07-01High credit scores do not happen by accident. Achieving high scores takes patience, consistency, planning, and a lot of financial hard work. There are no short cuts when it comes to credit score greatness.

If you are looking for ways to earn higher credit scores, the easiest thing to do is study the habits of those who already have them. People with high FICO and VantageScore credit scores tend to have a lot in common, which makes it easy to copy their good habits. Here are the top three things to do:

1. Maintain Low Account Balances

It’s no secret that scoring models focus on your credit card balances.

Your revolving utilization ratios (aka the relationship between your credit card balances and the limits on your open credit card accounts) have a considerable impact on your credit scores. The lower you keep your credit card balances the better it will be for both your wallet and for your credit scores. As your revolving utilization ratios fall your credit scores will generally begin to climb

Earners of elite level FICO credit scores owe less than $3,500 in total credit card debt on average. The average revolving utilization ratio of these same consumers is a mere 7%.

2. Blemish-Free Payment History

The only factor which matters more to your scores than your balances and revolving utilization levels is your payment history. The “Payment History” category of your credit reports accounts for a huge percentage of your credit score points.

If you don’t pay all of your bills on time, every single time, it will be impossible to ever achieve truly great credit scores.

Earners of elite level FICO credit scores, 96% of them in fact, have no late payments whatsoever appearing anywhere on their credit reports. Additionally, less than 1% of these same consumers have any amounts past due appearing on any of their credit reports. 90% of prime consumers pay all of their debts on time, according to VantageScore Solutions.

3. Older Account History

Another factor that credit scoring models considers when calculating your credit scores is the age of your credit report. The average age of accounts and the age of your oldest account will both have an effect on your score.

While these factors are less important than your payment history and your credit card balances/utilization, they are still very important. If you want to earn scores at or above 800 then you have to perform well in every credit scoring category, even the ones that are less important.

The best way to protect your credit scores within this category is to make a habit of only applying for new credit accounts when really necessary. As a result, it’s probably a good idea to practice saying “no thanks” whenever a store clerk asks you if you would like to save 20% by opening a new account in the checkout line.

Earners of elite level FICO scores maintain an “average age of credit accounts” of around 11 years old. Additionally, most of these consumers have had credit established for quite some time with the age of their oldest account typically falling at 25 years old.

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