Got an 800-plus credit score? Do these 3 things

Excellent credit earns you savings, rewards and perks - if you act

Dawn Papandrea
Personal Finance Writer
Specializes in family finances

Excellent credit score? Do these 3 things

You’ve been making all the right credit moves: eliminating debt, consistently paying all bills on time and opening new credit with care. Your reward? You’ve achieved excellent credit of 800-plus.

Congratulations for winning the credit game. It’s time to collect your prizes in the form of tangible savings, rewards and perks.

Within the credit score range of 300-850, just 20 percent of consumers had scores above 800 as of April 2017, according to research from FICO, the company that created the most widely used credit score. 

If you’ve been getting awesome offers for elite credit cards in the mail, go check your credit score. There’s a good possibility you’re approaching top score territory, too.

Excellent credit qualifies you for top-tier benefits

Years before Kevin King, a credit consultant business owner and personal finance podcaster, became known by the moniker The 800 Credit Score Man, the only plastic he could get with his 585 credit score was a JC Penney credit card with a $100 limit. He made improvements over time, and was pleasantly surprised when he took advantage of a free credit score check and discovered it had climbed to 805.

“The first thing I did was call my brother because he was the only person in the world who knew how low my score was. It was a great feeling. It gave me a sense of pride, swagger, and I felt that I had clout,” he says.

Beyond clout, high credit scorers such as King also gain access to top-notch consumer benefits.

“Excellent credit gives you leverage to take advantage of the best kinds of offers that lenders and other businesses might make to get you and keep you as a customer,” says Rod Griffin, director of public education for Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus.

Ready to start taking advantage of your top-notch credit status? Here are three big moves you should consider once you join the “excellent” credit score club.

1. Ask for lower interest rates, higher credit limits

The first thing Wayne Sanford, owner of the Texas-based credit counseling firm Credit Bureau Investigations, recommends doing is contacting your current credit issuers to see if they can offer you a better deal.

“Call up and say, ‘I just checked my credit score and it was above 780, so why am I still paying this high interest rate?’ A good chunk of them will drop the rate down for you,” he says. And if that doesn’t work and you’re carrying a high-interest balance, it may be a good time to look into a 0 percent balance transfer card deal, or look into applying for a new, low APR card.

While you’re on the line with your credit card issuer, you also can ask for an increase to your credit line. If successful, this is a good win since it can make maintaining a great credit utilization ratio a bit easier if you tend to carry balances on your cards from time to time.

With a top score, you’ve already been good about not using too much of your available credit, but a higher limit gives you a bit more wiggle room should you wish to finance a larger purchase over a few months.

Tip

Tip: “The higher you are up the mountain, the longer the fall,” says Sanford. In other words, with a high credit score, even the slightest slip-up can cause as much as a 100-point drop. That said, don’t start overspending just because you have a lower rate or a higher limit.

2. Upgrade to better credit cards

Some people like the status quo, sticking with the same cards they first opened in their early 20s. While that’s great for length of credit history purposes, you could be missing out on big rewards and benefits – especially with a soaring score.

“Excellent credit scores will qualify you for the latest rare metal or expensive jewel-named cards – whether it’s platinum or diamond or black,” says Griffin. To see which cards you now qualify for, use CreditCards.com’s CardMatch tool. By inputting a few key details, CardMatch will pull up card offers based on your credit standing, and no hard inquiries are generated.

"The first thing I did was call my brother because he was the only person in the world who knew how low my score was. It was a great feeling. It gave me a sense of pride, swagger, and I felt that I had clout."

Beyond the prestige, there are VIP perks that you can unlock, says Michael Foguth, founder of Foguth Financial Group, a Michigan-based retirement planning firm. “These cards allow you into exclusive lounges in the airport, access to your own concierge, free breakfast in hotels and more,” he says.

Rewards cards earmarked for the most creditworthy borrowers also offer more opportunities to earn cash back and airline miles at a faster rate. With scores in the 830 range, Holly Johnson, frugal travel and credit expert at ClubThrifty.com, regularly takes advantage of new offers as they become available. “We frequently sign up for new cards for travel perks and huge sign-up bonuses that let us travel the world more affordably and more comfortably,” says Johnson.

“Don’t go wild applying for things just because you’ll get approved,” says Griffin. In order to be a successful points and miles hacker, you’ll have to constantly monitor your score and be strategic about when and how often to open new cards. There’s also typically a minimum spend requirement to earn sign-on bonuses, so be sure you have the cash on hand to pay off what you charge in full, or you’ll pay more in interest than the bonus is worth. 

Tip

Tip: Every time you apply for new credit, a hard inquiry lands on your credit report, knocking your score down about 5 points each time, and too many inquiries in a short time span could knock you right out of the top tier. 

3. Do a loan and insurance checkup

“When I first started tracking my score I discovered I had a negative item – a late payment from a store credit card of all things,” says Philip Taylor, blogger from PT Money.

As a result, he ended up just shy of the score he needed to get the best mortgage interest rate when he bought his first home. “I made it a mission to improve my score by the time I purchased a second home,” says Taylor. He spent the next few years being meticulous about his credit, and he did indeed qualify for that better rate the second time around.

From home mortgages to auto loans to student loans, a great credit score can also put you in prime position to refinance for a better interest rate, says Foguth. “Look at the largest interest rates you’re paying, and renegotiate those.”

Refinancing almost always requires strong credit in order to get approved, and the better it is, the more likely you’ll score the lowest rate possible.

Likewise, Griffin recommends checking in with your auto and home insurance companies, and comparing quotes from other insurers. “Credit scores have been developed for the insurance industry, and they use that information to help them set rates when you first become a customer,” he says. Sometimes switching over once your credit has improved can pay off.

Tip

Tip: When refinancing or changing insurance providers, be sure to consider all of the other factors and fine print (i.e., fees, closing costs, coverage changes) to make sure you’re actually upgrading to a better deal.

Other top-tier perks

Excellent credit can make qualifying for other financial products a no-brainer as well. For instance, people launching a small business often must rely on their personal credit (such as applying for a loan) to help finance their endeavor, says Griffin.

Strong credit also can mean putting down less of a security deposit on a new apartment, or getting instantly approved to finance the latest and greatest smartphone.

Strive to achieve and maintain excellent credit

Leveling up to the “excellent” range of credit takes time and effort, but it is totally attainable. Just do the common-sense things like consistently pay your bills on time and keep balances low, says Griffin.

“There’s no big mystery or secret. In time, the scores will take care of themselves.” And then instead of being a hindrance, your credit score will become a powerful tool for opening up the financial marketplace to better opportunities.

See related: Best travel credit cards 2018, Credit cards compete to make you feel like a VIP


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Updated: 06-22-2018