I remember reading about a trend a few years ago of people asking for credit scores on a first date. What!? Important information to know about a potential life partner, but first-date-worthy? Huh-uh. More like guarantee of no second date.
Thankfully, I never found myself in this situation (either asking or asked) and am now happily coupled with someone who shares a similar range of Credit Excellence. So what is my FICO score?
FICO only goes up to 850!
W. T. F.
Before Mint started credit score tracking, I didn’t even know they got that high! Forgive my bragging, but I’m still amazed. So how’d I do it?
- Long credit history. My mom added me to her card when I was a junior in high school for gas and emergencies. I didn’t use her card much, but just being on the account was enough to start building my credit history. Lucky for me, Mama Pie is good about paying off her balance every month and so I got the benefit of her good credit score too. I’m immensely grateful for my birth lottery jackpot (in sooo many ways) — this is one you might not be able to change, but start building a credit history now and you will get there.
- Long history with one credit card. I’ve had the same AmEx account since I was 22. Most credit card companies will let you keep the same account number if you want to change to a different card, so you can always switch to a no-fee card to keep your longest-running account open in perpetuity, even if you cut up the card and don’t use it for purchases.
- Never, ever carry a credit card balance. I pay off in full every month. The few times that I’ve missed a payment due to forgetfulness and/or technical glitches, I’ve called my credit card company and asked them to reverse the fee and not report the late payment. They always have, with no issues at all — another benefit of being a long-standing customer who always pays in full.
- High credit limit. I have a very high limit on one of my cards that I never use. This increases my credit score because the ratio of credit I actually use to the limit available to me is very, very low.
- Pay off debts on time and ahead of schedule. This includes everything from credit cards to my mortgage.
- Always pay bills on time. No-brainer; also saves you from paying late fees.
- Be a good tenant. I’ve never had any issues with my landlords or disputes about leaving a place in disrepair.
- Be a safe driver. Very few speeding tickets (all 10+ years ago) and no accidents. Woohoo! (Knocking wood.)
- Buy a house. It’s amazing what an insane amount of debt will do for your credit.
- Don’t have a car loan. I don’t know how much this actually affects your score (great research, eh?), but I’m happy to never, ever have to worry about it.
- Review my free credit report annually and make sure it’s correct — there are a lot of people out there who share my name, and sometimes more than just our email addresses gets mixed up. For a while, the internet thought I was leasing a Nissan Sentra in Nashville. Unless it was the result of some yet-to-be-explicable fugue state, I wasn’t.
- Finally, if I know I’m going to need to show my credit score for any reason — say, getting a mortgage or going on a first date, I pay my credit card balance down to $0 a week or two beforehand. This in itself is enough to up it a few points.
What’s your magic number? What tricks do you have to keep it high?
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