In general, it's always better to pay your credit card bill in full rather than carrying a balance. There's no meaningful benefit to your credit score to carry a balance of any size. With that in mind, it's suggested to keep your balances below 30% of your overall credit limit.
The reality is that carrying a balance could actually hurt your credit scores. For example, carrying too high a balance could result in a high credit utilization rate — the percentage of your total credit limit that you're currently using — which in turn may lower your scores.
It's better to pay off your credit card than to keep a balance. It's best to pay a credit card balance in full because credit card companies charge interest when you don't pay your bill in full every month.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), experts recommend keeping your credit utilization below 30% of your total available credit. If a high utilization rate is hurting your scores, you may see your scores increase once a lower balance or higher credit limit is reported.
Having accounts open with a credit card company will not hurt your credit score, but having zero balances will not prove to lenders that you are creditworthy and will repay a loan. Lenders want to make sure you repay, and that you will also pay interest.
The most important principle for using credit cards is to always pay your bill on time and in full. Following this simple rule can help you avoid interest charges, late fees and poor credit scores. By paying your bill in full, you'll avoid interest and build toward a high credit score.
Credit utilization — the portion of your credit limits that you are currently using — is a significant factor in credit scores. It is one reason your credit score could drop a little after you pay off debt, particularly if you close the account.
When you pay off a loan, your credit score could be negatively affected. This is because your credit history is shortened, and roughly 10% of your score is based on how old your accounts are. If you've paid off a loan in the past few months, you may just now be seeing your score go down.
Since the FICO score also looks at each card's ratio, you can bump up your score by paying down the card with the higher balance. In the example above, pay down the balance on Card A to about $1,500 and your new ratio for Card A is 25% (1,500/6,000 = . 25). Much better!
To build good credit and stay out of debt, you should always aim to pay off your credit card bill in full every month. If you want to be really on top of your game, it might seem logical to pay off your balance more often, so your card is never in the red. But hold off.
It's generally recommended that you have two to three credit card accounts at a time, in addition to other types of credit. Remember that your total available credit and your debt to credit ratio can impact your credit scores. If you have more than three credit cards, it may be hard to keep track of monthly payments.
Making more than one payment each month on your credit cards won't help increase your credit score. But, the results of making more than one payment might.
Every month you pay your card's bill on time will bump your credit score up, so set a routine and you can grow your creditworthiness quickly—as long as you can avoid missing a credit card payment.
Common reasons for a score increase include: a reduction in credit card debt, the removal of old negative marks from your credit report and on-time payments being added to your report. The situations that lead to score increases correspond to the factors that determine your credit score.
Although ranges vary depending on the credit scoring model, generally credit scores from 580 to 669 are considered fair; 670 to 739 are considered good; 740 to 799 are considered very good; and 800 and up are considered excellent.
While it may feel great to be debt free, it can actually hurt your credit scores.
You should use your secured credit card at least once per month in order to build credit as quickly as possible. You will build credit even if you don't use the card, yet making at least one purchase every month can accelerate the process, as long as it doesn't lead to missed due dates.
The Bottom Line
Here's a rule of thumb for deciding your credit card payments: pay the full balance or as much of the balance as you can afford. If you're trying to pay off several credit cards, pay as much as you can toward one credit card and the minimum on all the others.
When you overpay, any amount over the balance due will show up as a negative balance on your account. Negative balances are simply reported as zero balances on your credit report and will not affect your credit utilization. You also won't earn interest on your negative balance.
Seven years is deemed a reasonable amount of time to establish a good credit history. After seven years, most negative items will fall off your credit report.
Credit card churning is the process of opening and closing the same account multiple times to get the same sign-up bonuses or promotional rewards over and over again. Card issuers have been taking some steps to curb this practice.