I recently took a peek at my latest credit score and realized I had breached the 800 mark. There were no fireworks, no parades – just me blankly looking at my computer screen. For some reason, it had always seemed like such a major accomplishment to achieve. I am certainly not the Christopher Columbus of 800+ credit scores. Many people have achieved it ahead of me, and many still will. Personally, I don’t think it is something necessary to celebrate, but I want to show you that it is very possible to achieve. If it possible for me, its definitely possible for many of you out there. Just know, getting an 800 credit score won’t necessarily change your life, but getting there may require you to do so.
A lot of people get a head start on this credit score journey. Their parents give them authorized access to their cards, and they start building credit right away. Some of my friends already had car loans at a young age, while I was still getting around on a bicycle. I was first exposed to credit when I tried applying for my first credit card – and got rejected. I still remember how nervous I was trying to sign up for that credit card. It was akin to asking out a girl on a first date. How in the world was I to build credit without being able to get a credit card? Now, a lot of people have their first taste of credit with student loans. Those were fortunately (and weirdly, unfortunately) not an option for me, as I had saved and worked enough to bypass them.
Instead, I just kept applying for credit cards. It took me a few tries before I finally landed my first credit card – a student Discover card. And the cool thing about the Discover card was that it provided you with a free FICO score each billing cycle. I started out at a fairly decent 650 credit score. However, I knew what I really wanted – the magical 800 number.
The Long Road Ahead
It’s funny because as I’m writing this, I’m realizing the interesting parallel between my journey towards getting this 800 credit score and my own blog. I’m sure a lot of bloggers out there can relate. You don’t really want to care about numbers, but you have a goal in mind. And the less you try to care about the numbers, the more your brain suddenly wants to care. Having access to my credit score gave me a sudden obsession with increasing it. I wanted an 800 credit score and I wanted to get there quick.
I started researching obsessively on what a credit score is and what steps I needed to take in order to raise my credit score. Luckily for you, I’ve written an article on credit scores already, so feel free to check it out as well. One of the biggest factors on the credit score was the ability to pay off your credit card on a timely manner. I admit, this was something that was relatively easy for me. Firstly, I had always been pretty good with not spending more than what I had, so I treated the credit card no different than how I would a debit card. I paid off the balance as soon as it hit, usually at the end of the week. I wouldn’t purchase anything that I knew I wouldn’t be able to pay off. Secondly, my starting credit line was $500.
Well, one of the other key factors for increasing my credit score just happened to be something called credit utilization. Basically, if my balance is high in comparison to my total credit line, it’s seen as a risk. When I bought a college textbook, I would hit 50% of my credit utilization. That’s when I realized that I needed more credit.
Credit Growing Pains
Having just $500/month on my one credit card made it real difficult for me. It reminded me of when I had a cell phone plan with 200 texts a month. Having one conversation could drain a good portion of my monthly total. Likewise, I started applying for more credit cards. At this time, I didn’t realize, but each credit application chipped away a little at my credit score. After a few months of random applications, I ended up with 3 more credit cards. There was no real plan, I just had one goal in mind – to increase my credit limit.
And that I did. My credit limit jumped to over $3000 with the addition of these three new cards. I think most people are thrilled with an increase in spending limit. In my case, I couldn’t wait to see my next credit score on the billing cycle (I can already feel my fiance calling me a nerd).
Finally the moment came when I got to check my updated credit score. It felt like checking a test score where I expected I would do really well. And….the score had dropped.
I remember the disappointment I felt when checking my first SAT score. This had a similar effect. I thought I had done what was right in order to increase my credit score. I had been paying off all my bills on time, I had gotten a higher credit limit and decreased my card utilization below the recommended 30% threshold.
Well, this is where I would begin to learn that the greatest overall factor to increasing my credit score is time. I was doing all the right things, but my accounts were all so new, I just needed to keep up what I was doing and not focus on the score. That would increase naturally.
I didn’t learn that immediately either. I still checked every month and found that it still dropped for a little bit – and some factors I really wouldn’t be able to explain why. It’s really not a bad thing to check your credit score from time to time, especially with recent credit report scares. (Check out my Equifax article for info on how to protect your credit with the recent breaches). But, it’s not a good thing to be obsessed over your score. It was quite simple – I just needed to consistently do what I was doing over a long period of time. That’s what builds trust and ultimately increases your score.
Happily Ever After
And so at some point, some months later, my score bottomed out, and the chart began to show positive gains. It was great seeing the positive gains, but it was a greater feeling knowing that I was doing the right thing, and learning to not care so much about the numbers but about the fact that I was maintaining my credit responsibly.
So from there on out, I stopped religiously checking my credit score and just continued to pay off my bills and keep my utilization low. I did sign up for a couple more cards that ballooned my overall credit limit, but I didn’t go crazy with the signups as I had done earlier. As time went by, I knew my credit score was increasing in the background.
That brings me back to where I am today. Hitting an 800 credit score. The funny thing is, I had hit it a few months ago, but I hadn’t even noticed. That’s because ultimately it’s really just another number. Anyone can get to it. Ultimately, my experience is this: make wise choices with your credit and do it consistently. The score will come naturally.
Obviously this isn’t the end. Maintaining the 800+ credit score is still part of the game. I’ve had friends get six-packs and lose them within a month. I don’t want to be part of that statistic with my credit score.
What do you think? Did you think so highly of an 800 credit score before? Any crazy credit score stories? Definitely share in the comments below!