Still working on excellent credit? Take these steps to snare that coveted 800 score sooner.

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If you already have a good credit score but struggle to raise your score to 800 or higher, don’t give up on attaining a score in the excellent range just yet. With close attention, a few important steps and a focus on your goal, increasing your FICO credit score to the “exceptional” range of 800 or above may be easier and quicker than you think.

So, what are the benefits of having a credit score of 800 or above? For one thing, you’re more likely to get approved for credit cards with better benefits and more stringent approval guidelines. Having an exceptional credit score also means you can get lower interest rates and higher credit limits on your cards. Who doesn’t want that?

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1. Review your credit report

The key to knowing how to improve your credit score is understanding why you have that score in the first place. So, order a free copy of your credit report from AnnualCreditReport and take a close look at open and closed accounts, loan and credit card balances and payment history, which all factor into how major credit bureaus calculate your credit score.

Find out: 8 Things to Do When You Achieve an Excellent Credit Score

2. Dispute credit report errors

Another reason to study your credit report closely is that inaccuracies or errors on accounts listed could be holding you back from attaining a better credit score.

Look for common reporting errors such as accounts belonging to another person with a similar name, accounts incorrectly reported as delinquent or in default, incorrect date of last payment on accounts, or the same debt listed twice. Account information is supposed to automatically drop off the report after seven years, so watch for old accounts that are still on there, too.

If you find an error, you must contact the credit reporting agency and the company that reported the information to have it removed.

Find out: Take These 7 Steps to Dispute Credit Report Information

3. Pay down credit card debt

One major factor used to calculate your credit score is your credit utilization rate, which is the ratio of your current amount of revolving credit to how much credit you have available. For example, if you have $10,000 of available credit on credit cards and a total balance of $8,000, your credit utilization rate would be 80%, which is way too high.

Ideally, you should keep your credit utilization ratio below 30%, according to major credit bureau Experian. Your credit utilization accounts for around 30% of your credit score, so paying off the debt you already owe will likely bump you closer to that coveted 800 scores.

Find out: 8 Mistakes to Avoid When Trying to Improve Bad Credit

4. Make all payments on time

Payment history makes up about 35% of your credit score, so late payments will have a negative effect on your credit score. Conversely, paying on time is the best thing you can do to keep raising your score to the excellent category.

Want to make sure you never miss a payment? Sign up for automatic payments on all your credit cards and loans.

Find out: How Long Does Credit Repair Take?

5. Don’t close old accounts

Closing an old credit card account because you never use the card may seem to make sense. However, not keeping that account open can work against you if you’re trying to improve your credit score. Generally, you’re better off keeping unused credit card accounts open, according to Experian.

That’s because the length of credit history makes up 15% of your credit score. So, when you keep old accounts open, your score benefits from a longer average credit history. Another plus: The credit limit from that unused credit card gives you a higher amount of available credit, which can help keep your credit utilization rate low.

Find out: The 10 Do’s and Dont’s to Canceling a Credit Card

6. Go easy on new credit applications

Even if your credit is already good enough to be approved for lots of credit cards, don’t go crazy applying for as many as possible. When you open several new accounts within a short period, creditors and credit reporting agencies may see you as a greater credit risk, which can lower your score slightly.

Instead of opening new credit card accounts, work on paying off the balances on the cards you already have. As your credit utilization rate lowers, your credit will likely improve as long as your payment history and other important factors on your credit report are also in good shape.

Is your credit rating holding you back? Find out how to fix it.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

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