What is the highest credit score you can have?

Posted by CreditCardGuru

Q: Dear CreditCardGuru, I thought the credit score range only went up to 850 but when I checked mine on Experian, it said I have a 857?! Now I’m totally confused. What is the highest credit score you can get?

A: You are correct in that the highest credit score possible is 850 for FICO and the newest version of the Vantage Score. However, an older version of the VantageScore goes all the way up to 990. Here’s what you need to know about them.

FICO Score?

Fair Isaac Corporation developed the FICO score 27 years ago (1987). Since that time, it has definitely been the gold standard for credit scoring, as it is the score most commonly used by lenders. Even though some new pretenders to the thrown have come along in the last few years, FICO remains the king.

When you check your score, make sure it’s the real deal. As of Q3 2014, there are only TWO websites where you can buy real FICO scores and those are Equifax and MyFICO. All the other websites sell knockoffs because they don’t have a license for using the proprietary FICO scoring algorithm.

You have three FICO scores (one from each credit bureau), and each costs you $20 every time you check. However, rather than pay, you can actually get free access to your TransUnion FICO score if you have a card from Discover, or from Barclaycard:Most websites also get the average seriously wrong, too. A FICO score can range from 300 to 850. There is a lot of misinformation out there as to what the average score is (many sources cite numbers in the 670’s). While that may be technically correct, those with ultra-low scores are dragging down the average (mean) big time. To get a better idea of what the average person has, you should be looking at the median instead – the number which is exactly in the middle (50 percent are lower and 50 percent are higher).

So what’s the median credit score? Well for years, FICO reported it as being 723. However, in 2010 they decided this statistic was now “proprietary information” and stopped publicly releasing it. That said, it’s probably safe to assume the median still hovers around 723.

VantageScore?

Being that Fair Isaac was making money hand over fist with their FICO, it comes as no surprise that others wanted a piece of the action. The three credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax – launched the VantageScore in 2006 to compete with FICO.

Comparing the VantageScore vs FICO score

So what is the highest credit score you can have on VantageScore? It used to be 990, and the lowest used to be 501. The range changed last year and is now 300 to 850, just like FICO.

Use this chart from the VantageScore website to compare the old and new scoring systems:

Vantage score ranges

The exact formulas used for both FICO and VantageScore are kept top secret, so beyond an educated guess no one can say with 100 percent certainty how they are calculated. However some of the components that go into the scoring formula are made public and the table below allows you to compare them side-by-side:

FICO vs Vantage Score

As you see the VantageScore formula uses six components, versus the FICO formula which consists of five. What you need to keep in mind though is that each major component consists of several sub-components (of which the percentages for each aren’t publicly available). So actually the two formulas are more similar than they may appear at first glance. Let me give you an example:

According to FICO’s website, the “Amount Owed” category consists of:

  • Number of accounts with balances
  • Amount owed on accounts
  • Amount owed on specific account types
  • Proportion of credit lines used
  • Proportion of installment debt which is owed
  • Lack of a specific type of balance, in some cases

Those six sub-components, when combined, equal 30 percent of your credit score.

On the other hand, VantageScore doesn’t have an “Amounts Owed” category but judging from their category names, one can make an educated guess that they still look at those six sub-components. The difference is that it appears they aren’t all grouped under the same mother category.

Are they apples to apples?

Unfortunately there’s no formula that will enable you to convert your VantageScore to your FICO and vice versa.

Still, either one will allow you to monitor your credit health and track your credit-improvement process. Just check your FICO scores before applying for any major loan, because those are what lenders are most likely to be checking. For all its good intentions, the VantageScore hasn’t become widely used in the lending business. Whether it goes the way of the beta-max remains to be seen.

The Bottom Line?

Of course we all want the best, but the highest possible credit score — the 850 FICO — is almost unattainable. In fact, there are many loan officers that have been in the business for years who have said they’ve never seen a perfect 850 credit score before. Furthermore, a credit score in the high-700′s will usually get you the best rates anyway. Ultimately, instead of focusing on reaching the highest credit score possible, concentrate your efforts on having:

  • A good mix of credit (revolving accounts like credit cards as well as installment accounts, like mortgages, student loans or car loans)
  • Keep your credit utilization on revolving accounts low (no more than 30 percent of your limit, but ideally, under 10%)
  • The older the accounts, the better! If you have an old credit card you hate, don’t cancel it. Keep it open and use it occasionally since that account may be helpful for your score given its age. However if the card has an annual fee and you’re not using it, then usually it does make sense to cancel.

How I reached an 800 FICO by my mid-20s

A number of our members have been able to achieve quite a lofty credit score quite early, often getting into the mid-700′s or higher in their 20′s.

What’s their secret? Credit cards and a lots of them! In fact many rely solely on cards to grow their scores rather than student, auto or mortgage loans.

When managed responsibly, credit cards can be a powerful tool for increasing your score. It can be effective to have several different cards from different banks and card networks (Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express). Don’t worry, you don’t have to use all of them at once! Just use a couple at a time and rotate them every three to four months. Rinse and repeat. That’s what many credit-savvy people have been doing to build their scores and it has proven effective over time.

Specifically, it’s recommended to look for credit cards that have no annual fee. That way you won’t mind keeping them open for the long term (and doing that will increase the average age of your accounts).

Last updated July 25, 2014


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32 comments... read them below or add your own

  1. Keep It Simple November 18, 2014 at 3:51PM

    Found out my FICO score is 828. And yes this is the actual FICO score, from the actual credit reporting agency. I didn’t try or aim for a “perfect score”. I just pay my bills on time and have been doing so for 15+ years. I have a lot of credit cards though, I just never use them. I use one credit card and I put everything I can on it as I get cashback. By everything, I mean everything….utility bills, cell phone, groceries, gas, school tuition for my kids, etc. My balance every month is in the $5000 to $7000 range and I pay it off in full. The rest of the cards just sit there, but my total available credit is close to $100K so my used credit every month for credit cards is under 10%.

    I have a mortgage as well. And no other debt…no car loans, no student loans (paid those off years ago), no installment loans.

    So the moral of the story seems to be keep debt % low and pay your bill on time every month and you’re good to go with a super high FICO score.

  2. Lil April 29, 2014 at 7:32PM

    I have no income, no debt, and only one credit card. I have never made a late payment, and I typically keep my credit card usage to under 30% but over 5% (so it doesn’t get cancelled due to low utilization). I’ve had my one card since I was 18, and I am now 28. I just hit 800. So, you don’t have to have a ton of credit cards. However, if you go this route, plan to pay for most things upfront and with cash.

  3. Mark February 23, 2014 at 12:00PM

    FICO and Vantage is explained somewhat. Does anyone understand Insurance Scores? Supposedly scale 1 to 50. A 22 doubles cost for homeowner insurance with FICO at 800 ?

    • Chellie March 6, 2014 at 11:37AM

      Different companies use different “tier”-ing for insurance scores so one company may sock the cost to you for an average score when another may mildly discount you.

  4. Nonsmiley January 18, 2014 at 2:47PM

    My best guess for all the scores that exceed the possible scores is what the author mentioned: some sites that “guess” at the algorithm used to compute the actual scores and then pass themselves off as the real deal.

  5. Dannice Fuller December 15, 2013 at 8:13AM

    I’m really trying to boost my credit back up I owned several homes and lost a few to foreclosures and short sales I have quite a few medical bills an my score is lower than its ever been I hired a credit repair company a little over 2 week ago and my score has went up 7 points I got a capital one approval for a secured card but they seem to have a lot of fees im scared that might make my situationworse what other options do I have?

  6. SealFase November 29, 2013 at 9:00PM

    Here are some current facts: I have no regular access to my FICO score but I do have on demand access to my Vantage Score. I just purchased a vehicle because of 0/60 financing. The dealer finance guy said to me “what do you think your credit score is?” I said “I know my credit score is 990.” He said we don’t use Vantage we use FICO. He said he didn’t believe my Vantage was 990. Before I left his office he handed me the credit run he did on me which showed my FICO score on it with Experian as the source. It is 847 and it says I’m in the 98th percentile. BUT it also shows a possible range of scores is 250-877. My Vantage of 990 has been for over two years so I’m not sure how it calculates out to a FICO of 847 if the high end could be 877. I’ll leave it to the experts.

  7. Mike D October 21, 2013 at 9:03AM

    I’m a little stumped, I have always paid my bills on time, I can see from my credit report that it looks good from that perspective, but I only have a 730 score.
    Now I use one of my cards for work and spend a lot of money with a $75k credit limit. I pay that balance at the end of every month, yet only a 730. I have been paying all bills timely and complete for more than 20 years so I don’t get why I’m not up there higher score wise. Any ideas?
    Do I get rid of cards I don’t use? anything else I can do?

  8. Nathan October 16, 2013 at 11:49AM

    Yes, mine is 994.

    Kind of blows the maximum of 990 out of the water – Credit Experts!

  9. Bubba July 29, 2013 at 9:59AM

    My bank just told me that I am in the 98% with Experian. I have a score of 837 out of a total 844. Why is Experian’s total lower than FICO’s? I’d like to know that. Under the Truth In Lending Act there should be an amendment that would require all credit reporting agencies to use the same scale, ie. 1-100, 1-1000, etc. That way everyone would know what your ‘true’ score is.

  10. Kathleen July 9, 2013 at 6:13PM

    This explains a lot. I have been very confused in the past about the highest score, and did not realize that there were actually 2 different scoring systems.
    I recently was looking around at the different sites regarding consumer credit watch programs. I found that some ‘guru’ recommended the myFico.com. So I did the trial, but I want to warn others that its just one big site trying to get you to buy more of their products. It takes forever to actually get to your updated score without accidentally buying more unwanted product. I say avoid that one.

  11. Jill April 15, 2013 at 6:15AM

    This is such an old article, maybe nobody will see my comment, but it is worth a shot.

    I was with you (original author) until you claimed that the best way to build credit is to open 10 credit card accounts and cycle them. This is very irresponsible.

    One, the more credit card accounts you have, the easier a target you are for identity theft. More accounts = more targets, and unless they are all backed by the same bank? Forget about keeping track of them easily.

    Two, which is more a corollary to one, like I said, the more cards you have, the easier it is to forget about one, to miss one, to lose one, etc.

    Three, as far as benefits and rewards are concerned? You want to pick one card and stick with it or you’ll never see ANY of the perks of having a credit card account! These days, the only tangible advantage of credit over debit comes in the form of rewards. (Promotional APR is okay, but it can put you into bad habits of not paying your balance off in full each month.)

    It’s good to have SOME credit cards. 5 max. Your first credit card should be your primary one, so make that choice very carefully. If somebody adds you as an authorized user? That is added to your credit history all the same, so if you are a teenager, have your parents add you to a solid account once you turn 16 (or whatever the required age is in your state). It’s true you should keep your oldest account open – to Tom, your card will always appear on your credit report, but it won’t be included in your score, so you will still “lose the history” in a sense.

    The best way these days to build credit, especially for young people? Car payments and student loans. When you go to school, even if you have a college savings or a scholarship and don’t need loans, *take one out anyway* and pay it promptly upon graduation within your grace period before interest begins to accrue. You won’t lose any money, and you will end up building your credit. These days, buying a house is so far off in the future for many of us, and the job market is so unreliable, that a mortgage is an unreliable goal, so look for smaller loans you can take that can help build credit. If you buy a car, even if you’ve got the cash for it, don’t pay it off on the spot. Haggle your way to a 0% financing agreement and pay off the car within the time frame given. Again, you don’t lose money, and you build credit.

    But anybody reading this article and thinking “let me open a dozen credit card accounts” is going to get into big trouble! DO NOT DO THIS. For one, every time you open a new account, your score drops a little. Too many cards in too short a time (think 5 cards in 6 months)? Your score will drop enough to actually harm your “reliability” to lenders. Again, DON’T DO IT.

    There are more beneficial and reliable ways to up your score that don’t pose as large a risk to you.

    Source? I’m a student financial advisor at a top-50 college in the US. I walk students through their debt and teach them about credit.

    • James October 10, 2013 at 5:36AM

      Really, Jill? What are your numbers? You don’t know a darn thing about credit and how to be in the 800 club. You don’t know what you’re talking about…. you just think you do. The more good credit you have reporting the better. And having 10 cards every month stating that you’re a good borrower makes a lot of sense.

    • Michelle February 23, 2014 at 8:29PM

      Jill,

      You live in fear. Pick one card and stick with it or never see the rewards? Really? That’s a little “going overboard”. Don’t get 10 cards and rotate them?! What works, works. Obviously, you have to be responsible (even if you only have one card, you still have to be responsible) It sounds like you have a very dictatorship attitude towards how/what students should do. I feel bad for them. And telling them to get student loans?!? Student loans are horrible! There are so many students out there, broke and in debt thousands and thousands of dollars that will take them their lifetime to pay off because they weren’t making a million when they graduated. Most credit cards start off with limits of a few hundred or maybe $1,000 or so which can be paid off much easier than $100,000 student loans. Think about what you’re doing to all those kids-you’re setting them up for financial failure. Is that what the top 50 colleges teach nowadays? Remind me not to go there.

      • Kio June 18, 2014 at 12:54PM

        Wow.

        Did you even bother to read Jill’s post?

        Yeah, what works, works… but her cautionary note on identity theft is not only valid, it’s also extremely important. More cards equals more opportunities for someone to grab your info without you noticing right away. And yes, every time you open a new account, your FICO score takes a hit. If you’re responsibly, it’s a small and temporary one… but how many young people who have never had a credit card before are really THAT responsible?

        Second point… kids get into trouble with loans because they don’t pay them off within the grace period. Jill SPECIFICALLY advises paying them in full within the grace period, so I’m not sure what your problem is there. Now, granted, this means that if you don’t NEED a loan and decide to take one for credit score purposes that you ALSO can’t fritter away the savings you were originally going to pay for college with… but hopefully a college student has at least enough common sense to realize that.

    • Mary Adams May 16, 2014 at 10:49PM

      It makes perfect sense. Keep up the great work.

  12. Alex April 10, 2013 at 2:33PM

    This article was awesome!! Thank you. Being fairly new to the credit repair and credit score arena I am constantly trying to gather as much information as possible to try and keep myself headed in the right general direction. Spending some time on this post has actually given me a lot of great points to think about. In my recent research I have also been able to find some useful information related to this topic when I Googled the credit locker university. This was helpful as well. Thanks again!

  13. Dave Miller March 15, 2013 at 9:44AM

    I co-signed for my daughter and they ran my credit through TransUnion and it came back 1,200 is that possible??

    • Ralph July 16, 2013 at 4:34PM

      No it is not possible. The highest at TransUnion is 990. They use the vantage system.

  14. Tom December 27, 2012 at 10:02AM

    Why do people always say, “Keep your credit card open! Don’t close it, even if you don’t use it currently! You don’t want to lose your credit history.”

    I checked my credit report a few months ago and credit cards that I cancelled over 5 years ago still appeared on there with a monthly record of how I as a customer performed.

    It really seems to me like when people say that they are saying it for the benefit of the credit card companies. Because it’s always accompanied by, “It MAY help your credit score,” as though it were a magical process not understood even by those who calculate the scores.

    • Ralph July 16, 2013 at 4:53PM

      The reason why you should never cancel a cred is that one factor in determining your score is how much credit line you have vs. how much you owe. It is best to owe little and have a large line of credit. For example if I had 5 credit cards with a total limit of $50,000 on all the cards, and I owe $5,000. My credit limit is $45,000. If you had 5 credit card with the same limit, and decide to cancel 4 cards, your credit limit would go done fast to 10k. This would also set off alarm bells, indicating that you have financial problems. Cause that’s what people do when they have financial problems – cancel their credit cards. The best thing to do is to not cancel the cards, but don’t use them. If you don’t trust yourself, cut the card up, but don’t tell the card company. Hope it helps.

      • drewski October 18, 2013 at 11:18AM

        smart man.

  15. Wendy December 4, 2012 at 12:14PM

    So if you hit a bad patch a while back, say 6 to 7 years ago, and have not had any credit cards, loans, mortgage or car payments since, will all those negative hits fall off your credit report so that you will get to the point of not having enough info to calculate a credit rating?

  16. Don’t let small doctor bill or a late movie bill reduce your credit rating October 11, 2012 at 7:15PM

    One big mistake people can make is not to pay some frivolous bill. I pretty much have an attitude that I am not paying a bill that is not correct. Well if your going to take this approach you had better contact the company that is sending the bill to you. Tell them the bill is incorrect and that you would be more than happy to pay what is due, but only what is truly owed to them. Be nice, your intentions are to fix the problem so you don’t get a bad credit ding or rating by not paying the bill. A small bill like that can ding your credit score by many points. Its not worth it so try to negotiate the bill in your favor and correct the problem if at all possible. If not pay the $25-$50 dollar bill. Its not worth the ding on your credit.

    The other alternative is to challenge the company that is making the claims that you owe money. You can do this by writing all 3 credit reporting agencies and explaining to them in writing that the charges are inaccurate for what ever reason that is true or that the amount they say you owe them is incorrect.

    By writing a formal letter with details about the inaccuracy of the company billing you, you can get the bad credit ding off of your credit report (but only temporarily for 30 days). The company that is accusing you of owing them money will have to respond to your allegations and they will have to respond to the credit reporting company in less than 30 days. If they dont respond to the credit reporting company within that time, then the credit reporting agency has to by law, remove the bad credit associated with the company that did not respond. If they do, I said do, respond, then you have to do this again (send your data again to all 3 agencies) every 30 days until the company against you does not respond to the credit agencies. You will be surprised how quickly you can fix your credit by doing this. Most companies forget to respond and then your credit with that ding is fixed.

    And if you keep sending this data to the credit agencies every 30 days they will take the ding off your credit until the opposing company forgets to respond and they will eventually forget and then that ding will be fixed. Look up the Fair Credit Reporting Act for more information. Good luck. And dont get discouraged. Be persistant.

    I happen to have a current Fico Credit score of 847 and my bank that I have been doing business with for 30 years just denied me an increase in a personal line of credit with them. My current personal line of credit is $18,500 and I use it occasionally but always pay off the balance every month. I also have a business line of credit for $25,000 with a zero balance as well. I even spend several thousand dollars on both of them but always pay them off in two weeks after using them. I also pay $200 extra every month on my home mortgage which the loan is half paid for already.

    I recently asked them to increase my personal line credit from 18.500 to $25,000 and their answer was that they thought it should stay at $18,500. 30 years of loyalty and a credit score of 847 and tons of assets including land and credit and money in the bank and absolutely no late payments in the last 28 years. go figure

    If you do have a line of credit with a department store or visa etc… Its a good idea to ask them to increase it after you prove to them that you always pay on time and you have most of the credit available on the card. They will usually increase your credit limit after you have shown them you are trustworthy and you are consistent in paying the cc bill. It can take 6 months to one year before they will increase your credit. And usually only if you have paid your bills on time and dont have a big balance on your card. Raising your credit limit will also raise your credit rating as long as your not maxing out your credit cards and not making late payments.

    My moto is don’t buy what you cannot afford. Good things come to those who wait! And money in your pocket is power. I recently bought a 1973 camaro muscle car.. Big block new paint incredibly fast and powerful as well as beautiful. The car is worth $20,000. I paid $8500 for it. Had I not saved that kind of cash, I would not have bought the car when it came up for sale. And I was basically the first guy to show up with the cash to buy it. Several people were drooling over the car but didn’t have the cash. But none the less, money is power. I can easily more than double my money now, but had I not had the cash I could not have bought the car to sell for profit.

    Think of how many times you have heard of something for sale at an incredible price. If you only had the money. Well start saving and start going without. Sometimes less is more! When you do have enough to pay cash for the thing you want, You will be free from debt even after you make the purchase. It is an incredible and powerful feeling to be able to buy what you want when you want to or when you find that incredible deal. But it wont come without some sacrifice. So be persistent in saving and that will increase your credit worthiness as well.

    Wanted to throw that out for the younger crowd. Again good luck everyone!

    • DG January 15, 2013 at 8:02AM

      We are cut from the same mold. I am trying to instill this type of due diligence and saving philosophy in my teenage sons and it is starting to pay off. Great commentary.
      -Less certainly is more.

  17. Fico conversion to Vantage Score October 11, 2012 at 5:34PM

    As previously mentioned if the highest FICO score is 850 and the highest Vantage Score is 990 then to roughly figure out your VantageScore you should calculate that by doing the following. Take 850 divided by 990 equals .86 now take your fico score for example lets say it is 825 divided by .86 equals 959 Vantage score.
    So your vantagescore would be 959 if your fico score is 825. Granted Vantagescore uses other information to calculate but this could be considered close or within reason without knowing the exact formula they use.

    If your fico score is 725 your vantagescore is 843 725 divided by .86 = 843

    I think this is what the author meant to explain in the above explanation but made a mistake by multiplying .86 instead of dividing by .86 Hope that is helpful.

    • BillyBob April 3, 2013 at 12:56AM

      No, the author had it correct. You read it backwards. The author was explaining how to figure what your FICO score might be, by converting your known vantagescore. This would be done by multiplying the vantagescore by .86. Your math above is correct but you were doing the opposite of what the author was explaining.

  18. Funny Guy May 9, 2012 at 2:49PM

    James Donavon — You have no credit. Don’t be a liar. You’re dyslexic. It’s actually a rating of 666. Sorry for the news.

  19. John April 29, 2012 at 9:30PM

    From WHERE on the FICO/VantangeScore number scale (“0″ and working upwards, or “850/990″ and working downwards!) is a credit score COMPUTED? THAT is the real information that needs to be known! The computational method may be “proprietary” or “logarithmic” or whatever, but it has to START SOMEWHERE! WHERE IS THAT?

    • CreditCardGuru May 1, 2012 at 10:51PM

      I believe its logarithmic but there is no starting place, per say. Because if you don’t have the minimum info on your report, then they just spit back that it’s no possible to generate a credit report for you.

    • Ralph July 16, 2013 at 5:05PM

      I old agree. However, once the formula is released where a person can find out a score on both scales, the proprietary information is then useless. That’s the way i see it.

  20. James Donavon January 18, 2012 at 12:15AM

    I have a rating of 999 with Experian (UK). How is this possible?

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