790 Credit Score Is Good, But Don’t Make This Mistake

My credit score resultsWhile I don’t maintain an active subscription to any credit score monitoring service, on occasion I will signup for a free trial so I can check my FICO score (and then cancel the subscription before the free trial is up).

I did this last night and low and behold, the number came back about 10-15 points lower than I was expecting – I now have a 790 credit score.

Is 790 a good credit score? Absolutely. It *should* qualify you for the best on everything, from mortgage rates to credit card APRs.

However, a credit score of 790 can still stand improvement. Why is that? Because many years ago when the economy was in a tailspin I heard from many on the forum with scores of 10 to 25 points higher than that, who were getting approved with (a) pitiful toy credit limits, and/or (b) getting denied outright. However, that was due less to their credit scores and more because of the state of shock big banks were in following the near collapse of capitalism. Sure, they got billions in free money from the fed to lend out to consumers but rather than doing that they paid themselves huge bonuses and invested the funds in other ways (like buying back their own stock). I digress, but that whole episode in our history still makes me mad.

Bottom line? A credit score of 790 is still considered pretty impressive in 2016, but if the economy takes a nosedive (like it is threatening to do in this seventh year of the bull market) you may need to be prepared to forgo the best interest rates and credit limits.

So what’s holding my scores down? Well this is what MyFICO is showing me…

My credit score of 790
I typically apply for several credit cards per year, but have been slowing that down in anticipation of buying a house soon. I only applied for 2 new ones so far this year and apparently, that was enough to weigh me down a bit. Underneath in the details it says:

“FICO High Achievers opened their most recent account 27 months ago, on average”

Now there’s no way I can go that long without applying for a new credit card, but it appears having one recently within the past 6-9 months might have an impact if you have a relatively high 790 credit score. Interestingly enough, the Citi card I applied for 10 months ago is apparently not an issue, only the ones which were within 6 or so months ago.

That being said, there are some other factors which are weighing me down too, which unfortunately, I have little control over…

FICO score ingredients

  • Payment History: Paying bills on time is something I can control, which is why it’s ranked as “Great.”
  • Amount of Debt: My credit utilization rate (ratio of your revolving balances to credit limits) is great at 6%, which is right in line with their “High Achievers” average. However my guess is what’s hurting me is that I only have one installment loan and it’s for a very low amount. Two years ago I took the loan out on a used car purchase for the sole reason of getting an installment loan on my credit report. Being that I don’t have a mortgage or any other installment loans, low installment debt is likely impeding my FICO score.
  • Amount of New Credit: Notice that even with my new credit cards (2 this spring plus 1 last winter) I still come in at “very good” for this category. So opening an account here and there won’t really hurt your credit score, but it’s probably best to limit this to a few per year.
  • Length of Credit History: This is the only category that’s just “Good” and is completely outside of my control. MyFICO tells me that the so called high achievers “opened their oldest account 19 years ago, on average.”  If you do the math that means I would have to be 37 years old to hit that average, assuming I applied for credit as soon as I hit 18 (which I did). So I have quite a ways to go to build my length up to that and unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do to speed up the process.


If you plan on applying for a mortgage within the next six to nine months, it’s probably not advisable to be applying for new cards or other forms of credit.

That being said, if your goal is to surpass a 790 FICO score within the next 12+ months, then it might make sense to open a card or two now if you don’t currently have many on your account. That way the accounts will begin aging and in the future, they will help your average age of accounts (your so-called AAoA). I have numerous credit cards and I know for a fact that definitely helps me – it keeps my total utilization low and all the accounts with perfect payment histories look good. But the key is to not have all your cards be recent acquisitions, but rather accumulating them over time and keeping them open.

Written or last edited on January 13, 2016

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Response to DD. many people like myself will take advantage of 0% interest cards for new purchases, I.e. New patio furniture, big car repair, etc.. The balance is paid before the intro rate expires, then on to the next card as needed. For every day purchases I use a rewards card That I have been using for many years.

Brian, I completely understand opening new cards to take advantage of promo offers. However, as has been mentioned by the other comments, every time you open a new card you are LOWERING your average age of credit. Which is something that does factor into your FICO score. Granted, this isn’t a big deal at all if you only open a new CC account once every few years or so. But if you’re regularly opening up two or more credit cards per year, in general that will have a NEGATIVE effect on your credit score.

Besides, there IS such a thing as having too many credit cards. That’s because, past a certain point, a huge amount of open and available credit actually makes you a higher risk credit profile. While it may make a person feel good to have $100,000 worth of credit available on multiple credit cards, the banks look at this and say, “This person has a huge and easy opportunity to over-extend himself.”

My FICO score is currently 819. I have four credit cards (two Visa, one MasterCard and one AMEX) with a combined credit limit of $64,000. My oldest CC account is 17 years old, and my average CC age is 11 years old. I keep my credit utilization between 2%-3% at all times. You actually DON’T want to have a 0% credit card utilization rate, as that hurts your score. The sweet spot is between 1%-3%. Just enough to give the credit bureaus something to measure, but small enough that banks and lenders see you know how to responsibly handle credit.

So, I achieved a relatively high FICO score with just four credit cards. Oh, and there’s another downside to having a bajillion credit card accounts open; the more accounts you have, the higher the likelilhood that one of those accounts will be compromised by criminal activity. Trust me…criminals are VERY sophisticated these days, and you don’t even have to do anything wrong for them to be able to steal your CC number. Heck, I had a credit card number stolen for a card I had never even used! I have no idea how that even happened, and didn’t know that was even possible. I suspect it was an inside job at the bank. Regardless, my point remains…if you have a ton of credit cards, you MUST check them every month to ensure they aren’t being used. That’s a hassle. And yet another reason you really DON’T need a bunch of credit cards.

As Mike and others point out, the writer’s biggest problem is indeed his habit of opening several new credit cards every year. As Mike points out this will keep his AAoA (average age of accounts) low, a very important factor in the FICO score. But the writer seems unaware of AAoA and seems to think that all that matters in the age/depth category is the age of his oldest account.

Note that the writer regards opening only two cards per year as a huge slow-down from what he has been doing! This means he has been applying for credit cards at a very high rate and presumably has many already. While he may be an exception, statistically that is a behavior closely linked to risk from a lender’s perspective, and that fact is built into the FICO model. (Not only via AAoO, but also looking at how many revolving lines of credit have been added in the last 6 month, 12 months, 18 months, etc. which FICO can do by looking at the date opened).

Another source of confusion is his section on installment debt. He thinks his problem is that the AMOUNT of his installment loan was small. This is another deep misunderstanding. His problem here is that he lacks multiple installment loans in his history. The fact that he only has one (and that this was very recent) is the problem — not the size of the loan itself.

Finally he falls into the common pattern of trashing all credit scores other than FICO. (His distinction between “FAKO” vs. FICO scores.) VantageScore is a sound scoring algorithm. The current range for VS is the same as FICO (in contrast to what the writer suggests) and it was designed by the three credit bureaus, so it is pretty good. As long as you are tracking a given score relative to itself over time (rather than trying to compare say an Equifax FICO to a TransUnion VantageScore) you are likely to be fine.

The author of this piece is well intentioned and a nice fellow but I encourage his to do a lot more research on how credit scoring really works — then I am sure he’ll have a lot of valuable stuff to say.

Having many accounts does NOT help your credit, if anything it hurts it… First of all, if you are constantly opening new accounts, this brings down the AVERAGE age of your accounts, which is one of the things your score is based on. A longer AVERAGE age helps your score, so whenever you open a new account, you are bringing down your average age and hurting your score… Second, many lenders take into consideration all of your available credit and deduct it from whatever they would otherwise be willing to lend you.. If you would’ve qualified for a $200,000 mortgage, but you have $50,000 credit available on all your cards, then they might only be willing to lend you $150,000.
My wife only has three credit cards, and she has an 850 FICO score. She used to have many open cards, but her score has gone way up since we cancelled all the cards she never used. I’m wondering if there’s anyone out there who opens new accounts ever year with an 850 FICO score, but I doubt it.

Will my score be affected if I close cards such as Macys, Sears, etc? Should I just keep them?

Ricardo Roel Pena

790 huh, HOW YA LIKE ME NOW!!!

Great work keep it up I just boosted my credit score last month to a high FICO SCORE of 790 yup thats right I finally did it so Go us. Here was my trick instead of applying for new credit which the inquiries will effect your score by 1/3 of a point Just ask for a increase on your credit limit that will give you more money and a better SCORE

I’m at 705 right now and my goals is to get to 780 or 790 by 2014. Think I can do it?

“If you have to use credit during a down economy, maybe your finances aren’t as good as you think they are.”

Why wouldn’t you charge to credit if rewards are offering 5% cash back or other incentives? Makes no sense to debit or use cash and effectively gain nothing.

“Now there’s no way I can go that long without applying for a new credit card”

And why is that?

According to my credit report, I haven’t applied for a new credit card in over 3 years, and it hasn’t had any negative effective on me.

If you pay off your cards every month, once you have enough cards to meet your needs and you like the particular rewards program you’ve chose, what’s the point of getting more cards?

If you have to use credit during a down economy, maybe your finances aren’t as good as you think they are. Just a thought….