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4 Steps I Took to Get an 800 Credit Score by 26

Updated: Apr 30

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Your credit score is far more important than anybody wants to admit. Not only does it dictate whether you'll qualify for a mortgage or other type of loan, but it also may play a role in getting a job, apartment, or accessing certain financial benefits.

Before my 27th birthday, my credit score hit 800, the magic threshold that is described as excellent credit.

It wasn't easy to do, but with enough work, you can get there too.

I'm back today to give you the game plan. Here are the four steps I took to get an 800-credit score.

Understand your credit score

Before I show you exactly how I achieved an 800-credit score, it is important to focus on the components that make up your score. Your score, which will most likely be calculated using the FICO method will be between 300 and 850. Of course, the higher your score is, the better.

It is calculated by taking into account five basic aspects of your credit profile:

  • Your payment history: Worth 35% of your credit score, It is critically important to avoid missing any payments, which can stay on your report for up to seven years. You'll also want to avoid making just the minimum payment and strive to make every payment in full.

  • Your utilization: A metric that calculates what you owe, your credit utilization makes up 30% of your credit score. You'll want to use only a portion of your credit limit in any given month or payment cycle.

  • The length of your history: The amount of time that you've held a credit source is also important. Longevity is key, as is maintaining your old sources of credit. This makes up 15% of the formula used to calculate your score.

  • Your credit mix: Lenders like to see that you've had success using and paying multiple sources of credit (cards, mortgage, etc.) - this is a fine line, as you don't want to be over-leveraged, but you also do not want to be penalized for having a "thin" file either. It comprises 10% of your FICO score and rewards those who strike the perfect balance.

  • New inquiries: The remaining 10% of your score will be determined by taking into account your number of hard inquiries made over a period of time. Typically, hard inquiries will lead to a slight drop in your score, but this can be necessary when doing things like applying for a mortgage.

Why is an 800-credit score important?

It is critically important that you work on your credit score to get it as close to or above 800 if you can. By doing so, you will put yourself in a position to save thousands of dollars in the future in financing costs.

For instance - imagine that you're looking to buy a house. Mortgage interest rates are currently hovering in the vicinity of 7%. The ultimate rate that you receive on your home loan depends on a number of factors, including:

  • The interest rate environment at the time

  • Rates being offered by lenders

  • Your personal credit history

Now, depending on your exact credit score, the difference between a score of 600 and 800 could represent the difference between getting a home loan at, say, 6.75% or 7.25%.

On a $300,000 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, this 0.50% difference can be the difference between paying $2,047 and $1,946 per month. That's right - your credit score can impact your monthly mortgage payments by over $100 per month. Over your 30-year term, you'd end up paying over $36,000 more than you would have had you focused on improving your score ahead of time.

That said, there are still options for those looking to buy a home with bad credit.


With all this said, here are the steps and tips that I used to reach a credit score of 800.

How I got your credit score over 800

The steps that you see below are the exact steps that I used to raise my credit score from about 600 to over 800 in just about three and a half years.

Step 1: Make all of your payments timely and in full

Making timely payments is a requirement if you want your credit score to reach the 800s. Since I started my credit-building journey almost four years ago, I have not missed a payment on my mortgage, car, or credit cards.

Since your payment history does make up the largest component of your credit score calculation, it is critical that you take your payments seriously. A lot of people don't realize that any late payments you make may remain on your credit report for as many as seven years, so even one missed payment can make an 800 score nearly impossible to achieve.

Luckily, there are a number of tools and tips designed to help you make all of your payments on time.

I recommend that you utilize autopay to pay your bills. Beyond that, you may consider setting calendar reminders or using a budgeting app like Rocket Money.

Step 2: I keep my credit utilization low

Just because your credit limit is $5,000 per cycle doesn't mean that you should charge $5,000. Not by a long shot.

Companies actually track what percentage of your available credit you use. This metric, which we already talked about, is known as your utilization. And while experts suggest that you keep your utilization under 30% or so, I've found that even that was too high for me as I tried to build credit.

So instead, I set a 10% limit. It doesn't mean that I didn't charge more than 10% of my credit limit in a monthly cycle. Rather, I always made sure to make payments midcycle if I approached this critical level.

Your other option is to increase a credit limit increase, though you should only do this if you can handle it financially. And just because you request it does not mean that it will be granted.

Step 3: I pursued a credit mix

I learned early on that the mixture of your credit is really important. This means that one, or even two, credit cards won't cut it in 2023. Instead, it is important to have a mix of auto loans, credit cards, home mortgages, and other sources of debt to show lenders that you are a well-rounded borrower with a history of repaying loans.

Obviously, this will take time, since I highly advise you to not apply for the loans just for the sake of it. Instead, over time, I built a credit profile.

I opened one credit card in 2018, another in 2019, took an auto loan in 2019, and a mortgage in 2022. This nice mixture showed lenders that I am responsible, and my score was adjusted accordingly.

Step 4: I don't regularly apply for new credit

I just mentioned that I opened new sources of credit in 2018, 2019, and 2022. This was important to establish my profile, but you do not want to constantly apply for new loans or credit cards.

Doing so may signal to lenders that you're struggling to meet your financial obligations, and your score could suffer as a result.

Other tips to get an 800-credit score

Just because those are the steps that I used to get an 800-credit score does not mean that these are the only approaches for you to consider.

You may also opt for these tips.

1. Get a copy of your credit report

Before you get started improving your credit score, you'll want to understand exactly where you're starting from. You should request a credit report from one of the three major reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion.

Personally, I recommend TransUnion for a couple of reasons:

  • First, you can get your free TransUnion report once annually through (though this is true with Experian and Equifax as well).

  • Secondly, for $29.95 per month, they offer monitoring services full of tools, including email updates of changes, debt analysis, and up to $1,000,000 in ID theft insurance.

Having a copy of your credit report will give you an unbiased and accurate glimpse into your finances. You'll also want to review your report closely to make sure there are no inconsistencies or errors.

2. Pay down your existing debts

You'll want to make progress on your existing debts in the meantime. I was lucky to only have a car loan at the time, but your credit score can improve greatly even without paying off your debts in their entirety.

Here are some tips to help you:

  • Pay more than the minimum balance each month

  • Decrease your debt-to-income ratio

3. Rate shop carefully

One of the things that I was most nervous about when it came to buying my home was assuring that I did not inadvertently make a mistake through the rate-checking process. As you search for financing to buy a house, you'll want to be crystal clear if the rate-checking process will impact your credit score or not.

Typically, if you rate shop within a narrow window, only one inquiry will be conducted, which is what you're looking for. Otherwise, you run the risk of penalizing yourself repeatedly with multiple inquiries, which will prevent you from reaching a credit score of 800.

How long does it take to get an 800 credit score?

Working your credit score up to the 800 range is not easy to do, and it will not happen overnight. However, with enough diligence and hard work, you too can reach the 800 range.

Depending on your current credit score, you may be able to join the 800 club in as little as six months or as long as five years (or more). Generally, you can expect it to take the following time:

  • Between 500-599: 3+ years

  • Between 600-699: 2+ years

  • Between 700-799: 6 months - 3 years

The bottom line

Getting your credit score to that magical 800 threshold is not a requirement to live the financial life that you want, but it will make things easier. Not only will you qualify for lower financing costs, but you will also be able to qualify for the most attractive credit card and other financial offers as well.

With a little bit of work, your score can hit 800 too.

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About Nathan Zarcaro

Nathan Zarcaro is the founder of The Student Debt Destroyer and is passionate about personal finance related causes.  A 2018 graduate of Providence College's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Nathan studied Finance, and worked for one of the world's largest asset management firms before starting his own consulting practice.  In his free time, Nathan enjoys playing golf and traveling with his wife Brigid.

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