3 Ways to Capitalize on 800+ FICO® Scores
, by Kelsey
The latest FICO® Score data brought with it some encouraging news about consumers' FICO® Scores and credit health: a growing number of U.S consumers—19.9%—have FICO Scores of 800 or higher. That's nearly one in five people with FICO Scores in the "exceptional" credit range.
With news of more people boasting 800+ FICO Scores, we thought now's the perfect time to detail a few specific perks of having high scores.
Here are 3 ways to take advantage of "exceptional" FICO Scores.
Save thousands on a new mortgage
One of the biggest financial advantages of having "exceptional" FICO® Scores is the ability to qualify for the lowest interest rates when applying for a mortgage. With mortgage rates at historic lows, many first-time homebuyers (and current homeowners considering a mortgage refinancing) are looking to capitalize and lock in a low rate.
But to qualify for the most competitive rates, you'll need to have high FICO Scores. It probably doesn't come as a shock that having excellent credit gives you a better chance of qualifying for low interest rates—thus saving you money. But the extent of those savings may surprise you.
Our Loan Savings Calculator breaks down exactly how much your FICO Scores could impact the interest you'd pay on a mortgage. For example, on a 30-year fixed loan with a principal of $300,000, having FICO Scores in the 760 - 850 range could qualify you for a 3.571% APR. That comes out to a $1,359 monthly payment and $189,259 in total interest paid over the life of the loan.
But say you're applying for the same loan but with FICO® Scores in the 620 - 639 range, qualifying you for a 5.16% APR. Now you're looking at a $1,640 monthly payment and $290,374 in total interest paid over the life of the loan. That's a just-over-$100,000 difference.
The benefits of "exceptional" FICO Scores are fairly cut-and-dry when it comes to mortgages—800+ scores are like a coupon for $100,000 off your loan.
Pay zero interest on credit card purchases
Credit cards, used wisely, can be a smart financial tool—they can help you build and maintain good credit (FICO® Scores weigh your use of revolving credit fairly heavily), earn you cash back and rewards, and they can even help you pay down an existing credit card balance by transferring or consolidating your balances.
One easy way to neutralize all these benefits, however, is by carrying over a large balance month-to-month. With the average credit card APR sitting around 15%, the interest you'd pay on a revolving balance would offset even the most lucrative of rewards cards, and then some. Plus, if your balance is taking up a sizable portion of your available credit, your scores could be taking from a less-than-optimal credit utilization ratio. It probably makes sense, then, that the majority of people with 800+ FICO® Scores pay off their credit card balances in full each month.
But if you have "exceptional" FICO Scores, there's a clever little workaround you could take advantage of that would allow you to carry a hefty balance without paying a dime in interest charges—a 0% intro APR card. The benefits of a credit card offering 0% intro APR are pretty straightforward: for as long as the introductory period lasts (usually anywhere between 6 months to 18 months, but sometimes even longer), you don't need to pay any interest on new purchases. As long as you make the minimum monthly payments on time and steer clear of cash advances and the like, you can rack up a balance, carry it over every month until the introductory period is over, and not have to worry about paying interest.
0% APR cards are a great way to finance a big-ticket item—like a new TV or household appliance—or even a vacation. And better yet, since many rewards cards also offer 0% intro rates, you can even use your large purchase to meet the minimum spending requirement for a rewards bonus. Credit card issuers usually only extend 0% intro APR offers to consumers with excellent credit, so having 800+ FICO® Scores will significantly increase your chances of qualifying.
You can head over to our Savings Center to take a look at our selection of 0% intro APR cards (some of them are rewards cards to boot).
Get a credit limit increase
There is one potential downside to carrying a large balance on a 0% intro APR card—if you're utilizing too large a percentage of your available credit limit, your FICO® Scores might take a hit. The good news is that credit utilization—the amount of your available credit you're using at any time—doesn't have any long-term effects on your FICO® Scores. If a too-high utilization ratio is hurting your FICO Scores one month, paying down your balances and utilizing less of your available credit the next month will be reflected in your current scores, with no ill-effects from your past utilization.
Nevertheless, one way to circumvent utilizing too much of your available credit is to simply increase your credit limits. And if you have 800+ FICO Scores, you're a prime candidate for receiving, one.
If you have stellar credit, your credit card issuers might extend you a credit limit increase unprompted. But if your credit limits haven't budged in a while, then your "exceptional" FICO® Scores can be Exhibit A in your case for receiving a credit limit increase. It's often as simple as giving your issuer a call and [asking for a credit increase or requesting a limit increase through your online account.
Your issuer will most likely take a look at your payment history with them in addition to checking your FICO® Scores. If you have 800+ FICO Scores and a spotless payment history (which nearly all consumers with "exceptional" FICO Scores have), you can feel pretty confident that your request for an increase will be granted.