Having a high credit score might not make you a VIP at the airport or the hottest restaurant in town, but being a member of the elite 800 Club comes with plenty of its own perks. Think low interest rates on every loan you apply to, higher limits on your credit cards, and the best rewards programs you can find.

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When you realize how much money you save because of these benefits, you’ll definitely prefer this VIP list to the one at the club. We’ll take you step-by-step and show you exactly how you can get your credit score in the 800 Club.

What is the 800 Club?

As the name suggests, the 800 Club is an informal term for individuals with the very highest credit scores. Your credit score can range anywhere between 300 and 850, so if your score ranks above 800, you are among the best of the best. In fact, only about 18% of Americans can count themselves as members of this prestigious group.

There are several factors contributing to such a strong credit score, and many of them take both time and strategy. But by putting some forethought into how you manage your finances, it’s entirely possible to dramatically increase your credit score. And if you’re going to have a goal, why not aim high?

What are some of the benefits of having an 800+ credit score?

For starters, you will enjoy easier and faster loan approvals. Whether you’re applying for a mortgage or a car loan. It won’t take the bank too long to approve you with a credit score of 800 or above. You will also receive much better credit card offers; the ones that offer the best rewards, exclusive access to concerts, sporting events, etc. and the lowest interest rates. On top of that, you will also receive the best insurance premiums.

How Can You Increase Your Credit Score to 800+?

To get your credit score up to at least 800, you need to look at your credit report in a strategic manner. All of the information contained in your report contributes directly to how your credit score is calculated. So if you know the best things to have on your credit report and regularly work towards establishing those practices, your credit score will automatically increase to reflect those positive items. Let’s take a look at each tactic, one by one.

Be Consistent with Your Payments

Paying your bills on time is probably the single most important thing you can do for your credit score. And this doesn’t just apply to your loans and credit card payments! Many different types of businesses can report delinquent payments to the credit bureaus, including cell phone carriers and utility companies.

Technically, any late payment over 30 days has the potential to show up on your credit report and lower your score. Plus, the longer you wait to make the payment, the bigger effect it has on your credit score. That’s because late payments are categorized by how past due they are: 30 days, 60 days, or 90 days. Each one causes an increasing drop in your credit score.

A one-time late payment of 30 or 60 days won’t hurt your score too much and will stop affecting your score altogether after two years. However, that all changes when you have frequent late payments because the scoring model is made to predict how likely you are to go to a 90 day delinquency.

Once you get to that point, your credit score will be damaged for up to seven years. And if your payment is sent to a collection agency, you’ll really notice a sharp decline in your credit score. So if you want to make it into the 800 Club, pay attention to your monthly due dates and make sure you pay everything on time.

If you do happen to have an isolated incident, it is possible to get your late payment removed. You have a couple different options. One is to request a goodwill adjustment from the creditor who reported the late payment. This is a great tactic for long-time customers who rarely make a late payment.

If you still owe the money, you can also negotiate to have the item removed from your credit report by agreeing to sign up for automatic payments on the money you owe. You can also request that a late payment entry be removed if the information is inaccurate or if the creditor cannot verify the information within the required timeframe.

Pay Attention to the Amount of Debt You Owe

After your payment history, the amount of credit you utilize (or the amount of debt you owe) is the most important determinant of your credit score. It actually accounts for 30% of your entire score. So this one is important and it does take a little more strategy than simply paying all of your bills on time.

When your credit score is calculated, the scoring model looks at all of the credit you have available to you and it then compares that number to how much you’ve actually used. If all of your credit card lines let you borrow up to $10,000 and you carry a balance of $3,000 across all of them, you’re utilizing 30% of your available credit.

Here’s where things start to get tricky. Your credit score is also affected by how that debt is spread out across each line of credit. So if that $3,000 balance is all on one credit card and you don’t have any debt on the other cards, your score will still suffer because you’re maxing out that one card.

If you can’t pay off your balance in full each month, try to spread it out over two cards or put the balance on the card with the biggest limit (assuming your interest rates are comparable). That way you won’t have to worry about one maxed out card hurting your credit score.

Overall, you want your debt to credit ratio to be no more than 25-30%. You can figure this out with a simple calculation: Amount of Debt / Amount of Available Credit. You simply divide the two numbers and multiply your answer by 100 to get the percentage. If your percentage turns out to be higher than 30%, you should prioritize paying down your debt so you can work your way towards a higher credit score and eventually earn that 800 Club membership.

It’s also important to realize that the type of debt you have also affects your credit score. The more revolving debt (like credit cards) you have, the lower your score will be. Installment loans like a mortgage or your student loans aren’t viewed as negatively because they are seen as adding value to your overall financial picture.

Don’t Open Unnecessary Accounts

In your quest to join the 800 Club, don’t make the rookie mistake of opening extra accounts just to increase your available credit. This hurts your score in a couple of different ways. The first is that your score will dip about 5-10 points for each credit inquiry on your report. The damage to your score only lasts a year, but the inquiry itself stays listed on your report for two years.

Opening a new account can also hurt your credit score because the length of your accounts and the number of new accounts are both contributing factors. You want to keep your oldest accounts open, even if you don’t use them anymore, because they make your average length of credit longer, just as newer accounts will lower that average.

In case you do want additional credit available on any of your credit cards, simply ask for an extension of credit on one of your current accounts. As long as you’ve paid on time and have been a good customer, you’ll probably be a strong candidate for getting a larger limit on your card. That helps your debt to credit ratio without hurting your length of credit.

While you’re on the phone with your credit card company, also see if you can negotiate a lower rate. It won’t help your credit score, but it will help your wallet! All the better if you put those extra savings towards paying off your debt faster (and that actually will help your credit score).

Review Your Credit Report Annually

Your final task to prepare yourself for 800 Club membership is to request and review a copy of your credit report each and every year. You won’t be able to see your credit score with the free report, but you can check the accuracy of your information. It also helps to catch identity theft in case someone has stolen your personal information and fraudulently opened credit accounts under your name.

Remember that you have three separate credit reports from the three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You can request all three from AnnualCreditReport.com once every twelve months. It’s a great service to take advantage to help track your progress towards the 800 Club.

No matter what your financial goals might be, working your way into the 800 Club can only help your chances of achieving them. With some planning, some time, and maybe a few phone calls, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the progress you can make in raising your credit score. And if you stick with it long enough, you’ll eventually cross the threshold into the hallowed 800 Club. Congratulations!