, but it could be doable with a few credit-healthy habits.
Excellent credit is the highest credit score range. It takes plenty of time and work to get there, and once you do, it ensures your credit always works to your advantage.
You can potentially qualify for all the best credit cards, although there are other factors that go into each credit card application. If you're approved for any type of loan, the lender will likely offer you its lowest interest rates.
Under the FICO® Score system, which is the most widely used by lenders, excellent credit ranges from a score of 800 to 850. The other system, VantageScore, has a slightly wider range of 781 to 850.
If your goal is excellent credit this year, let's see if that's realistic and how to get there.
Could you achieve an excellent credit score in 2021?
Whether you could reach excellent credit in 2021 depends on your current score and your credit history. If you already have a 780 FICO® Score, excellent credit isn't far away. But increasing your credit score from 600 to 800 would be extremely difficult, considering there are less than five months left in the year.
Here are the most common scenarios where you could achieve excellent credit this year.
You have a 740 FICO® Score or higher
With a FICO® Score of 740 or higher, you're reasonably close to excellent credit already. You could close the gap by the end of the year if you follow habits that are good for your credit score. Specifically, you should:
- Pay your credit card bills on time every month. Each on-time payment improves your payment history, the factor that has the greatest effect on your credit.
- Try to keep each card's balance to 10% or less of its credit limit. The less of your credit that you use, the better it is for your credit score.
- Don't apply for any new credit, including credit cards or loans. Applications cause a hard credit check and a minor credit score drop. When you're working towards excellent credit, even losing a few points matters.
By following those tips, you'll give yourself the best chance of achieving excellent credit in 2021. Even if you don't quite get there, you'll be close, and you can make it in 2022 by sticking to the same habits.
You have high balances on your credit cards
It's going to be tougher to reach excellent credit this year if your FICO® Score is below 740. But you could get there, especially if you're carrying around large credit card balances.
Your credit card balances in relation to your credit limits are extremely important. This is known as your credit utilization ratio, and it accounts for 30% of your FICO® Score. If your credit card balances total $7,500, and their combined credit limits are $10,000, that would put your credit utilization at 75%.
The conventional wisdom on credit utilization is that you should keep it below 30%. However, lower is always better, and consumers with the highest credit scores average below 10% credit utilization.
If you can pay down high balances, you'll see a near-immediate improvement in your credit score. Credit card companies report cardholder balances monthly. As soon as your card issuers report your lower balances, it will raise your credit.
You have errors on your credit report
There are all kinds of credit report errors that can drag down your credit score. They're also more common than you might think. Between February and April of this year, 34% of Americans found at least one credit report error.
To see whether your credit report has any mistakes, request it from AnnualCreditReport.com. You're legally entitled to a free annual credit report from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, the three consumer credit bureaus. However, they're all offering free weekly reports through April 2022 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you see anything that's not right, dispute it with the credit bureau. All three of them let consumers file disputes online.
Depending on how much damage the error was doing, fixing it could get you into the excellent credit range. That was the case with one consumer who got a mistaken collections account removed and raised her FICO® Score by 112 points.
Improving your credit in 2021 and beyond
Excellent credit is a fantastic target to aim for, and if you can achieve it in 2021, that's great. But there are situations where that timeframe isn't realistic. If you're in the early stages of building credit or rebuilding credit after an issue, such as a delinquent account, then excellent credit probably won't happen in 2021.
You can still make plenty of progress toward a higher credit score during the rest of the year. Remember also that what's most important is building smart credit habits. Those include paying on time, trying not to use more than 20% to 30% of your credit, and reviewing your credit report for errors. When you do all that, it puts you on the right track for excellent credit.
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