If you’ve noticed your credit score declining as bills rack up, it’s time to reconsider your credit card usage. Whether you’re seeking debt relief or trying to bump up your credit score in preparation for a big purchase, learn how to properly use a credit card to boost your efforts.
How to Use a Credit Card Responsibly
1. Pay Balances on Time
Don’t put off paying your credit card bills—you’ll only accumulate interest and late fees while diminishing your credit score. If you have trouble remembering to settle the balance, many companies offer email reminders. You can also set up auto-pay to ensure you never miss a bill. Pay the amount in full or do just the minimum.
2. Pay Balances in Full
Although you might be reluctant to auto-pay your full credit card bill, it’s often a safer bet than doing just the minimum amount. Any remaining balance you don’t pay will accrue interest as soon as your grace period of 21 days is over. Everything you charge after that will also build interest, so you’ll have that accumulating on top of your regular purchases.
3. Don’t Overspend
To feel more comfortable paying your credit card bill in full, be conscientious about your spending. Treat your credit card like it’s drawing directly from your checking account. You may want to follow a monthly budget and stop using your card when you meet it. Or if you prefer, you can pay off parts of the bill throughout the month rather than all at once.
4. Lower the Utilization Ratio
The utilization ratio refers to the percentage of your overall credit limit that you use. Ideally, you want to keep the ratio under 10%, which will help your credit score rise. However, it’s more realistic for most people to aim for 20-30%. Plus, keeping the ratio low will likely prevent you from overspending and provide debt relief.
5. Disperse Applications
Different credit cards offer different benefits, from airline miles to cash back, so you may be interested in having more than one. Just keep in mind that every time you apply for a card, your credit score takes a small hit. Multiple applications will result in a larger drop since someone who applies for many cards seems less responsible. As a rule of thumb, only try to obtain a new card at least three months after your last one was approved to give you time to raise your credit score. If you’re going to apply for two cards, you can put in the request for both on the same day, which will give each company a clean report that doesn’t include the other application.
If you could use help with credit card management, turn to Greg Dunn, Bankruptcy and Debt Relief Attorney. He has helped thousands of clients throughout Honolulu, HI, overcome their debt problems since 1996. Find out more about his debt relief services online, and call (808) 524-4529 to set up a free initial consultation.