At 20 I started my financial life with a perfect credit score — something that many people work on building and maintaining their entire lives. Having a financial head start on adulthood is an incredible resource. All I need to do going forward is to maintain my perfect 850.
Two years later, at age 22, I can still claim that my credit score is unblemished, in large part because I consistently employed frugal financial advice. And if you follow the four basic steps I did, you too can achieve flawless credit.
What Is a Perfect Credit Score?
While there are many credit scores out there provided by different companies, most of them have a range of 300 to 850. Any score north of 720 is considered “excellent,” but only 1.2 percent of the population reaches the very top of the scale, according to Experian.
But if you don’t attain a perfect credit score in your lifetime, it’s not the end of the world.
As long as you stay above 720 (or even above 690, which is considered a “good” credit score), you should have no trouble qualifying for the best loans, in addition to the most competitive interest rates.
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My Four Steps to a Perfect Credit Score
To be honest, I don’t have any secrets or “life hacks” that I’ve used to boost my score. When you put it in perspective — I’ve had an adult bank account for only four years and a credit card for just over one — I haven’t had much time to prove myself financially. But in a way, that has worked in my favor, because I haven’t made any financial mistakes yet.
What I do know, though, is what I have done right in my short time under the financial microscope. There are several money habits that I taught myself while young. These have greatly helped my credit score reach the number it's at now.
1. I Made a Point to Never Be Overdrawn
It’s common sense to most adults, but even as a kid, I made sure that my bank account always had a positive balance. That’s especially difficult when you have no income and the thriving social life of a teenager. Still, I saw to it that I was — at the very least — $100 in the black at all times.
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Whenever I got money for Christmas or my birthday, it would go straight into my account.
This helped me not only to sidestep the temptation to spend it immediately but also to ensure my balance never got too low.
2. I Started a Direct Debit Early
Not too long after I turned 16 and opened my first adult bank account, I started a direct debit of about $4 a month to a local charity and kept it for two years. Although I did it to help out the charity (and to be entered into a monthly lottery), my timely payments boosted my credit score, so I also benefited.
If I’d had no direct debit with repeat payments, there wouldn’t have been any credit information about me. So the financial outlay, though small, helped me in the long run.
3. I Shifted My Spending to a Credit Card
What I did next runs counter to what many websites warn you about opening credit lines (and many people find it easier not to have a card to avoid the temptation of overspending): I got a rewards credit card and moved all my monthly spending to it, leaving my checking and savings accounts fairly inactive.
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Spending and paying the bill in full each month proved that I was financially responsible.
Plus, I usually spent only about $500 of my $2,500 limit each month. This showed that I wasn’t fully reliant on the card, and kept my FICO score high.
4. I’ve Never Borrowed Money or Taken Out a Loan
This is often a tricky step for most people my age who are relying on student loans to attend college, but I started my own business when I was 16 and bypassed earning a degree.
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Not only did I avoid spending tens of thousands of dollars on additional education, but I also found my dream job early in life. Naturally, my credit score also benefited.
Obstacles to Getting a Perfect Credit Score
Regardless of whether you follow my steps, a good credit score and a healthy financial future are not always guaranteed. There are many external variables — like having to take out an emergency loan, or losing a job — that you consider and plan for in order to avoid a downward financial spiral.
Likewise, if you started off on a bad financial foot, now is the perfect time to turn the situation around. Having bad credit is not irreversible, and there are plenty of ways to improve your score.