You’ve got a great credit score. Solid 750-something. Is it worth the effort to push it a little higher?
Would we waste your time telling you no?
“The difference is a much better rate on everything,” says Linda Ferrari, author of The Big Score: Getting it and Keeping It, Buying Power for Life. A FICO score of 680 to 750 is considered very good. But 760 and above is the real attention-grabber. A score like that gets you just about anything you want, says Ferrari, starting with the best rates on auto, home and college loans.
“On a home loan, the difference between a good score and a great one might save you $500, $600, even $700 per month,” says Ferrari.
A great FICO score also makes you eligible for the most prized reward credit cards, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and American Express’s Starwood Preferred Guest card. You can covet other haute cards, like the invitation-only Centurion (a.k.a. Amex Black), on LuxuryPlastic.
The Chase card, for example, offers 40,000 bonus points to new cardholders who spend $3,000 in the first three months. Those points can be instantly used toward travel on Southwest airlines or miles with United, Korean or British Airways which are partners of Delta, US Airways and American.
For a run down on the cards that come with the most perks (and require the highest credit scores) check out Credit.com’s breakdown of the Best Credit Cards in America. Not there yet? Credit.com also has a page on the best cards available at each FICO level.
And refinancing? You can do it with a strong credit score, but you’re not going to get the best rates unless you’re in the top tier, says Gerri Detweiler, director of consumer education for Credit.Com.
The chart below, from myFico.com, the consumer arm of FICO, gives you a quick illustration of how much difference even a single point can make. (Looking at the chart below, featuring rates on a 30 year fixed mortgage, would you want a score of 759 versus 760? I think not.)
30 year fixed mortgage
|FICO® score||APR||Monthly Payment|
Raising your credit score from good to great isn’t rocket science—it’s mostly about consistency and a judicious approach to carrying a balance and acquiring new credit cards, says myFico.com spokesman Anthony Sprauve. In October, myFico.com released new research credit “high achievers,” i.e. people with whopping scores of 785 or above. Among their money habits:
- They keep multiple credit cards—an average of seven—and they keep balances on some of them. But they use only 7% of their available credit, and they almost always make payments on time. (Only 4% showed missed payments of any kind on their reports, and those had happened at least four years previously.)
- They hold on to old accounts. The average credit account in this group was 11 years old. The oldest accounts among the high achievers were, on average, 25 years old. And they weren’t big on opening new accounts. The majority–58%–hadn’t opened a new account in the year prior to the study.
Tip: Want a quick FICO boost? Pay your credit card bill twice a month, says Sprauve. Credit card companies report to credit bureaus at different times of the month, says Sprauve, and those times don’t necessarily correlate with your credit card payment cycles. To make it appear you are keeping your balance low, pay off half your balance mid-way through the month and the rest at the end of the month. “At any given time, your balance is going to look lower,” says Sprauve.