By Adam Jusko, ProudMoney.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
For people trying to build a good credit history, credit utilization can be an important factor in raising their credit scores. Credit utilization — sometimes called debt-to-credit ratio — is the percentage of the available credit on your credit cards that you are actually using. For example, if you have $10,000 of available credit on a credit card (or cards) and you have a total balance of $1000, your credit utilization ratio is 10%.
While we advise keeping that ratio low — under 30% at least, but under 10% or even 5% if you want to be aggressive in building your score — some people worry that paying off their credit cards each month will put their utilization at 0% and thus not show up as a positive on their credit reports. This worry leads to some counter-intuitive (and wrong) advice about carrying a balance from month to month to show that you are using credit wisely.
Pay Your Cards Off In Full!
So, before we go any further, let’s be clear: carrying a small balance on your credit cards from month to month does NOT help your credit score. It is NOT necessary to pay interest in order to build your credit score. It will NOT increase your score faster than paying off your cards in full. Pay off your credit cards completely each month. Do not pay interest with the idea that you are somehow helping your credit history. You will end up paying good money for no benefit.