There are a number of ways you can benefit from having a high credit score, but the bottom line is simple: It can save you money.
Your FICO score, which reflects your credit report, ranges from around 300 to 850. A score below around 650 is considered problematic, while an excellent score of around 750 or above will get you the best rates.
The average score hit 704 this year, which is an all-time high. That's just about the bottom of the "good" range, where you're considered prime and will typically qualify for a loan. So if you're average, congratulations! You're in good shape, and you're not far from where you need to be in order to get the most attractive deals.
That said, there's no need to fuss over getting a perfect 850, since the perks are the same no matter where your score lands within the "excellent" range. A 750 will serve, and "obsessing over a score of 800 versus 820 is largely a waste of time," Greg McBride, chief analyst at Bankrate, tells CNBC Make It.
Here are three reasons it's worth doing the work to get to "excellent" in 2019.
Whether you're applying for an auto loan or a mortgage, you'll need an established credit history to qualify and a high credit score to get the most competitive rates. That can have a significant impact on how much you end up paying in interest.
NerdWallet found that, compared to a score of 680, an excellent score could qualify you for a mortgage rate that will save you more than $10,000 in interest over 30 years. Similarly, over the course of a five-year auto loan, an excellent credit score can save you thousands compared to a score that's subprime, according to myFICO.
"Good credit scores can also help you qualify for credit that offers other perks you might find valuable," says Rod Griffin, director of consumer education and awareness at Experian.
Whether you're looking for a luxury travel card, one that will maximize cash back or even one to help you get out of debt, the best cards tend to require scores in the good-to-excellent range. Once you qualify, a better score will also get you a lower annual percentage rate (APR).
"We typically see at least a 670 required for the best rewards credit cards," says Ted Rossman, an industry analyst at CreditCards.com. "Although that's not set in stone. I know someone who qualified for the Chase Sapphire Reserve — a very high-end credit card — with a 664 FICO score. "
When you shop around for a new apartment, expect a credit check, especially if you're dealing with a larger management company. "Generally, when you're applying for a lease, there will be a tenant screening report and they'll look at your credit score," says Griffin.
"If your background as a borrower does not inspire confidence from a landlord, he or she will likely try to offset some of the perceived risk by requiring more collateral. That means a bigger security deposit – perhaps two months' rent instead of one," writes Odysseas Papadimitriou, CEO of WalletHub, in RENTCafe. A lower score will also mean fewer apartment options.
Similarly, your credit score can determine the deposit you pay for a utility service, notes Griffin. The company that provides your home with water, electricity, gas or cable may end up charging you more if they don't trust you because of a low score.
If you want to improve your score, experts says you should focus on consistently paying your bills on time and keeping your balances low. That can be achieved by paying off debt and spending less on your credit card relative to your overall credit limit. You can find more information on how to improve your score here.
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