How I Got My Credit Score to 818

Christy Bieber, The Motley Fool

After years of effort, I have a credit score of 818. Here's how I got my score to be so high.

Tablet showing credit score of 811.

Image source: Getty Images. 

While it may seem like just another number, your credit score is actually one of the biggest factors affecting your financial security. A good credit score makes it easy to be approved for loans on favorable terms, and provides flexibility in when and how you borrow.

I know firsthand how important having good credit is, because my credit score helped me qualify for very low mortgage rates that made my home payments much more affordable. It also allows me access to great credit cards with rewards programs that provide hundreds of dollars in rewards.

My credit score does all this for me because it’s 818, which is considered to be an excellent score. If you’re wondering how it got to be so high, here are the steps I’ve taken to raise my score to this excellent range.

I have many different different kinds of debt on my credit report

My credit report has 13 different credit cards, two open mortgage loans, two closed mortgage loans, a paid-off car loan, and five paid-off student loans.

This mix of available credit is looked upon favorably by creditors because it shows I’ve been responsible with lots of different kinds of credit. In fact, having a mix of credit makes up for 10% of your total score.

Some of those loans, including mortgage and student loans, I took out due to necessity. But my auto loan I borrowed only to get a new type of account on my credit report and I paid it off in full three months later. This was worth doing because I knew my spouse and I would be applying for a mortgage in a few years and I wanted to have the highest credit score possible when I did.

I ask for credit line increases every chance I get

I have $164,800 in available credit across the accounts I have open, including two cards with $55,000 limits. This is not because I’m about to go on a massive spending spree. It’s because I’ve worked diligently over the years to raise my credit limit every chance I get.

When you have open credit cards, card issuers generally give you the chance to periodically increase your credit line without a hard inquiry on your credit report. You’ll usually see “Request a Credit Line Increase” under account tools or account services when this option becomes available to you.

I regularly sign into each of my credit card accounts and every time I see the option to request a credit line increase, I take it. I usually request only around a $5,000 or $10,000 increase to better the chances my request will be accepted -- and it always is. This has helped me get achieve my astronomical amount of open credit.

Having access to so much credit means I can keep my credit utilization ratio very low. Credit utilization ratio is determined by dividing the amount of credit used by the amount of credit available. It should be kept below 30% to avoid hurting your score, but the lower the better. Since I have so much available credit, I’d need to charge a whole lot before my utilization ratio got dangerously high and my score suffered.

I’ve paid off tons of debt

Another big reason that my score is so high is because I’ve successfully paid off many accounts in full.

I paid off a past mortgage in full when we sold a house, and I also paid off all five student loans on my credit report. Plus, I paid off that auto loan I got only to boost my credit score. Having these paid-off accounts shows I’ve been responsible in paying my bills in the past and am likely to continue to do so.

I automate my monthly payments

Missing a payment is one of the worst things that can happen to your credit score, and one missed payment can drop a good score by more than 100 points. To make sure this never happens, I’ve automated my credit card payments each month so my card is always paid off in full. The money simply comes out of my bank account so I can’t make a careless error and forget.

In fact, I’ve set up automatic payments for the day my statement comes so I’m not waiting until close to the deadline. Not only does this help me develop a positive payment history, but it also means my credit card issuers generally report a low or $0 balance every month. We use our credit cards for everything so we often have a balance of several thousand dollars to pay monthly. If we didn’t pay off that balance ASAP, our credit utilization ratio would suffer.

I limit the amount of credit I apply for

Although I have a lot of different accounts open, I also avoid opening too many new credit cards or taking out too many loans. Doing so can hurt your average age of credit and it can also result in too many inquiries on your credit report.

While I’m tempted sometimes to open a store card to get a discount or to open a new credit card to take advantage of a special promotional offer, I avoid doing these things because I know a good score is more important.

I’m an authorized user on my husband’s credit cards

Finally, my husband and I list each other as authorized users on our credit cards. We do this because then each of these cards shows up on both our credit reports and we piggyback off each other’s good credit habits.

My average age of accounts is older because I have some of his old accounts showing up on my report, and the same is true for him. We also both have higher amounts of credit available thanks to the fact the cards show up on both our reports.

Of course, we can do this only because we’re both committed to having credit scores above 800 -- and, in fact, we tend to have a friendly competition over whose score is higher.

Good credit has had practical benefits

It may seem silly to take out an auto loan just to boost your credit score or to continually request credit line inquiries to raise your available credit. But our mortgage interest rates are among the lowest available in the last decade, and we’ve saved thousands of dollars already on our mortgage.

Getting a good credit score was definitely worth the effort, especially when it doesn’t take too much work on my part. It’s just a simple matter of having a good mix of credit, paying off debt, and paying every bill on time -- which are good habits to have anyway.

The Motley Fool owns and recommends MasterCard and Visa, and recommends American Express. We’re firm believers in the Golden Rule. If we wouldn’t recommend an offer to a close family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Ascent either. Our number one goal is helping people find the best offers to improve their finances. That is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.