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What is the perfect credit score?

Published July 24, 2023
5 min read

Key Points About: How to get a perfect credit score

  1. According to FICO, the highest credit score is 850.

  2. Your credit score may affect how much you pay for rent or insurance.

  3. You may be able to stay on top of your credit score by practicing good credit habits like paying your bills on time and limiting your credit use.

According to the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO), the highest possible FICO® Credit Score that you can get is 850, and only 1.6% of the U.S. population has it (as of 2019).1 You can see where your credit score lands by looking at the score ranges below:

FICO® Score Ranges (from FICO.com)

  • Exceptional—800 to 850
  • Very good—740 to 799
  • Good—670 to 739
  • Fair—580 to 669
  • Poor—579 or less

You don't have to have perfect credit to borrow money since lenders have different requirements for credit approval. But regardless of whether you have a perfect credit score or not, practicing good credit habits can have a huge impact on your financial future.

Did you know?

You can start to build a credit history with the Discover it® Secured Credit Card.2

Why is your credit score important?

Your credit score can affect everything from how much you pay in insurance to your ability to rent an apartment. Here are a few reasons you should aim for a higher credit score and a good credit history:

Jobs: According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, some job opportunities perform background checks on potential new hires (with their permission), and these checks can sometimes include a credit report.

Utilities: If you have poor credit (or what you consider ‘bad credit’), according to the Federal Trade Commission, you may have to pay a security deposit when you start utility services. However, if you have a high credit score, you will typically have an easier time getting services.

Insurance: According to the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, some auto insurance companies look at your credit history when giving you insurance. If you have great credit, you may be able to save a little extra money on insurance.

Interest rates: If you have excellent credit, you can typically qualify for a lower interest rate on a new credit card or personal loan—which means you may pay less money over the life of the loan.

Credit card offers: Some of the best credit card offers require a higher credit score. If you have excellent credit, you may have less trouble qualifying for those cards.

Renting: When you rent an apartment, according to Consumer.gov, you may have to pay more rent in advance if your credit is poor compared to someone with a high credit score.

In general, the higher your credit score is, the easier you may be able to qualify for credit. 

What factors go into my credit score? 

According to The Federal Trade Commission, your credit score is based on the credit history that is found on your credit report. You get a credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). The information on each credit report may be different, which is why sometimes you'll have different credit scores. Regardless of the information on your credit report, according to FICO, credit reporting agencies calculate your credit score using the following categories:

  • Payment History (35%)
    Your payment history looks at how you've managed paying your bills, including things like your credit cards, personal loans, auto loans, and mortgages. 
  • Credit Utilization (30%)
    Credit utilization considers how much of your available credit that you're using. According to the Office of Financial Readiness, if your credit utilization is too high, your credit score may be impacted. Generally, lower utilization means less credit risk and has a positive effect on FICO® Scores.
  • Length of Credit History (15%)
    Lenders also consider the length of your credit history. According to Michigan.gov, in general, the longer your history of responsible credit use, the better. But, even if you have no credit history, you can still build a credit history with a secured card.2
  • Credit Mix (10%)
    Your credit mix looks at your credit account types (credit cards, mortgages, personal loans, etc.) and considers how well you've managed them. 
  • New Credit Inquiries (10%)
    New inquiries shows how many times and how recently you've applied for credit. Lenders like to look at this to see if you're possibly taking on more debt than you can manage or if you're opening credit accounts wisely.

How can I stay on top of my credit score?

Pay your bills on time. 

Your payment history may have a big impact on your credit score. So, you should always plan to pay your bills on time if you want a good credit score. To help you keep track, you can enroll in automatic payments or set-up text or email alerts for when your credit card payment is due. 

Limit the amount of credit you use. 

As mentioned previously, your credit use plays a big role in helping to determine your credit score. You can help keep your credit usage low with the following tips:

  • Pay more than the monthly minimum on your credit card bill.
  • Make multiple payments during the month.
  • If applicable, ask for a credit limit increase on one or more of your cards.

Check your credit report. 

You should always review your credit report for any errors. According to the Federal Trade Commission, you can request a free credit report every year from each of the three credit reporting agencies. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to request your free credit report.

If you find an error on your credit report, you can dispute it with the creditor or the credit bureau that had the error, and if they find an error happened, then they will remove the error. 

Limit the amount of new credit you apply for 

Any time you make an application for new credit, it can affect your credit score because lenders will often do a “hard inquiry” on your credit before approving you for the loan. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, if you have too many hard inquiries, it may indicate to lenders that you are taking on more debt than you can handle.

While you shouldn’t be afraid to apply for new credit, you should carefully weigh out all the options that you have.  

What should I do if I don’t have credit history?

If you have low credit or no credit, there are some options you can take to help build your credit history. One option you may want to consider is applying for a secured credit card. Secured cards often require a deposit, and your starting credit limit is often equal to the deposit amount. But, with a Discover it® Secured Credit Card, you can get your deposit back after six consecutive months of on-time payments and maintaining good status on all your credit accounts.3

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  1. FICO® Credit Score Terms: FICO is a registered trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation in the United States and other countries.

    Discover Financial Services and Fair Isaac are not credit repair organizations as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. Discover Financial Services and Fair Isaac do not provide “credit repair” services or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history or credit rating.


  2. Build Credit History (Student Card): Discover reports your credit history to the three major credit bureaus so it can help build your credit if used responsibly. Late payments, delinquencies or other derogatory activity with your credit card accounts and loans may adversely impact your ability to build credit.
  3. Graduation Transparency (Secured CLI): Monthly reviews start your seventh month as a customer. We will refund your security deposit if you have made all payments on time for the last six consecutive billing cycles on all your Discover accounts including any loans, and you've remained in “good status” on all credit accounts you are responsible for whether they are Discover accounts or not. “Good status” means: (1) your credit report shows no delinquencies, charge-offs, repossessions, or bankruptcies for the six months prior to our review; and (2) your Discover Secured Card is not in a prohibited status at the time of our review, including, but not limited to: closed, revoked, suspended, subject to tax levy, garnishment, deceased, lost/stolen, or fraud. Monthly reviews may be delayed if you change your payment due date. When you qualify to upgrade to a standard, ‘unsecured card’, Discover will also consider you for a credit line increase. We typically process your refund in 2-3 business days based on your delivery preference. If you close your account and pay in full, we’ll return your deposit within two billing cycles plus ten days.
  • Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.