Does Filing for Unemployment Affect Your Credit Score?

Does Filing for Unemployment Affect Your Credit Score?

At some point, there may come a time when you need to ask the question: Does filing for unemployment benefits affect your credit score? The answer is no, fortunately.

Losing your job can be like a kick in the stomach — it can deflate you, and leave you scrambling to figure out what to do next. That last thing that many people need, in addition to firing up a job search, is a hit to their credit score, too. If you do lose your job, many financial professionals will tell you that the first thing you should do, if you qualify, is to file for unemployment so that you still have some income as you revise your resume and start interviewing.

The good news, again, is that you don’t need to worry about a potential ding to your credit, though. More information below!

Recommended: What Credit Score is Needed to Buy a Car

Why Your Credit Score Matters

Your credit score is, in a sense, your financial reputation. It can give lenders or creditors a quick and easy summary of your creditworthiness — or, how likely it is you are to pay back a loan on time and in full. Everyone has a credit report, and you can think of your credit score as a truncated version, or sort of like a Cliff Notes, to your credit score.

So, why does your credit score matter, then? Because it’s used by lenders to gauge how risky you are as a borrower. It’s used to measure not only whether a lender would be willing to give you a loan, but how much they’d charge you for the privilege; or, what the effective interest rate would be for borrowing.

When it comes to some of life’s bigger purchases, such as a car or a home, that can be very important. A couple of percentage points can mean that a borrower ends up paying tens, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars more in interest over the years. As such, when a lender sizes up your credit application and takes a look at your credit score, the higher, the better.

As for what factors affect your credit score? It’s a mixture of things: Your payment history, total debt balances, credit utilization, credit history (how long you’ve had accounts), credit mix, and inquiries from lenders.

Recommended: Should I Sell My House Now or Wait

Unemployment Won’t Appear on Your Credit Report

Again — you may be concerned that if you lose your job, filing for unemployment may affect your credit score. And, again, there’s no cause for concern. Not only will filing for unemployment not affect your credit score, it also won’t appear on your credit report. Your credit report contains information relating to your past borrowing activity, not your employment status.

So, unless there’s been a change in your credit history — say, you apply for a new line of credit, or close an old credit card — your credit report won’t change. That said, your credit report may contain information relating to past employers, but the only thing that should have an effect on your credit score will be items relating to financial accounts.

That may become an issue if, say, you were issued a company credit card at a previous job. But for most people, your employment status, or past employers, aren’t likely to have an impact on your credit report or credit score.

Remember: Your credit score is a snapshot of your financial reputation, not your employment status!

How Unemployment Can Affect Credit Scores Indirectly

With all of that in mind, your employment status — or filing for unemployment — may have an effect on your credit score in an indirect way.

As mentioned, your employment status isn’t a part of your credit score’s calculation, and neither is whether or not you received unemployment assistance. It’s really all about paying back or down your debts, on time, and on schedule. As such, if you do lose your job and file for unemployment, you may find yourself in an income crunch; your unemployment check is most likely going to be smaller than the paycheck you’re accustomed to receiving, and that may make it difficult to keep up with your payments.

You may also be tempted to start using your lines of credit more while unemployed as a way of making ends meet. For example, you might start using your credit card at the grocery store as a way of keeping money in your bank account, with the thought that you’ll pay off your balance once you get another job and a regular paycheck again. Some individuals may also look into personal loans for unemployed persons, too.

That logic may not be faulty, but doing so, you will increase your credit utilization and overall debt, which can lower your credit score.

Finally, if you find that you can’t keep up with your minimum payments due to the resulting cash crunch of losing your job, that, too, will ding your credit score. That’s why it’s important to maintain a line of communication with lenders. If you can’t make your payment, let them know, and they may be willing to work with you.

And, remember, if you do have a company credit card or some other type of financial account with an employer, and you lose your job, that credit line could be severed. That, too, could affect your credit score, as it ultimately lowers your total available credit.

Recommended: What is The Difference Between Transunion and Equifax

How to Protect Your Credit Score When Unemployed

As for protecting your credit score while unemployed, the most important things you can do are to try and keep your debt balances low and to keep an open line of communication with your creditors. Of course, a loss in income will probably spur you to change your spending habits (by cutting back in certain areas), but in terms of maintaining your credit score, the best course of action is to keep doing what you’re doing: making your payments.

That means continuing to make your payments (at least the minimum) as scheduled. And, since it bears repeating, if you’re going to struggle to make those minimum payments, call your lender and let them know. Some will be willing to make accommodations (forbearance, extensions, etc), perhaps by deferring payments, although there’s no guarantee.

If you feel that you need more help, you can also work with a credit counselor to help you evaluate your options, and even negotiate with your lenders. You may also want to set up free credit monitoring, too, so that you can see any changes to your score. A money tracker app may be helpful as well.

The Takeaway

If you lose your job and file for unemployment, there shouldn’t be a direct effect on your credit score. That said, there may be indirect factors that could lower your score, but the most important thing you can do to maintain a strong credit score is to keep making your payments, and try to keep your debt balances (or credit utilization) to a reasonable level.

And remember that if you’re really struggling, it may be worth it to reach out to a professional for personalized advice. SoFi can help. Track your money, monitor your credit, get a breakdown of your spending, and more all in one place.

FAQ

Can I apply for a credit card when I’m unemployed?

It’s possible to get a credit card while unemployed, but keep in mind that a creditor’s main concern is whether or not you can make your payments. As such, your approval for a credit card may hinge on your income and other debts or financial obligations.

What If my credit score goes down?

Credit scores go up and down all the time, but if you do experience a fall in your credit score while unemployed, you’ll likely know why — and it’s probably because you missed payments or saw your credit utilization go up. The good news is that you can always work on increasing it again!

What personal information does your credit report include?

The short answer? A lot of it. That includes your name, aliases, birth date, Social Security number, address (and former addresses), phone number, and possibly your employment history, among other things.


Photo credit: iStock/sorrapong

SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc.’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. Based on your consent SoFi will also automatically provide some financial data received from the credit bureau for your visibility, without the need of you connecting additional accounts. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score is a VantageScore® based on TransUnion® (the “Processing Agent”) data.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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What Is a Prepaid Credit Card and How Does It Work?

What Is a Prepaid Credit Card and How Does It Work?

A prepaid credit card is a type of credit card onto which you load money in advance. You can use the card to make purchases online or at brick-and-mortar stores or to withdraw money at ATMs.

While they have “credit card” in the name, prepaid credit cards are actually quite different from a standard credit card. Wondering how does a prepaid card work exactly? Let’s take a closer look at what a prepaid credit card is, the different types of prepaid cards, and the pros and cons of having one.

What Is a Prepaid Credit Card?

As mentioned before, a prepaid card is a card on which you load money ahead of time, similarly to how you would with a gift card. Some of the same credit card issuers that offer traditional credit cards may offer prepaid credit cards.

The amount you load onto the prepaid card is the maximum amount you can spend on the card, similar to a credit limit. For instance, if you load $200 onto the card, you can spend up to $200.

You can use the card to make purchases or withdrawals from an ATM. Prepaid cards might also be used for government benefits or for payroll.

Many prepaid credit cards are also called prepaid debit cards or stored-value cards. While they may look just like a credit card and bear the logo of a major credit card company like Visa or Mastercard, they’re not actually credit cards.

Because you’re not borrowing from a line of credit, you won’t have to worry about accruing debt, making a minimum payment by a due date, or owing interest. Your activity also will not be reported to the credit bureaus, meaning it won’t affect your credit score or history.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card

Types of Prepaid Credit Cards

There are two main types of prepaid credit cards: open-loop and closed-loop. Here’s how they differ.

Open-Loop

An open-loop prepaid credit card can be used anywhere that accepts the credit card network that the card is within. For instance, if your open-loop prepaid credit card has a Visa logo, then your prepaid card will be accepted at any merchant, location, or ATM where Visa cards are accepted.

Closed-Loop

Also known as a single-purpose card, a closed-loop prepaid credit card can only be used to make purchases from a single retailer or a group of stores. For instance, you may only be able to use the card when you shop at a particular grocery store chain. Closed-loop prepaid credit cards usually don’t have a credit card network logo on them.

How Does a Prepaid Credit Card Work?

You can use a prepaid credit card to make purchases and take out money at ATMs, just as you can get cash from a credit card. Each transaction you make using the prepaid card will reduce the total balance you have available. So, for instance, let’s say you loaded a total of $500 onto your card. Then, you make a purchase for $150. You would have $350 remaining to spend with your card.

Though it depends on the prepaid credit card, you may be able to reload additional funds onto your card. You can do so by depositing money from a bank account or paycheck, reloading the card at a retail location using cash, or buying a reload pack to add a certain amount to your card.

Advantages of a Prepaid Credit Card

Let’s look at some of the benefits and risks of prepaid debit cards, another common name for prepaid credit cards. Here are some of the upsides to weigh if you’re considering getting one.

Doesn’t Require a Credit Check

A credit check isn’t required to open a prepaid card. As such, it may be an option available to those with lower credit scores or a thin credit history. Further, getting a prepaid credit card won’t require a hard credit inquiry, which can ding your credit.

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score

Provides a Safe Alternative to Cash

A prepaid credit card is a safe, easy alternative to using cash. Depending on the network, a prepaid card might come with liability protections similar to those offered by debit cards.

Doesn’t Necessitate a Bank Account

You won’t need a bank account in order to get or use a prepaid debit card. Unlike debit cards, prepaid credit cards don’t require you to draw funds from a bank account, though if you do have one, you have the option to deposit money from your checking or savings account.

Won’t Cause You To Go Into Debt

Since you’re using money that’s already been uploaded to the card, you won’t have to worry about running a balance on your credit card. Further, you won’t have to worry about making payment due dates, one of the cardinal credit card rules, or the possibility of incurring interest if you can’t pay off your balance in full.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

Disadvantages of a Prepaid Credit Card

While there are a number of positives to prepaid debit cards, there are disadvantages worth considering as well.

Can Carry High Fees

Fees are probably the biggest drawback of a prepaid credit card. Many prepaid credit cards come loaded with fees, which can include the following:

•   Activation fees

•   Monthly maintenance fees

•   Reloading or card replacement fees

•   Purchase fees

•   ATM fees for transactions or balance inquiries

•   Check deposit fees

•   Declined transaction fees

•   Inactivity fees

•   Foreign transactions fees

•   Customer service inquiry fees

Just as you would consider how much a credit card costs before applying for you, do the same due diligence on prepaid card fees before getting one.

Does Not Boost Your Credit Score

Prepaid credit cards aren’t actually credit cards, which offer a revolving line of credit. Because they aren’t a form of credit, your activity is not reported to the credit bureaus. In turn, they aren’t a way to build your credit.

Offers Fewer Fraud and Liability Protections

While prepaid credit cards might come with some fraud and liability protections, they typically don’t have the full suite of protections that standard credit cards offer. Instead, their protections, if offered, may be more akin to those offered by debit cards, which are generally weaker than those of credit cards.

Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card

Alternatives to Prepaid Credit Cards

Besides prepaid credit cards, here are a few other options you might consider:

•   Gift cards: A gift card can be used at particular merchants or retailers. There are also gift cards offered by credit card networks, such as Visa or Mastercard, that you can use anywhere these networks are accepted. Like a prepaid credit card, you don’t need a bank account to get a gift card, though using one won’t help you boost your credit. Unlike prepaid credit cards, gift cards don’t typically carry any fees aside from potentially a one-time activation fee.

•   Debit cards: Another option you might consider is a debit card. These do typically require a bank account, however. Like a prepaid card, you’re only using the funds available in the account connected to the card. As such, getting a debit card does not involve a credit check nor will you have to pay interest since you’re not borrowing funds. There may be fees involved though.

•   Secured credit cards: If you have a low credit score or a thin credit profile, a secured credit card — one of the different types of credit cards available — can help boost your credit if you’re using the credit card responsibly. Secured credit cards require a deposit, and the deposit amount is usually the same as the card’s credit limit. Secured credit cards usually have lower fees than prepaid cards, but they do have interest fees. Plus, a credit check is required.

Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Limit

The Takeaway

Contrary to its name, a prepaid credit card isn’t actually a credit card. You aren’t accessing a line of credit with a prepaid card, and you can’t build credit. Instead, you load cash onto the prepaid card, which effectively acts as your credit limit. You can then use the funds to make purchases or withdraw money from an ATM.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

Do prepaid cards require monthly payments?

Prepaid cards can have a monthly maintenance fee. The amount of this fee varies, typically ranging from $10 to $15 a month. The money is drawn from the existing balance on your card.

Do prepaid cards cost money?

Prepaid cards usually do have fees. This may include an activation fee, ATM fees, reload fees, and foreign transaction fees, among others. Before getting a prepaid credit card, make sure to check what fees are involved.

Is an account needed for a prepaid credit card?

Are you wondering, ‘Can you get a prepaid credit card without a bank account?’ The answer is yes. A bank account is not required for a prepaid credit card.

Do prepaid cards help build your credit?

Prepaid credit cards do not help you to build credit. That’s because they’re not actually credit cards and don’t offer a revolving credit line. In turn, your payment history isn’t reported to the three credit bureaus.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

Photo credit: iStock/towfiqu ahamed
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Buy Now, Pay Later vs. Credit Cards: What to Know

Buy Now, Pay Later vs Credit Cards: What to Know

Both Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) and credit cards are ways to spread out the payment for a purchase over time, but they have a few key differences. Buy Now, Pay Later plans typically have a specific number of payments that are determined upfront. You’ll often pay a portion at the time of purchase, and then make regular payments over time, often with zero interest.

In contrast, when you pay with a credit card, you may not have to make any payment immediately. Instead, the credit card company will send you a monthly statement with all of the charges you made during the month. You’ll generally need to make a minimum payment, and will owe interest on any remaining balance. As long as you continue to make the minimum payments and are okay paying interest each month, there’s no limit to how long you can take to repay your purchase.

Read on for more on the differences between Buy Now, Pay Later vs. credit cards.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card

What Is BNPL (Buy Now, Pay Later)? And How It Works

BNPL (Buy Now, Pay Later) is a type of installment loan that allows customers to purchase something (either online or in-store) and pay for it over time. In recent years, there’s been a big jump in growth of Buy Now, Pay Later programs.

Several retailers and even some credit card companies offer Buy Now, Pay Later. The details of these programs vary depending on the merchant, but there are some similarities. With a BNPL plan, generally you make an initial deposit of around 25% at the time of purchase. Then, you’ll make a series of installment payments until your balance is paid off, similarly to how you would with layaway.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

Pros and Cons of Buy Now, Pay Later

Now that you’re familiar with the definition of Buy Now, Pay Later, here are some of their pros and cons:

Pros

Cons

No hard pull on your credit to apply May influence you to make purchases outside your budget
Generally 0% interest or lower interest than using credit cards You won’t earn any rewards like you might by using a credit card
Can get approved even with less-than-stellar credit May hurt your credit if you miss payments or pay late

Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Limit

What Is a Credit Card? And How It Works

A credit card is a type of revolving credit that allows you to make charges against your line of credit.

When you apply for a credit card, the issuer will do a hard pull on your credit. If approved, you’ll be given a specific credit limit that is the maximum amount you can borrow. As you borrow against that limit when using a credit card, your available credit is reduced. Similarly, it’s replenished when you make payments.

Each month, you’ll get a statement listing all of the charges you made that month, plus any outstanding balance. If you pay off the balance in full, you won’t be charged any interest due to how credit cards work. However, if you pay less than the full amount, you’ll owe interest on any remaining balance.

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score

Pros and Cons of Credit Cards

Credit cards can serve as a useful financial tool when you use them responsibly and adhere to credit card rules. However, they also have the potential to cause harm. Here are some pros and cons of using credit cards:

Pros

Cons

Many more retailers accept credit cards than offer BNPL plans May encourage you to spend outside of your budget
Credit cards may offer cash back or rewards for using them Many cards come with high interest rates
Can help build your credit when used responsibly Can hurt your credit if you keep a balance or miss payments

Difference Between Buy Now, Pay Later and Credit Cards

While Buy Now, Pay Later plans and credit cards have some similarities, they have a few key differences. Here’s a look at BNPL vs. credit card distinctions:

Buy Now, Pay Later

Credit Cards

Opening the account Apply with participating retailers at the time of purchase; no hard pull on your credit required Apply directly through the credit card issuer; hard pull on your credit
How they affect credit scores Usually no effect on your credit score Can help build your credit when used responsibly, or hurt your credit when misused
Interest Often no interest when paid on-time in full Interest charged on any outstanding balance each month
Fees Often no fees when paid on-time in full Fees vary by credit card and issuer, including a fee for late payments
Rewards No rewards earned Many credit cards offer cash back or rewards for purchases

Recommended: Can You Buy Crypto With a Credit Card

What Is a Buy Now, Pay Later Credit Card?

Traditionally many Buy Now, Pay Later plans were offered by companies that were not traditional credit card companies. However, several issuers are now starting to offer credit cards with Buy Now, Pay Later features available.

With these Buy Now, Pay Later credit cards, you can combine some of the benefits of both options. You can use your credit card like you normally would (including earning rewards) and then identify larger purchases that you’d like to pay for over time with the Buy Now, Pay later card feature.

Choosing a Buy Now, Pay Later Credit Card

Credit card issuers that offer Buy Now, Pay Later credit cards each run their programs slightly differently. You’ll want to look at the terms and conditions of each credit card you’re considering to see which works best for you. If the Buy Now, Pay Later options are similar, you can compare the credit cards themselves to find the best option.

Benefits of Buy Now, Pay Later Credit Cards

These are some of the upsides of BNPL credit cards to consider:

•   Earn rewards on your purchases.

•   You can finance the purchase for a variable length of time.

•   Responsible and on-time payments can help your credit score.

Risks of Buy Now, Pay Later Credit Cards

That being said, there are potential downsides to know about too, including:

•   Buy Now, Pay Later cards may encourage you to spend more than you have.

•   Unlike traditional Buy Now, Pay Later plans without credit or debit cards, you may be charged a fee to pay for your purchase over time.

•   There is a minimum purchase amount you must meet to be able to use the BNPL feature of your credit card.

Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card

The Takeaway

Buy Now Pay Later and credit cards are two ways to pay for your purchases over time. With BNPL, you’ll usually pay an initial deposit at the time of purchase, and then you’ll make several fixed payments over the course of a few months. With credit cards, you have a set credit limit that represents the maximum you can spend on any purchases. Each month, you’ll get a statement with your total monthly charges and any outstanding balance. If you don’t pay your statement balance in full, you’ll owe interest on any unpaid amount.

Buy Now, Pay Later and credit cards can both make sense in certain situations if you need to make a purchase and don’t have the money right now. Another option is to get a Buy Now, Pay Later credit card, which combines features from both types of plan.

The SoFi Credit Card offers unlimited 2% cash back on all eligible purchases. There are no spending categories or reward caps to worry about.1



Take advantage of this offer by applying for a SoFi credit card today.

FAQ

Is Buy Now, Pay Later better than a credit card?

Buy Now, Pay Later and credit cards can both be the right answer depending on your specific situation, so it’s hard to say that one is better than the other for every scenario. Buy Now, Pay Later can be a good option if you want to finance a purchase over a fixed period of time with low interest and fees.

Will BNPL affect my credit score?

Generally speaking, BNPL plans do not impact your credit score as long as you make your payments on time. However, if you do not fulfill your BNPL contract, your outstanding debt may be reported to the credit bureaus, which could have a negative impact on your credit score. All BNPL plans work differently, so you will want to make sure you understand the terms and conditions of the plan you’re using.

Will BNPL replace the use of credit cards?

While BNPL and credit cards are both financial instruments that allow you to pay for purchases over time, they have some important differences. Since they have different pros and cons, it is unlikely that one will completely replace the other. Instead, it is more likely that both will continue to be used in different situations.


Photo credit: iStock/RgStudio

1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

The SoFi Credit Card is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A. pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.

1Members earn 2 rewards points for every dollar spent on purchases. No rewards points will be earned with respect to reversed transactions, returned purchases, or other similar transactions. When you elect to redeem rewards points into your SoFi Checking or Savings account, SoFi Money® account, SoFi Active Invest account, SoFi Credit Card account, or SoFi Personal, Private Student, or Student Loan Refinance, your rewards points will redeem at a rate of 1 cent per every point. For more details please visit the Rewards page. Brokerage and Active investing products offered through SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. SoFi Securities LLC is an affiliate of SoFi Bank, N.A.

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Budgeting With a Credit Card: Guide to Spending Smarter With Your Credit Card

Budgeting With a Credit Card: Guide to Spending Smarter With Your Credit Card

While you may think of your credit card as what tends to break a budget, it’s actually possible to budget with a credit card to spend smarter. In fact, there are a number of advantages of budgeting with a credit card. If you spend only what you can afford to pay off each month, you can enjoy earning rewards, building your credit score, and accessing other perks without accruing interest.

It isn’t always easy to set — and then stick to — a budget though, and a credit card budget is no different. Read on for tips on budgeting with a credit card.

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score

Why Use Credit Cards?

Although credit cards can have downsides — especially when someone tends to overspend — they also offer benefits that you can’t get when you pay with other methods. This includes:

•   Fraud protection: It can be easier to dispute charges and fraudulent activity on a credit card as opposed to a debit card or cash.

•   Opportunity to improve your credit score: When a credit card is used responsibly, it can positively impact a person’s credit score.

•   Credit card rewards: Credit cards often come with perks like travel points or cash back.

•   Travel insurance: Some credit cards offer specialty protection benefits like travel insurance.

Why Is Budgeting Important?

Whether using a bank account or credit card, a monthly budget is an essential part of financial wellness. Budgeting can:

•   Help to reach financial goals, such as establishing an emergency fund or saving for a downpayment for a home.

•   Alleviate financial anxiety that can come from uncertainties around finance.

•   Improve credit history through a record of on-time payments and responsible spending.

At first glance, budgeting may seem like a limiting factor, but it actually allows you to spend guilt-free. When budgeters know how much they can spend on certain categories each month and adhere to those guidelines, they don’t have to worry about overspending.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

Specific Budgeting Methods You Can Work With

There’s no one-size-fits-all budgeting method. However, here are some popular methods that you might consider trying if you’re interested in creating a personal budget.

The Zero-Sum Budget

In a zero-sum budget, every dollar is “spent” or has a job. However, that doesn’t mean an account should be $0 at the end of the month. Instead, it means that every dollar earned should be allocated to a specific category, with no money left unassigned by the end of the month.

Each time an after-tax paycheck comes in, a zero-dollar budget will assign it to a category, starting with necessities like rent, food, student loan payments, and insurance. The rest goes toward discretionary spending or saving.

Zero-sum budgeting means taking a critical look at each dollar entering a bank account, which can feel frustrating for some but helpful for others.

The Spreadsheet Budget

A spreadsheet or line-item budget groups spending and purchases into categories balanced against monthly post-tax income. In its most basic form, the spreadsheet budget is a list of expenses, shown line by line and grouped by type. Income covers expenses, with surpluses going toward additional savings or debt payoff.

The Online Budget

Apps and other digital tools make budgeting as easy as creating a log-in and connecting existing accounts to track spending. You can also set up budgets for upcoming purchases.

An online tool can be helpful for those who feel intimidated by budgeting prep or prefer a more passive look at spending.

11 Tips for Budgeting With a Credit Card

Using a credit card to budget isn’t so different from a traditional budget. Keep these 11 tips in mind when building a credit card budget.

1. Determine Your Monthly Income

To figure out take-home pay each month, budgeters can consult their bank account or look at paystubs from their employer (typically through an online portal). If your income varies each month, take the average income over the past year to get a rough ballpark figure.

2. Pick a Budgeting Method

A person can’t budget with a credit card if they don’t have a budgeting method in mind. Consider one of the aforementioned methods or an alternative like the 50/30/20 budget, where you allocate 50% of your budget to needs, 30% to wants, and the remaining 20% to savings.

3. Track Your Spending

Some budgeting methods are specific about how spending should be tracked. However, you can easily track your spending with pen and paper, a spreadsheet, or a spending app. No matter the method, it’s important to track each purchase.

4. Categorize Your Spending

When it comes to how to budget credit card payments, it helps to look back at your spending first. Gather financial statements from credit cards and bank accounts for the past month. Break each transaction into a category, such as needs, wants, savings, or something more specific.

With an idea of historical spending, now’s time to put a plan into place moving forward.

5. Create a Plan

Armed with a structure and an understanding of your past spending, now comes the time to plan for the future. When creating a plan, consider:

•   Recurring expenses

•   Savings goals

•   Debt repayment goals

•   Annual subscription costs

•   Emergency savings needs

6. Pay Yourself First

A top priority when budgeting with a credit card should be paying yourself first. When money hits a bank account, it should go toward personal savings goals, emergency savings, or an accelerated debt repayment plan.

It’s important to prioritize paying yourself first, as many try to budget with the reverse in mind, only setting aside what’s left over at the end of the month. This approach can lead to falling short on savings goals.

7. Calculate Your Expenses

After setting aside money for savings, it’s time to break down the remaining income into monthly expenses. This includes necessities like rent or mortgage payments and wants like dining out or entertainment.

If monthly income can’t cover all of the anticipated expenses, it may be time to cut back on spending. Is there slack in the budget from underused subscriptions? Or can grocery spending go down?

Figuring this out before you swipe can help you to avoid overspending on credit cards.

8. Plan for Debts

The difference between credit card budgeting and traditional budgeting comes when the credit card bill is due. If someone has been primarily spending on a credit card, it’s unlikely they’ll see their bank account change most of the month. However, that changes when the bill comes due.

With each transaction on the card, the budgeter should have enough money in their check or savings to cover the cost. Planning for this debt means avoiding the scramble that sometimes comes with a credit card due date.

9. Simplify Your Billing Schedule

Missing a credit card bill can harm a credit score and add financial stress to a person’s budget. Mark credit card due dates on the calendar each month, and consider paying the bill early or breaking it into multiple payments throughout the month.

10. Use Rewards as a Bonus

The benefit of budgeting with a credit card comes from the various credit card rewards you can earn. Remember to cash in on cash back perks every few months for a discounted bill or redeem the travel miles you’ve earned for an upcoming trip.

Recommended: Can You Buy Crypto With a Credit Card

11. Avoid Carrying a Balance

Carrying a balance on a credit card could indicate an imbalanced budget due to how credit cards work. When a credit card bill isn’t paid in full, the remaining balance can accrue interest, leading to a ballooning balance that becomes harder to pay.

That’s why upfront planning is essential to budgeting with a credit card. Without a plan in place, there’s a bigger risk of overspending, which can snowball into credit card debt. If you’re using a credit card, it’s important to stick to one of the most important credit card rules of always trying to pay off your balance in full.

Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card

Pros and Cons of Budgeting With a Credit Card

There are benefits and drawbacks to credit card budgeting, including:

Pros

Cons

Opportunity to earn credit card rewards and cash back from spending Possible to more easily go over budget with a higher credit limit
Improved credit score with responsible spending Exceeding budget could mean incurring interest charges and additional debt
Option to set up account alerts to better stay on top of account spending Potential to harm credit score with missed or late payments

Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Limit

The Takeaway

There are advantages of budgeting with a credit card, such as earning rewards, gaining access to credit card perks like travel insurance, and improving your credit score if you use your card responsibly. By setting up a credit card budget, you can better prevent yourself from spending more than you can afford and ending up owing interest when you can’t pay off your statement balance in full.

The SoFi Credit Card offers unlimited 2% cash back on all eligible purchases. There are no spending categories or reward caps to worry about.1



Take advantage of this offer by applying for a SoFi credit card today.

FAQ

How can I manage my budget with credit cards?

Budgeting with a credit card isn’t different from budgeting without one. The key to budgeting credit cards is not to spend more on a credit card than you can afford to pay off at the end of the month.

Should I budget with a credit card?

If someone can stick to a traditional budget, then budgeting with a credit card might make sense. The difference is remembering to stay up to date with payments, as missing a credit card payment can negatively impact a credit score.

How much of a hold does the budget put on your credit card?

Budget should have a pretty serious hold on a credit card. When people can’t pay their credit card bill in full, they’ll incur interest charges, which can cause them to fall into debt over time and potentially drag down their credit score.

How do credit cards affect my personal budget?

If a budgeter isn’t paying attention when using a credit card, it’s easy to overspend. This can result in putting more on a credit card than you have available in cash to pay it off. As a result, you may end up paying more than the sticker price for your purchases due to interest, leaving you less money leftover for your other needs and savings goals.


Photo credit: iStock/Mirel Kipioro

1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

The SoFi Credit Card is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A. pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.

New and existing Checking and Savings members who have not previously enrolled in direct deposit with SoFi are eligible to earn a cash bonus when they set up direct deposits of at least $1,000 over a consecutive 25-day period. Cash bonus will be based on the total amount of direct deposit. The Program will be available through 12/31/23. Full terms at sofi.com/banking. SoFi Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. Member FDIC.

SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 4.00% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on Savings account balances (including Vaults) and up to 1.20% APY on Checking account balances. There is no minimum direct deposit amount required to qualify for these rates. Members without direct deposit will earn 1.20% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 3/17/2023. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet

1Members earn 2 rewards points for every dollar spent on purchases. No rewards points will be earned with respect to reversed transactions, returned purchases, or other similar transactions. When you elect to redeem rewards points into your SoFi Checking or Savings account, SoFi Money® account, SoFi Active Invest account, SoFi Credit Card account, or SoFi Personal, Private Student, or Student Loan Refinance, your rewards points will redeem at a rate of 1 cent per every point. For more details please visit the Rewards page. Brokerage and Active investing products offered through SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. SoFi Securities LLC is an affiliate of SoFi Bank, N.A.

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7 Tips to Help You Use Your Credit Cards Wisely

7 Tips to Help You Use Your Credit Cards Wisely

If you’re saddled with credit card debt, you’re not alone. A recent study based on Federal Reserve and Census data found that over 45% of households in America carry a credit card balance, and that their average balance is $6,270. Considering the average credit card interest rate is just under 17%, that average balance could end up costing Americans quite a bit in interest.

Not only can reducing your credit card debt allow you to stop making hefty interest payments, but because 30% of your FICO Score® is determined by your debts owed, reducing your debt could potentially help improve your credit. If you’re working on getting out of — and staying out of — credit card debt, here are some tips on being a savvy credit card user.

How to Use a Credit Card Wisely: 7 Tips

If you have a credit card, it’s crucial that you use your credit card responsibly. Here are some tips to keep in mind to ensure your credit card usage stays in check.

1. Always Try to Pay Off Your Statement Balance in Full

Again, with average interest rates around 17%, credit cards can be a very expensive way to borrow. It’s extremely important to pay off your statement balance in full after each billing cycle if you want to avoid dealing with high-interest charges.

If you’re already in the habit of paying your balance in full when it comes due, you could consider leveraging your credit card spending to earn favorable reward points, such as points toward travel or cash back rewards.

2. Cut Your Interest Rate if You Have Credit Card Debt

If you have a large balance or multiple cards, paying off your credit card debt is likely top of mind. It could help to consolidate your credit card debt with a personal loan, as consolidating your credit card balance(s) might help you pay off your debt at a lower interest rate.

When you pay off a credit card, you’re still able to spend using that card, which would increase your balance even as you’re trying to deplete it. That’s because credit card debt is revolving debt, which is the debt you can continue to grow even while paying some of it off.

However, if you consolidate your credit card debt with a personal loan, you’d be paying off your debt in monthly installments without adding to that debt and, hopefully, at a lower interest rate. A personal loan is considered installment debt, which is debt that has a set, regular payment schedule until the balance reaches $0.

3. Make Sure to Pay on Time

This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s still worth discussing. Paying your statement balance after the due date may mean that you’re incurring late fees or other interest charges. And because payment history is 35% of your FICO Score , paying late can also potentially hurt your credit.

4. Build an Emergency Fund to Avoid Turning to Credit Cards in a Bind

Emergencies happen, and ideally, you’d be able to turn to your savings instead of leaning on a credit card to take care of an unexpected expense. If you don’t have an emergency fund yet, it might be a good goal to prioritize once your credit card debt is under control. In general, an emergency fund makes for a much better safety net for these situations.

Recommended: Why Having Emergency Savings Should Be a Financial Priority

5. Use the Snowball Method to Help Pay Off Debt More Quickly

Haven’t heard of the snowball method? Here’s how the popular debt payoff method works:

•   Target the account with the smallest balance to pay off first. You’ll want to pay as much as possible on this target account to pay off the debt as soon as possible. Meanwhile, you’ll continue making minimum payments on all other accounts on time to avoid late fees.

•   Once the target account is paid off, add the amount that you were allocating to the old target account to the account with the next lowest balance. Make that account the new payoff target.

•   Repeat this process until all debt balances are paid off.

For many, this method works by providing incremental victories from knocking out smaller debts, which can offer momentum toward tackling larger balances.

6. Keep Your Card Open Even After You Pay Off the Balance

Having access to available credit that you don’t use can help to improve your FICO Score. This is because you’ll be using a smaller percentage of your available credit. Remember, “amounts owed” accounts for 30% of a FICO Score.

To keep your available credit as high as possible, even if you make the occasional purchase or automate a bill payment on the card, you’d probably want to pay off the balance either on or before the due date.

7. Try Sticking to Cash to Reduce Credit Card Spending

Paying in cash instead can, paradoxically, be easier to track than swiping a credit card for purchases. If you only withdraw a certain amount of cash to spend for the week, it could potentially help reduce unnecessary spending.

To try this method, you’d want to decide how much you need to spend each day and put that amount of cash in your pocket. When it’s gone, you’re done spending for the day. It may take a lot of discipline, but if it helps you successfully pay off your credit card debt, it could be worthwhile.

The Takeaway

Using your credit card responsibly is key to avoid racking up interest charges and potentially harming your credit score. You’ll want to ensure you make at least the minimum payment on time each month and, if you can, pay off your balance in full. Other tips for using credit wisely include ensuring you have an emergency fund and considering sticking to cash for more strict budgeting guide rails.

And if you do find yourself in credit card debt, consider exploring solutions like the snowball method or securing a lower interest rate through a personal loan. With a SoFi personal loan, for instance, you could get funding as soon as the same day to start paying off your high-interest debt.

Got credit card debt? Learn more about how a SoFi personal loan can help you pay that debt off at a potentially lower interest rate.


Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


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