Editorial Policy

The real secret to high credit scores

Laura Mohammad

May 16, 2014

I’ve told you about my storied credit scores — they’re in the 800s.

My lender gushed about them when my husband and I recently took out a mortgage. Mo’s scores are actually higher than mine — he has an 831, which is apparently unheard of.

You might think with scores like those, we are obsessing about them, checking them multiple times a year through MyFico.com, and taking out cards that provide scores as a free service. But, nothing could be further from the truth.

What is our secret? How do we maintain enviable credit scores, get rock-bottom interest rates on our mortgage and obtain credit limit increases without asking?

It’s simply this: We forget about our scores.

That’s right. All we do is … nothing. No obsessing. No scheming. In fact, Mo and I didn’t even know our credit scores until two years ago.

We do check our credit reports, though, through AnnualCreditReport.com, a free service that allows you to check your reports annually at the three major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. We are primarily looking for incorrect or suspicious information. But the credit scores? We save those for the lenders to check.

Why? Because if you are doing everything right and checking your reports for suspicious activity, the great scores will follow.

Here’s what I mean by “doing everything right.”

Quizzle.com’s Ann-Marie Murphy breaks it down to six steps for the budding consumer. At the heart of her advice:

  •  Only charge what you can afford to pay off in full.
  •  Pay on time every month.

Do those two things, and the rest falls into line. You can take out more credit cards; you can vary your types of loans; you can avoid cash advances. You can do these things to improve your score, but what it really comes down to is paying on time and paying off your credit cards in full each month.

CreditCardGuide.com’s Editor-at-Large Erica Sandberg explains to one reader the best way to raise your credit scores, pointing out that the way you use your credit cards can make or break your scores.

Erica also explains that multiple types of credit help your score, and it’s true that Mo and I have had diverse credit over the years. But we didn’t do it intentionally. We just lived our lives, paid our bills and kept our jobs. (I might add that there is hope for the at-home mom. I was at home for a decade, and my score was actually above Mo’s when we finally checked them two years ago.)

Let’s say you don’t want to have credit cards, which, owned correctly, are the easiest way to build your credit. There are alternatives such as using installment loans responsibly, as Experian‘s Maxine Sweet explains to a reader. Geoff Williams goes into more detail about how to build credit without credit cards in his article for US News & World Report.

Mo and I have pretty much kept our financial affairs simple over the years, and I believe that has been key to our great scores. We didn’t even know about the FICO score until two years ago, much less how it’s calculated. (To learn how the FICO is calculated, read Erica’s piece on the subject.)

As tempting as it might be to check our scores often, now that we know that ours are great, we are resisting the urge. We’ll just keep living our lives, paying our bills and only borrowing what we can afford to pay back. It’s really that simple.