Can You Get a Perfect Credit Score?

By Steven Shaw on 1/7/2015

Credit 101

Can You Get a Perfect Credit Score?

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So you’re a little ambitious — competitive, maybe — and the idea of a good credit score seems a little, well, tame. You want a perfect credit score. But is that even possible?

Shantai Dixon is hoping so. She wrote recently on the Credit.com blog:

Is it possible to get a credit score to reach “perfect” (850 score) if there has already been a blemish to the score?

When I asked her about what she’s trying to accomplish, she said she has no specific reason for wanting a perfect score; she’d just like to know if it is possible. “I’m 28 and have had a credit card for about 7 years,” she wrote in an email. “I’ve been relatively responsible with it but several months ago I had an issue in which the card company didn’t apply my automatic payment to the card correctly. Therefore I was late on a couple of payments. I know it’ll take a while for that to not show up on my score but I’d like to hope that after several years of good payment history, low to no balance and a variety of credit that I can attain an 840/850 score, up from around 700.”

Is the goal of a perfect score possible? Yes. Probable? Maybe not so much. A perfect score is elusive, but not necessarily for the reasons you may think. It’s the goal itself that makes it hard.

Which Score?

The first question you’ll have to ask yourself is “Which credit score do I want to be perfect?” At any given moment there are dozens of scores that could be created about you. While they all take into account similar factors, such as payment history, debt, inquiries and the age and mix of credit accounts, they all weigh them a bit differently. So even if you achieve a top credit score with one model, you’ll probably fall a few points short with a different one.

Think of it like a target goal to fit into size 6 jeans. Which size 6? As anyone who has spent a frustrating afternoon in a fitting room can attest, a specific size can mean something quite different depending on which brand you’re trying on.

An Elusive Goal

Spend some time learning about credit scores, really learning about them, and you’ll soon learn they can be a whole lot more complicated than you imagined. As mentioned, there are all these different scores and different versions of scores customized for industries such as auto lending or insurance. Plus even within the credit scoring models there are multiple “score cards” — consumers who are grouped together and essentially compared with one another. You and I could apply for the same credit card at the same time, and the impact of that new account (and the inquiry into our credit file) may be different. That means whatever you do to try to “game” your score may — or may not — have the impact you expect.

A Moving Target

Credit scores are created at the moment they are requested, based on the credit report data available at that time. If a balance is updated, an inquiry is added (or drops off) or the age of an account changes (which happens all the time), your score can change. For most of us, that’s not a big deal; a few points in either direction won’t generally make a big difference. But when you’re aiming for the top, even a small step in the “wrong” direction can take you off course for a while.

Why Try Anyway?

Is trying to achieve a perfect credit score an exercise in futility then? Is Shantai wasting her time? Are you, if you have the same goal? Not necessarily.

Really delving into learning about the factors affecting your credit scores can help you better understand the nuances of what makes for a high credit score. The difference in lifetime interest costs for someone with excellent credit versus someone with good credit can be tens of thousands of dollars. (You can use this lifetime cost of debt calculator to find out what it means for you.) So even if you get a few tips that help you raise your score from one category to another — from good to excellent — for example, it may be a worthwhile investment of your time in terms of the money you’ll save over your lifetime.

If you decide to go for it, it helps to pick one score to track over time. If you get your scores from various sources, then your results may be confounded by the different scoring models used. (You can get two free credit scores updated monthly at Credit.com.)

As for Shantai, if she continues on the track she’s on, she’ll no doubt see improvement as the negative information on her reports becomes older. She may not get to 840 or 850, but she could potentially get to the 800s, and that would mean she shouldn’t have any trouble qualifying for very low rates and other benefits such as insurance discounts.

The bottom line is, as long as your credit score is high enough to get you what you need, trying to tweak your score into the flawless range may not be necessary. But if you want to go for it, why not?

More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:

Image: iStock

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Gerri Detweiler is Credit.com's Director of Consumer Education. She focuses on helping people understand their credit and debt, and writes about those issues, as well as financial legislation, budgeting, debt recovery and savings strategies. She is also the co-author of Debt Collection Answers: How to Use Debt Collection Laws to Protect Your Rights, and Reduce Stress: Real-Life Solutions for Solving Your Credit Crisis as well as host of TalkCreditRadio.com. More by Gerri Detweiler

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