With the average FICO credit score estimated at 690 (the highest possible score is 850), chances are most Americans wouldn't mind some advice on how to improve.
Of all consumers, just 25 percent have managed to achieve a score of 785 or higher.
Why not ask them how they've done it?
A new report by myFICO analyzes the habits of the country's savviest debtors to find out just how they've achieved a stellar FICO score.
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Here's what they found:
1. They're not debt-free. On average, they carry an arsenal of about seven credit cards.
2. But they are minimalists, only carrying balances on about four credit cards or loans at a time.
3. The vast majority carry less than $8,500 in total debt (not including mortgages), while about one-third carry more. F or the most part, they use less than 7 percent of their available balances (that's $700 on a $10,000 card).
4. They know punctuality is key, as payment history makes up a whopping 35 percent of FICO scores. In fact, fewer than 1 percent have an account past due and 96 percent show no missed payments on their credit report. Those who do have flags that are at least four years old.
5. Not all high achievers started out as one. About one out of every 100 has been hassled by a collector and one out of 9,000 have dealt with bankruptcies and tax liens.
6. They rarely open new accounts and are loyal customers. On average, their oldest credit account was opened 25 years ago, but most have been open for about 11 years.
So, why should you care about your FICO score?
For starters, FICO scores are still the leading score considered by lenders (90 percent of them, to be exact), which could easily sway your odds of getting approved for a mortgage, auto loan, credit card, etc.
As credit expert John Ulzheimer notes, it's also perfectly possible to generate a high FICO score without any revolving debt at all. And for those with less-than-stellar records, there's some good news. FICO is planning on altering how it calculates scores, which could improve scores for as many as 70 percent of consumers.
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