The Elusive 850: Experian Reveals Traits of Consumers With Perfect FICO® Scores

Quick Answer

Some notable traits revealed in the data on consumers with perfect FICO® Scores include having a larger than average number of credit cards, lower than average total debt, lower than average credit card balances and higher than average personal loan balances.

A man wearing a black shirt smiles at his phone and holds his credit card while sitting outside.

An 850 FICO® Score can be likened to a perfect game of bowling. It doesn't necessarily mean you're ready for the pro tour, but someone who can bowl a perfect game (12 strikes in a row) is obviously doing something right.

And despite the somewhat whimsical comparison, a perfect game of bowling and a "perfect" credit score of 850 have at least a few things in common, such as the need for consistency and discipline. Nonetheless, there are excellent bowlers who've never quite managed a 300 game.

An 850 FICO® Score isn't as uncommon as you might think. Statistically, there's a good chance you've attended a wedding, conference, church service or other large gathering with someone who has a perfect score. As of the third quarter (Q3) of 2021, 1.31% of all FICO® Scores in the U.S. stood at 850.

Experian analyzed data from Q3 2021 to highlight the characteristics of U.S. consumers who held an 850 score. Here's what those consumers have in common.

Perfect Score vs. Average Score: Credit Profiles

People with perfect FICO® Scores carry debt—they just tend to do so differently from those further down the scoring scale. For example, U.S. consumers with perfect scores have more tradelines (credit products on their credit reports) than average and carry more credit cards than the national average while owing less. U.S. consumers with an 850 FICO® Score owed less than half the U.S. average: $2,558 on average compared with the national average of $5,221.

However, the 850 FICO® Score club holds more debt with some types of credit than the population at large. For instance, the average personal loan balance (both secured and unsecured loans) was $32,872, nearly twice the average balance of $17,064 overall.

Characteristics of Consumers With 850 FICO® Scores
Average for All Consumers Average for Consumers With an 850 FICO® Score
FICO® Score 714 850
Number of credit cards 3.9 5.9
Credit card balance $5,221 $2,558
Number of retail credit cards 3.0 4.2
Retail credit card balance $1,046 $182
Auto loan balance $20,987 $17,074
Personal loan balance $17,064 $32,872
Mortgage balance $220,380 $205,057
Non-mortgage balance $21,539 $16,482
Total tradelines ever delinquent 1.8 0

Source: Experian; data as of Q3 2021

Which Generation Is Most Likely to Have a Perfect FICO® Score?

The vast majority of consumers with an 850 FICO® Score are of the older generations, baby boomers and the silent generation. Those under age 57 in 2021—Generation X, millennials and Generation Z—only represented 27% of the perfect 850 class.

Perfect 850 FICO® Scores by Generation

Length of credit history is a factor in determining your credit score, and although there may be a few exceptions, there's not much consumers can do to extend their credit history besides remain patient and let it happen naturally. Keeping your credit report blemish-free and continuing to extend the length of your credit history are two main ways to eventually reach the elusive 850.

Income, on the other hand, is not a credit scoring factor. Those who make more money are not necessarily more likely to have a perfect credit score, according to our analysis.

Hawaii Has the Highest Concentration of People With Perfect FICO® Scores by State

Exactly 2% of Hawaii residents had a FICO® Score of 850 in 2021, a greater percentage of consumers than any other state. The demographics of migrants to the 50th state are similar to the characteristics of a typical consumer with excellent, or even perfect, credit: A significant population of retirees relocate there annually, which requires a certain level of financial security.

Looking at perfect FICO® Scores by state, Hawaii had the highest concentration of consumers with 850 scores at 2% in 2021. Mainland states that followed were Minnesota, where 1.87% of people had an 850 FICO® Score, then Connecticut and Maryland, both with 1.78% of borrowers achieving the perfect FICO® Score. Virginia had the fifth-greatest percentage of 850 FICO® Scores, at 1.74%.

Percent of Consumers With an 850 FICO® Score by State

Among Metro Areas, Look to the Golden State for Perfection

Metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in California account for four of the top 10 MSAs with the highest percentage of perfect scores in their populations. While that list includes smaller, wealthier enclaves such as Santa Rosa, in the heart of wine country, it also includes very large metros, such as the Bay Area. More than 1 in 50 consumers had a perfect 850 credit score in the San Francisco-Oakland MSA. (By comparison, in Denver, a similarly large metro, 1.49% of consumers had an 850 FICO® Score, a percentage more consistent with the national average.)

Other standout metros include Honolulu; Corvallis, Oregon; Minneapolis and Washington, D.C.

Top 10 MSAs With the Highest Concentration of Perfect FICO® Scores
Percent of Consumers With an 850 FICO® Score
Honolulu, HI
Corvalis, OR
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, CA
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
Santa Rosa-Petaluma, CA
Trenton-Ewing, NJ
Barnstable, MA

Source: Experian; data as of Q3 2021

Attaining Perfection, or the Next Best Thing

A perfect FICO® Score, while perhaps as satisfying as knocking down every last pin, isn't necessary to obtain the best rates for a credit card, personal loan or mortgage. An "exceptional" credit score—800 or above—will almost certainly qualify those borrowers with the same borrowing terms from a lender that a prospective 850 FICO® Score borrower might receive. Those with "very good" scores (FICO® Scores from 740 to 799) may receive offers similar or identical to those with an exceptional or perfect score.

But, of course, if you aspire to an 850 score, keep in mind that the fundamentals still apply: Open new accounts only when needed, and make sure to manage your debt and payments responsibly. In addition to making your payments on time and keeping your credit usage low, avoid any late payments that result in delinquent tradelines.

If you're trying to build your credit score, periodically check your credit reports and scores so you can keep track of what is in your file and how it is affecting your score. You can get a free copy of your credit report and score from Experian―and even get a head start to that perfect score.

Methodology: The analysis results provided are based on an Experian-created statistically relevant aggregate sampling of our consumer credit database that may include use of the FICO® Score 8 version. Different sampling parameters may generate different findings compared with other similar analysis. Analyzed credit data did not contain personal identification information. Metro areas group counties and cities into specific geographic areas for population censuses and compilations of related statistical data.

FICO® is a registered trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation in the U.S. and other countries.

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