At a Glance
Improving your credit score is essential for financial success, and one of the easiest ways to do it is with a credit card. Utilizing responsible credit habits can help you reach a point where it will benefit you to have an active line of credit open for yourself. This means making all payments on time and in full, keeping balances low compared to credit limits, not opening fraudulent accounts, and limiting new account openings. If done correctly, having a manageable level of card activity will help your score climb and establish good standing with lenders.
In this article, you’ll learn:
57% of Americans
have missed at least one credit card payment. Of those, 37% say they missed it because they simply forgot.
How do credit cards impact your credit score?
Credit cards can significantly impact your credit score, which is a numerical representation of your creditworthiness. Here are some ways in which credit cards can affect your credit score:
- Payment history: One of the most important factors in determining your credit score is your payment history. Making your credit card payments on time each month can help improve your credit score. Conversely, if you miss payments or make late payments, this can harm your credit score.
- Credit utilization: Credit utilization refers to the amount of credit you use compared to your credit limit. If you’re using a high percentage of your credit limit, this can hurt your credit score. To maintain a good credit score, it’s generally recommended to keep your credit utilization under 30%.
- Length of credit history: The length of time you’ve had credit accounts open is another important factor in determining your credit score. If you’ve had a credit card for a long time and have a history of making on-time payments, this can help improve your credit score.
- Types of credit: Having a mix of different types of credit, such as credit cards, loans, and lines of credit, can also help improve your credit score. However, using all kinds of credit responsibly and making timely payments is essential.
- Credit inquiries: Applying for a new credit card can result in a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can temporarily negatively impact your credit score. Limiting the number of credit inquiries you have is generally recommended, as too many inquiries can make you appear risky to lenders.
Improving your credit score with a credit card
Using your credit card responsibly is a great way to boost your credit score. Here are some of the best ways to bump up your score with your card.
1. Always pay on time
Paying your credit card bills on time is extremely important. Not only does it help you maintain a healthy credit score, but it can also save you from unpleasant fees and other consequences. One effective way to ensure you don’t forget your due dates and missed payments is to set reminders. Take advantage of the automatic payment tools and calendar reminders offered by your bank or biller, or use an app on your smartphone that helps you keep track of your bills.
It can be helpful to set goals for yourself. If you aim to pay off a certain amount each month, this will encourage you to manage your finances responsibly by helping you meet the goal each month and pay before the due date. Finally, creating a budget can also give you a better idea of what spending is necessary and when bills are due so you don’t accidentally miss one.
Related: Late Payments on Your Credit Report
2. Maintain low credit-utilization
Maintaining a low credit utilization on a credit card is important for financial security and increasing your credit score. Having a low credit utilization means you are responsibly using the credit available and not over-borrowing or taking on too much debt. Typically, lenders want you to maintain a utilization rate of 30%, which means your outstanding balance should not exceed 30% of your total credit limit. To maintain this, try using cash payments as often as possible and spread out your spending each month rather than making large purchases all at once. Additionally, stay on top of your payments by ensuring they are paid in full before their due date.
3. Refrain from applying for new credit
Applying for new credit can often be considered a double-edged sword. While there are benefits to having more lines of credit that one has access to, there is also the potential for damage to one’s credit score and overall financial health. A great way to help maintain a good credit score is to refrain from applying for too much new credit. This doesn’t mean that cautiously using more credit isn’t beneficial.
Instead, seeking new forms of revolving credit should be done gradually and cautiously. Otherwise, your current financial arrangements may be harmed.
4. Become an authorized user
Becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card can significantly boost your credit score. The process for becoming an authorized user is simple: the primary cardholder needs to grant you access to their account, which can be done through their banking institution or credit card company. Once this is done, you will have all the same privileges and obligations that they do, so it’s paramount to research the details of the agreement before becoming an authorized user. Responsible spending over a period of time is key to building and maintaining a good credit score as an authorized user. It doesn’t happen overnight, but with patience and wise management of your finances, you will soon see positive changes in your credit score.
5. Use your card regularly
Using a credit card regularly and responsibly can be one of the best ways to boost your credit score. By making and consistently paying your credit card payments on time, you can help increase your credit score over time. It’s important to remember, however, that for this to work out properly, you must ensure that you don’t overspend and stay within the limits of your purchasing power. As long as you use your card responsibly while making timely payments each month, then using a credit card regularly can be a great way to improve your credit score and regain financial stability.
6. Increase your credit limit
Increasing your credit card limit can greatly improve your credit score but it also comes with potential risks. Because increasing the limit means you may have access to more credit, it’s important to ensure that you can manage the additional money responsibly. To start, check with your current credit card provider to find out if they offer any options for raising your limit. This may include taking steps like closing any unused accounts or paying down outstanding debt. Once you qualify for the higher limit, ensure you only use the newly available funds when absolutely necessary and make payments on time.
Related: Credit Score vs. Credit Limit
Tips for improving credit score using credit cards
Here are some of the most important tips for improving your score with your credit card.
1. Pick the right card
Choosing the right credit card is an important decision, so you should carefully weigh up the features and cost of each card. Things to consider include the interest rate, annual fee, reward programs, balance transfer offers, and number of accepted merchants. It’s worth assessing your comfort with your monthly payments before committing to an offer. If you require a higher credit limit or rewards points, find out if your chosen card offers them and whether there are any additional requirements to receiving such benefits.
2. Pay in full whenever possible
Paying your credit card balance in full each month is the wisest thing to do regarding your financial health. By doing so, you can avoid paying interest fees, allowing more of your money to remain in your pocket and less in the pockets of credit companies. Not only will this prevent debt from accumulating, but it also indicates responsibility on your credit report, proving that you can be trusted with additional lines of credit if and when needed. Additionally, it’s helpful to stay within an allocated budget as spending becomes much more transparent or obvious when paying off the balance each month.
3. Do not close your card even if you don’t use it
Although closing a rarely used credit card may be tempting, this action is generally not in your best interest. By keeping the card open, you’re actually increasing your overall credit history, which has many benefits. With a longer payment history on the account, your credit score can receive a boost. Additionally, having multiple accounts with long payment histories will demonstrate responsibility and reliability to lenders. You should also consider that you never know when access to a line of credit may come in handy. Keeping the unused accounts open will give you additional access to funds if needed.
4. Check your credit score and report regularly
Checking your credit score and report regularly is an important part of responsible financial management. With access to online resources and apps, keeping track of your finances can be surprisingly easy. Checking your credit score should be done frequently, at least once every 3 to 6 months so that you can stay up-to-date with any changes in your credit information. Reviewing your credit report lets you check for errors that could potentially reduce your score. If there are errors in the report, you should dispute them right away. Finally, monitoring changes to your accounts are also beneficial so that you can ensure that no one else has access to them or performs unauthorized activity.
Learn more: How to read a credit report?
Impact of credit card payments on credit score
Making timely payments on your credit card is crucial to maintaining a good credit score.
1. Paying your credit card on time
One of the most important things you can do as a responsible credit card user is to ensure your payments are made on time every month. Not doing so can significantly impact your credit score, potentially limiting your ability to qualify for favorable interest rates or open new lines of credit. Making timely payments is one surefire way to improve your credit score, allowing you to access better deals and lower interest rates, saving you money in the long run. Additionally, by practicing regular and prompt payment behavior, you demonstrate that you are highly dependable and responsible when managing debt. This can only benefit your financial stability and future opportunities in the future.
2. Paying your credit card early
Paying your credit card early can substantially impact your credit score. A good credit score is essential to obtaining loans and securing competitive interest rates. Not only will timely payments demonstrate that you are responsible, but it leaves more room to spend money in an emergency without putting yourself over the limit. A few simple steps to maintain a high score include paying on time, using no more than 30% of the available credit, and ensuring you remain aware of any changes in due dates or annual fees. Additionally, periodic reviews of your statement help verify accuracy and reduce identity theft risk. Paying early may take more planning and effort up front, but it’s worth it long-term for its associated benefits.
Improving credit without a credit card
Improving your credit score without a credit card is possible, but it may require some effort and patience. Here are some tips that can help you improve your credit without a credit card:
- Pay your bills on time: Payment history is one of the most important factors in your credit score. Make sure to pay all your bills, including rent, utilities, and phone bills, on time each month.
- Keep your balances low: If you have any loans or lines of credit, try to keep the balances as low as possible. High balances can negatively impact your credit score.
- Use a credit builder loan: A credit builder loan is a type of loan that is designed to help you build credit. Unlike a traditional loan, the money you borrow is held in a savings account until you have paid it off. This can help you establish a positive payment history.
- Become an authorized user: If you have a friend or family member with a credit card who is willing to add you as an authorized user, this can help you build credit. Just ensure they have a good credit history and keep the balances low.
- Check your credit report regularly: Make sure to check your credit report at least once a year to ensure there are no errors or inaccuracies. You can get a free copy of your credit report from each credit bureau once a year.
Yes, using store credit cards can be a good way to build credit, but there are some things to remember.
Store credit cards, also known as retail credit cards, are typically easier to qualify for than traditional credit cards and can be a good option for individuals new to credit or with a limited credit history. When you use a store credit card responsibly and make your payments on time, it can help you establish a positive credit history, which can, in turn, help you qualify for better credit cards and loans in the future.
No, a prepaid card will not help improve your credit. This is because a prepaid card is not a form of credit; instead, it is a type of debit card that you load with your own money. Prepaid cards do not report to credit bureaus or affect your credit score, as no credit is extended.
To improve your credit, you need to use credit products that report to credit bureaus, such as credit cards, loans, or lines of credit. When you use these products responsibly, by making payments on time and keeping your balances low, you can build a positive credit history, which can help you qualify for better credit products and lower interest rates in the future.
If you cannot qualify for a traditional credit card, other options are available to help you build credit, such as secured credit cards or credit builder loans. These products require a deposit or collateral, but they report to credit bureaus and can help you establish a positive credit history if used responsibly.
The amount of time it takes to build credit with a secured credit card can vary depending on several factors, including your credit history, how much you use the card, and how timely you are with your payments. However, with responsible use, it’s possible to see an improvement in your credit score within a few months.
A secured credit card requires you to make a cash deposit upfront, which becomes your credit limit. This deposit serves as collateral, reducing the risk to the issuer and making it easier for individuals with no credit or poor credit to qualify. The card issuer reports your payment activity to credit bureaus, and if you use the card responsibly and make on-time payments, you can build a positive credit history.
It’s important to note that while a secured credit card can be a helpful tool for building credit, it’s not a quick fix. It can take several months or even years to build a strong credit history, and this process depends on factors like the length of your credit history and the number of accounts you have in good standing. To see the best results, responsibly using your secured credit card, making timely payments, and keeping your balances low is important. Over time, you may be able to qualify for an unsecured credit card or other credit products with more favorable terms.
To build credit with a credit card, you should use it regularly and responsibly. Using a credit card regularly and making timely payments is an excellent way to demonstrate that you can manage credit responsibly, which can help you build a positive credit history over time. However, it’s important not to use your credit card too frequently or to rack up high balances, as this can hurt your credit score.
There is no set frequency for how often you should use your credit card to build credit, as it depends on your individual financial situation and spending habits. However, a good rule of thumb is to use your credit card for small purchases you can pay off in full monthly. This can help you avoid carrying a high balance, which can negatively impact your credit score.
Making your payments on time and in full each month is also important, as this is a critical factor in building a positive credit history. Late or missed payments can significantly negatively impact your credit score and make qualifying for credit in the future more challenging.
While credit cards can be a convenient and flexible way to pay for a variety of purchases, there are some types of transactions that you may want to avoid using your credit card for, including:
- Cash advances: Cash advances on your credit card typically come with high fees and interest rates, making them an expensive way to borrow money.
- High-risk investments: It’s generally not a good idea to use your credit card to invest in high-risk ventures, such as stocks, futures, or cryptocurrency. These types of investments can be volatile, and if your investment loses value, you’ll still be responsible for paying back the amount you charged to your credit card.
- Bills you can’t afford: It’s important to avoid using your credit card to pay for bills or expenses that you can’t afford to pay off in full. If you carry a balance on your credit card, you’ll be charged interest, making it difficult to get out of debt.
- Illegal activities: It goes without saying, but using your credit card to pay for illegal activities is unethical and can also land you in serious legal trouble.
- Large purchases without a plan to pay them off: While it’s okay to use your credit card for larger purchases, such as appliances or furniture, it’s important to have a plan to pay off the balance in full to avoid carrying a high balance and incurring interest charges.