Does Carrying a Balance Affect Your Credit Score?

Does Carrying a Balance Affect Your Credit Score?

A persistent myth is that carrying a credit card balance will improve your credit score. If you’re wondering: do you have to carry a balance to build credit? The answer is no.

That being said, keeping a balance on a card can impact your credit — sometimes in negative ways. For instance, having a large balance can drive up your credit utilization rate, which impacts your credit score. And if you rack up too high of a balance on your credit card, you run the risk of starting to fall behind on payments.

What to Know About Carrying a Balance on Your Credit Card

When you carry a credit card balance, that means you did not pay off your last statement balance in full. Technically, you only have to make the minimum monthly payment by the due date to avoid a late fee. However, when you carry a balance, you’ll start to accrue interest on the unpaid amount.

Interest can add up quickly. For instance, let’s say you have a credit card balance of $5,000 and your credit card’s annual percentage rate (APR) is 24%. If you were to make monthly payments of $200, it would take you about 36 months to pay off the full amount, and you’d pay a grand sum of $2,000 in interest.

What Happens to Your Credit Score When You Carry a Balance?

Carrying a balance will cause your credit utilization to go up. Credit utilization compares your balance against your total credit limit across all of your cards, and it’s expressed as a percentage. For example, let’s say you have a balance of $1,000, and your total credit limit is $10,000. Your credit utilization would be 10%.

This matters because credit utilization is a major factor considered among popular consumer credit scoring models, such as the VantageScore and FICO, where it makes up 30% of your score. Generally, it’s advised to keep your credit utilization below 30% to avoid adverse effects to your score, though the lower, the better.

Situations in Which Carrying a Balance Isn’t Worth It

Sometimes, carrying a balance can give you a bit of breathing room to pay off a large purchase. But often, it’s not worth the potential effects on your credit score.

Your Credit Utilization Is Too High

If your credit utilization is too high because you’re carrying a large balance, it can hurt your score. Aim to pay off your credit card bill as soon as possible, rather than adding to your existing balance. That way, you’ll give your credit card a chance to bounce back.

Your Interest Rate Is High

If your balance is on a credit card with a high APR, you’ll want to think twice before carrying it. In general, credit cards tend to have higher interest rates than other types of debt, which is why credit card debt is hard to pay off. Plus, credit card interest accrues on a daily basis, so it’s easy for a balance to balloon.

You Can’t Keep Up With Payments

If you’re carrying a high balance, it’s probably best to keep your credit card balance to a minimum rather than adding to it and risking falling behind. The consequences of credit card late payment can include paying late fees, having your account sent to collections, and suffering potential impacts to your credit score.

When Will You Be Charged Interest on Your Credit Card Balance?

The majority of credit cards offer a grace period. During this time, you won’t be charged any interest. This grace period usually extends from the date your billing statement is issued to the credit card payment due date, and it’s typically at least 21 days long.

Once the grace period ends, you’ll be charged interest on your balance. Most credit card interest is compounded daily. In other words, each day interest will get charged to your account based on that day’s balance.

Advantages of Paying Off Your Credit Card on Time

Unsure of whether to pay off your credit card or keep a balance? Here’s the case for paying off your credit card on time and in full:

•   Avoid late fees and other consequences: Should you miss making your credit card minimum payment by the due date, you’ll get charged a late fee. Late fees typically range from $25 to $35. Plus, late payments of more than 30 days can get reported to the credit bureaus, affecting your credit score. You could also see an increase in your credit card APR.

•   Skip paying interest: Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of paying off your credit card balance in full is that you’ll avoid paying any interest. Thanks to the grace period, credit card interest only starts to accrue if you carry a remaining balance after the statement due date. Some credit cards even reward you for paying on-time. If you apply for a credit card with SoFi and get approved, for instance, you’ll get a lower APR after making 12 on-time monthly payments of at least the minimum due.

•   Dodge credit card debt: Paying off your statement balance in full will get you into the habit of only charging your credit card how much you can afford to pay. Plus, you’ll avoid the possibility of debt starting to pile up if you stay on top of your payments.

•   Lower your credit utilization: Another perk of paying off your credit card on time and in full is that it will lower your credit utilization rate. A lower credit utilization rate can positively affect your credit score — a rule of thumb to keep in mind if you’re working on building credit.

What Is the Best Way to Pay Off a Credit Card Balance?

The “best” way to pay off a credit card balance is whichever method works best for you and your unique financial situation. Some common ways to go about paying off a credit card balance, or making it easier to pay, include:

•   Paying promptly in full: If possible, pay your credit card balance in full each month. This will prevent you from paying interest, as well as getting hit with potential late fees if you fall behind.

•   Making early or multiple payments: Another option is to make an early payment. Paying off all or part of your balance before the due date lowers your credit utilization, which in turn can positively affect your credit score.

•   Adjusting your payment date: Reach out to your credit card issuer to see if you can move your credit card payment due date so that it’s easier for you to to stay on time with your payments. For instance, you might set your due date for right after you usually get paid.

•   Considering the debt snowball or debt avalanche payoff method: If you’re staring down a mountain of debt, consider one of two popular debt payoff strategies. With the debt snowball method, you pay off the card with the lowest balance first. Once that’s knocked out, you move to paying down the card with the next-highest balance. The debt avalanche method, on the other hand, is where you start with paying down the card with the highest interest rate. Once you get that card paid off, you focus on the card with the next highest interest rate and so on, until all of your debt is paid down.

Recommended: How Credit Card Payments Work

What to Do if You Need to Carry a Balance

Sometimes it’s just not feasible to pay down your credit card balance in a single month. If that’s your situation, here’s what to do to make sure you stay on top of your debt and can pay it off sooner rather than later:

•   Make at least the minimum payment: Falling behind on your payments isn’t good for your credit score, so make sure you’re at least making the minimum payment on time. This will also allow you to avoid getting hit with any late fees, not to mention the potential danger of your credit card issuer increasing your APR or worse, your account getting sent to collections.

•   Consider credit card debt consolidation: If you’re carrying a balance across a handful of high-interest credit cards, you might consider debt consolidation. With this approach, you’d effectively lump together your debts into a new loan. The potential advantages of doing this include paying it off quicker and saving in interest, depending on the terms of your loan.

•   Look into a debt management plan: Another option is to work with a third-party organization to create a debt management plan. You’d then make a single monthly payment to the organization. The organization might be able to negotiate on your behalf with credit card companies for lower monthly payments or a lower interest rate. A potential downside of a debt management plan is that it might require you to close your accounts until your balances are paid off, which could affect your credit score.

•   Research the option of a balance transfer: When you use a balance transfer credit card to move over your outstanding balances, you might be able to take advantage of a promotional APR that’s sometimes as low as 0%. If you can pay off your credit card before the promotional period ends, it could save you in interest fees. Note that you generally need good credit to qualify though (in other words, if you’re still establishing credit, this might not be the right option for you).

Recommended: Apply for an Unlimited Cash Back Credit Card

The Takeaway

Carrying a balance isn’t necessary to help build your credit score, and in some cases, it can hurt your score. If you need to carry a balance, make it a priority to at least make your minimum monthly payments, and aim to pay down your balance in full as soon as you can.

Not only can making your minimum payments on time help you avoid late fees, in some cases, it can reap you rewards. With the SoFi credit card, for instance, cardholders can secure a lower APR after making 12 on-time payments of at least the minimum amount due. And on top of that, cardholders can earn rewards on all eligible purchases with the SoFi credit card.

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

Should I carry a balance or pay off credit cards?

Ideally, you should aim to pay off your balance in full each month. That way, you won’t pay any interest. Plus, you’ll lower your credit utilization and improve your history of on-time payments, both of which are factors that determine your credit score.

How much of a balance is ideal for me to keep on my credit card?

The lower the balance, the better. Contrary to popular belief, carrying a balance will not help your credit, so there is no benefit in doing so. You should pay off your credit cards in full as quickly as possible. And if you do need to carry a balance, consider a balance transfer, credit card consolidation, or debt management plan.

Is it advisable to keep a zero balance on a credit card?

Yes, keeping your balance at zero will help you to build your credit or maintain a strong score. Plus, it will keep your credit usage low, and you won’t pay any interest.

What amount is too much of a balance on a credit card?

There’s no specific, one-size-fits-all amount. Rather, a credit card balance becomes too high if it brings up your credit utilization to over 30%, or if you have trouble keeping up with payments.


Photo credit: iStock/Delmaine Donson

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.

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.

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.

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 .

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Guide to Building Credit With an ITIN Number

Guide to Building Credit With an ITIN Number

In most cases, lenders send credit information to the major credit bureaus alongside a Social Security number (SSN). However, even if you don’t have a SSN, you still may have a credit report. Typically, Social Security numbers are given to U.S. citizens and non-citizens who are authorized to work in the United States. If you are not eligible for a Social Security number, you may apply for and be issued an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

An ITIN is not typically used by the major credit bureaus as an identifier for a credit profile. In fact, if you only have an ITIN, you may not be able to access your credit report online — instead, you may have to request it by mail. This can make it challenging to build credit and review your credit profile for inaccuracies.

What Is a Credit Score?

A credit score is a number that attempts to encapsulate how likely you are to meet any outstanding debt obligations that you have. Many lenders use this number when deciding whether or not to extend credit to an applicant. Your credit score is determined based on a number of factors, including your debt repayment history, credit utilization ratio, and the average age of your accounts.

Recommended: Tips for Establishing Credit

What Is an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)?

An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is an identifying number that can be used in some cases instead of a Social Security number. The IRS will issue an ITIN to individuals who are not eligible for an SSN. An ITIN can be used for tax purposes, but it is not often used for credit purposes.

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

Who Should Get an ITIN?

The IRS will issue an ITIN to people who are required to pay taxes but are not eligible for a SSN. The IRS uses these numbers to track and process tax payments for individuals who have a U.S. tax liability. ITINs can be issued to both resident and nonresident aliens.

Additionally, if you are applying for a credit card for the first time but don’t have a Social Security number, you may be able to use an ITIN instead.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due?

Steps for Getting an ITIN

You’ll want to get an ITIN if you’re not eligible for a Social Security number and have a tax filing or reporting requirement. Getting an ITIN is a fairly straightforward process. To do so, you’ll need to:

•   Mail your W-7, tax return, proof of identity, and foreign status documents to the IRS, or apply in-person at an IRS-authorized Certifying Acceptance Agent. Alternatively, you can make an appointment at a designated IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center.

•   Wait to receive your ITIN from the IRS. It will usually arrive within seven weeks, assuming you submitted a complete application and are eligible for an ITIN.

Can You Get a Credit Card With an ITIN?

You may be able to get a credit card (such as an international student credit card) with only an ITIN. Different credit card issuers have different rules on whether or not they require a Social Security number or will accept a credit card application with an ITIN. Check the policies of various issuers to find the one that is the best fit for you.

Tips for Building Credit With an ITIN

It can be possible to build credit with only an ITIN, but it may be more difficult. If you’re hoping to build credit with an ITIN number, here are some tips:

•   Apply for and responsibly use credit and loans: One tip for building credit is to apply for and responsibly use debt, including credit cards. While some credit card issuers may not allow you to apply for a credit card without a Social Security number, there are some that do. Review the different options and consider that as one way to build credit with an ITIN.

•   Consider becoming an authorized user: Another way to build credit with an ITIN is by becoming an authorized credit card user on the account of a trusted friend or family member. Being an authorized user on another account can help you to build credit through the good credit of your friend or family member, and you may also get your own card, sometimes called a supplementary credit card, to use. It’s important to understand, however, that if the primary account holder doesn’t use their account responsibly, it may end up hurting your credit as well. Still, unlike with a joint credit card, you’re not responsible for payment.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

Checking Your Credit Score With an ITIN

Depending on the credit bureau, you may not be able to check your credit score with only an ITIN. Many lenders send information to the credit bureaus along with an individual’s Social Security number.

However, because credit bureaus use a variety of sources of information, you may still have a credit profile and credit score even if you don’t have an SSN. Still, some credit bureaus (such as Experian) will require you to submit any requests to see your credit profile by mail.

The Takeaway

If you are required to pay taxes in the United States but are not eligible for a Social Security number, you may be issued an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). It’s possible to apply for a credit card with an ITIN, but whether you can will depend on the rules of the credit issuer, which can vary from issuer to issuer.

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

What should I put instead of a Social Security number when applying for a credit card?

When filling out a credit card application, it’s important to be truthful and complete. If the application requires a Social Security number and you don’t have one, you may not be able to submit the application for that particular card. Some credit card issuers may allow you to submit an application with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) instead, though it varies by issuer.

Can I build credit with only an ITIN?

It can be possible to build credit with only an ITIN, but it may be slightly more complicated. One tip for establishing credit is applying for a credit card and using it responsibly, but not all credit card issuers allow you to apply with an ITIN. If you have a lack of credit history, it may also make it more difficult to get approved for a credit card and demonstrate that you can use credit responsibly.

Can I check my credit report with my ITIN?

It may or may not be possible to check your credit report with only an ITIN. Many lenders submit information to the credit bureaus solely based on an individual’s Social Security number. However, some bureaus will allow you to check your credit report without an SSN if you make the request by mail.


Photo credit: iStock/RgStudio

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 .

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.

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11 Things to Buy With a Credit Card to Build Credit

11 Things to Buy With a Credit Card to Build Credit

There are many ways that you can build and establish credit. Your credit score is made up of a number of factors, two of which are how much you currently owe and your overall payment history. As such, applying for and responsibly using a credit card can help build your credit, as can paying off your credit card statement on time and in full.

When deciding how much to use your credit card to build credit, it’s a bit of a balancing act. If you simply have a credit card but don’t use it, it may not improve your credit score very much. But if you spend too much on your credit card, you may damage your score. Building your credit comes down to finding the sweet spot between not using your card at all and using it too much.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

How Making Purchases With Your Credit Card Could Possibly Help Your Credit Score

The amount of credit that you use and your overall payment history are two of the most important factors that determine your credit score. As you start to establish credit, you’ll want to responsibly use your credit card, making sure to keep your spending low in comparison to your overall credit limit. You’ll also want to make at least the minimum payment by the statement due date or, even better, pay off your statement balance in full each month.

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

Minor Purchases to Build Credit

As you work toward building your credit, you’ll likely want to put some of your everyday purchases on your credit card. Just make sure that you set aside enough money to pay off your statement balance when it comes.

Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Limit?

Groceries

Groceries are one of the biggest monthly expenses for many families and households, so it can make sense to put your grocery purchases on your credit card. Most grocery stores accept credit card payments for no additional charge. Then you can plan to pay off your statement balance by the due date to help build your credit.

Gas

Gas is another large expense for many people. Most gas stations accept credit cards with no additional charges. Plus, paying for gas with a credit card is also usually more convenient. Keep in mind that some gas stations may offer a discount for paying for gas with cash, which can be a good way to save money on gas.

Utilities

Admittedly, utilities can be challenging to pay with a credit card. Some utilities may offer online payments with a credit card without a fee, though others may only allow fee-free payments by cash, check, or ACH. Unless you can find a way to dodge fees, it doesn’t make financial sense to pay a convenience fee just to pay bills with your credit card.

Coffee

If a daily coffee run is part of your regular routine, consider paying for it with your credit card. That way, you can earn credit card rewards and possibly build your credit, too, from a purchase you’d be making anyways. Also check if your coffee shop offers its own rewards program — you’ll want to make sure to sign up for that as well to take advantage of perks and offers.

Streaming Subscriptions

If you have recurring monthly subscriptions to places like Netflix, Hulu, or Disney+, that can be another cost to move over to your credit card. Setting up those recurring streaming subscriptions for autopay can help ensure your service is not interrupted and possibly build up your credit history.

Gym Membership

A gym membership is another potential cost to pay with a credit card in order to build up your credit. You’ll want to make sure that you are getting value from your gym membership, however. If you find that you rarely go to the gym, you might get better value from canceling your membership and saving or investing that money.

Entertainment

If going out to eat or other forms of entertainment are frequent monthly expenses for you, consider covering those with a credit card. Having a variety of expenses on your credit card statement can help you stay organized and more easily track your spending — plus, you could build your credit in the process.

Major Purchases to Build Credit

Besides everyday smaller purchases, it can make sense to use a credit card for major purchases as well. Many credit cards offer price protection or an extended warranty, which can provide additional benefits.

Car

Whether or not you’ll be able to use a credit card to pay for a car purchase will depend on the policies of the place where you’re buying the car. Some dealerships will allow you to cover the full cost of the car with a credit card, while others only allow credit cards for partial payment, such as the down payment.

Just make sure to negotiate a final price before you offer to pay with a card — otherwise, the dealer may try to charge a higher price to make up for credit card processing fees.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card?

Jewelry

Jewelry is another big-ticket item that you might cover with a credit card. Talk with the store where you’re making your purchase to see what options are available. Some jewelry stores might offer a discount for paying with cash, which might sway you in the choice between cash or credit card.

Home Appliances

There are several reasons it can make sense to buy large home appliances with a credit card. Not only could you earn rewards and build your credit, but the credit card you use may also offer credit card protection. This can potentially save you hundreds of dollars or more if you end up having a problem with your appliance down the road.

Taxes

It is possible to pay your taxes with a credit card, though there are very few ways to do it for free. Depending on where you live and the type of taxes you’re trying to pay, you’ll likely pay a convenience fee of 2% to 3%. Still, depending on what kind of rewards your card earns and your overall financial situation, it can make sense to pay taxes with a credit card.

The Takeaway

Just having a credit card may help build credit some, since your total amount of available credit plays a factor in determining your credit score. But if you’re really looking to build credit, you’ll want to use your credit card, and use it responsibly. Put some of your regular purchases and big-ticket items on your credit card, and make sure to have a plan to pay your statement off in full, each and every month.

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

What is a credit score?

Your credit score is a number that lenders can use to help determine how likely you are to repay your debts and obligations. The higher the credit score, the better, with the maximum credit score being 850.

What items help you build credit?

There are a variety of factors that make up your credit score, including the age and type of credit accounts you have, how much of your available credit you’re using, and your payment history. Responsibly using your credit card and paying off your balance in full and on time, for example, can help to build credit.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due?

What is the fastest way to build up your credit?

There generally are not any magic bullets to build up your credit from scratch fast. That said, one of the best ways to build up your credit is to show a history of reliably paying your bills on-time, each and every month. The longer your track record of using your existing credit responsibly, the better it is for your credit score.


Photo credit: iStock/Tingting Ji

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 .

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.

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Do Secured Credit Cards Help Build Credit?

Do Secured Credit Cards Help Build Credit?

In many cases, a secured credit card can be a good way to establish and build credit. However, if you’re planning to get a secured credit card to build credit, what’s critical to determine is whether the issuer reports usage to the major credit bureaus.

Many issuers do, but some may not. If your issuer does not report information to the credit bureaus, then a secured credit card won’t help build your credit. But if the issuer does, then that secured credit card could be a good starting point for your credit-building journey.

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

There are two different kinds of credit cards: secured credit cards and unsecured credit cards. An unsecured credit card is what most people think of when they think of a traditional credit card. In many ways, a secured credit card operates in much the same way, with the bank extending a specific amount of credit that you can use throughout the month and that you won’t have to pay until your statement closes at the end of the month.

However, there is one major difference between a secured credit card and an unsecured credit card. With a secured credit card, you have to put down a security deposit. The amount of this deposit is usually what then serves as your credit limit.

This money that you put down also acts as collateral. If you fail to pay the amount borrowed, the lender can take that deposit to help cover its losses. This added protection for the lender is why a secured credit card is generally easier to qualify for if you have a thin credit history.

If you use your credit card responsibly, you’ll get your deposit back in full when you close your account or get upgraded to an unsecured credit card.

Recommended: What a Credit Card Is

Can You Build Credit with a Secured Credit Card?

It is possible to build credit with a secured credit card — as long as your issuer reports usage and payment activity to the major credit bureaus.

If that information is reported, then you could build credit with a secured credit card, assuming you use your account responsibly. For instance, if you routinely make on-time payments, that could make a positive impact on your score, since payment history is one of the key factors that determines your credit score.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

Tips for Building Credit with a Secured Credit Card

Here are a few tips for establishing credit by using a secured credit card:

Make Sure Your Issuer Reports to the Credit Bureaus

If the issuer of your secured credit card does not report to the major credit bureaus, it is not likely to have an impact on your credit history or score. When looking at and applying for a secured credit card, make sure that it will report usage and payment history to the credit bureaus.

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

Pay Your Statement Balance On Time and In Full

Your overall payment history is an important factor in determining your credit score. Make sure to pay your secured credit card bill on time, each and every month. You should also not spend more money on your card than you have, so that you can pay your statement balance off in full when it comes due.

Avoid Maxing Out Your Card

Another factor that makes up your credit score is your credit utilization ratio, which is defined as your total balance divided by your total available credit limit. It’s generally recommended to keep this ratio at 30% or lower, if possible. In order to avoid negative effects to your credit score, you’ll want to steer clear of maxing out your card, even if that money is technically available to you.

Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Limit?

Other Ways You Can Use Credit Cards to Build Credit

Besides using a secured credit card, here are a few other tips for building credit with a credit card:

•   Increase your credit limit when possible. Again, this can lower your credit utilization rate, which is a major factor in determining your score.

•   Set up automatic payments. This way, you never make a late payment. Payment history has the biggest impact on your credit score.

•   Use your credit card regularly. While it might seem safest to keep your credit card tucked away unused, it’s necessary to use it to demonstrate to lenders that you can responsibly repay your debts. Just make sure not to spend more than you can afford to pay off in full.

•   Limit new credit applications. While it might feel tempting to try to get better cards as your credit starts to get established, keep new credit applications to a minimum. Each application results in a hard inquiry, which temporarily lowers your score. Too many applications within a short window of time can also raise a red flag for lenders.

•   Monitor your credit report. Even if everything seems like it’s smooth sailing with your credit, it’s smart to check in regularly. Review your credit report for any errors or any potential signs of fraud.

The Takeaway

If you’re not sure whether you’ll get approved for an unsecured credit card, you might consider a secured credit card instead. With a secured credit card, you put down a refundable security deposit upfront, which serves as your total available credit. Because of this deposit, lenders may be more likely to approve you. If you are approved, using a secured credit card can help you build credit — as long as your issuer reports usage to the major credit bureaus and you use your card responsibly.

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

How much will a secured credit card help my credit score?

There isn’t a specific formula to determine how much a secured credit card can help your credit score. Instead, you should focus on making and strengthening good financial habits like living within your means and paying off your credit card in full, each and every month. A secured credit card can be one way to help your credit score in this manner.

What is the best secured credit card to build credit?

The best secured credit card will vary depending on your specific financial situation. You’ll want to look for a secured card that reports to the major credit bureaus, charges low or no fees, and has a low interest rate. There are secured credit cards that offer a limited rewards program as well, which can make for a nice perk in addition to building your credit.

Can you get a secured credit card with a bad credit score?

Yes, it is possible to get a secured credit card with a bad credit score. Because you are putting down the initial security deposit, lenders may consider you as less of a risk than someone applying for an unsecured credit card. Therefore, you may have greater odds of approval when applying for a secured credit card.


Photo credit: iStock/Delmaine Donson

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 .

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How Mortgages Can Affect Your Credit Score

How Mortgages Can Affect Your Credit Score

Taking out a home mortgage can be one of the biggest financial decisions you make. While some people can, it’s uncommon to pay for a house entirely with cash. Most people put some money as a down payment and then take out a mortgage for the rest of their home’s purchase price. But before you sign on the dotted line, you’ll want to make sure you understand how a mortgage affects your credit score.

The good news is that, as long as you regularly make your mortgage payment on time, having a mortgage can help your credit score. You may see a slight negative impact to your credit when you first apply for a mortgage, since the lender will likely pull your credit report. But after that, your mortgage will generally have a positive impact on your credit score, assuming you’re consistently making on-time payments.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due?

Does Having a Mortgage Help Credit Score?

One of the mortgage basics is that in exchange for an upfront payment (generally used to purchase a home), you’ll make regular monthly payments to your lender for a specified period of time (often 30 years). Having a mortgage on your credit report can help your credit score in two ways. First of all, making your mortgage payments on time each month helps show a positive payment history. Another way that having a mortgage can help your credit is by diversifying your credit mix, which is another factor that makes up your credit score.

How Mortgage Application Impacts Credit Score

The process of applying for a mortgage can impact your credit score in a variety of different ways. Here’s a closer look.

Situations Where It May Hurt Your Credit

When you apply for a mortgage, your lender will usually do a hard pull on your credit report to assess your overall creditworthiness. The number of recent inquiries on your credit report is a negative contributing factor to your credit score, so you’ll want to limit the number you make within a certain window of time. One way to do this is to wait to apply for a mortgage until you are sure you have a sufficient credit score needed to buy a house.

Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Limit?

Situations Where It May Help Your Credit

It can be smart when applying for a mortgage to work with different lenders to find the right lender for your situation. One piece of good news is that multiple mortgage-related inquiries in a short period of time usually will only count as one inquiry. So if you’re working on establishing credit, you won’t need to worry about multiple inquiries from different mortgage lenders pulling your credit report, as long as they’re all within the same window of time.

Recommended: Apply for a Rewards Credit Card

How a Mortgage Can Affect Your Credit

Beyond applying, there are a number of ways that having a mortgage can affect your credit. When you get a mortgage it can help your credit score, but it can also hurt it.

Hard Inquiry When You Apply

One of the factors that makes up your credit score is the number of recent hard inquiries you have. Any time a potential lender conducts a hard pull of your credit report, it can cause a temporary drop in your credit score by a few points. This drop usually goes away after a few months, but it’s something to be aware of.

Paying Your Mortgage On Time

One of the biggest factors that affects your credit score is your payment history. So if you have a mortgage and regularly pay it each month, that can make a positive contribution to your credit score. This is one reason it’s important to make sure that you don’t take out a mortgage that you’ll have trouble paying each month.

Late Or Missed Mortgage Payments

Because your payment history is such a big part of what makes up your credit score, late or missed mortgage payments can have a large negative impact on your score. Potential lenders look at your credit report to get an idea of how likely you are to repay your debt obligations, so having late or missed payments can be a red flag to future lenders.

Improving Your Credit Mix

A lesser-known but still important part of what makes up for your credit score is your overall credit mix. Generally, it’s considered a positive sign if you have a variety of different types of loans on your credit report. This includes credit cards, auto loans, mortgages, personal loans, etc. Adding a mortgage to a credit report that doesn’t have one helps diversify your credit mix.

Changing Your Average Age of Accounts

Another factor that makes up your credit score is your overall average age of accounts. Potential lenders like to see a lengthy history of you responsibly using the credit that’s been issued to you. So while initially a new mortgage will lower your overall average age of accounts, over time it will work in your favor.

Recommended: Tips to Qualify for a Mortgage

Tips for Building Your Credit Score After Buying a House

After you’ve bought your house, here are a few tips to continue building your credit:

•   Pay your mortgage in full and on time, each and every month.

•   Continue to pay your other debts (like credit cards and student loans) on time each month as well.

•   Keep an emergency fund to ensure you can still meet your debt obligations (including your mortgage) even when the unexpected happens.

•   Make sure you save enough money to pay your home insurance and property taxes (if your mortgage isn’t escrowed).

•   Regularly review your credit report for unexpected or inaccurate information.

•   Increase your credit utilization ratio by raising credit limits and limiting debt.

•   Limit your new credit inquiries as much as possible.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

The Takeaway

Having a mortgage can affect your credit score in a variety of ways, but most of them are positive. While you will likely see a small temporary drop in your credit score due to the hard pull from your mortgage lender, that should go away after a few months. Then, as long as you regularly pay your mortgage on time each month, you should hopefully see a positive impact on your credit score from having a mortgage.

Another great way to build your credit can be by responsibly using a credit card. Many credit cards, like the SoFi Credit Card, also offer cashback rewards for everyday usage. If you’re approved for the SoFi Credit Card, you can earn unlimited cash-back rewards. You can use those rewards as a statement credit, invest them in fractional shares, or put them toward other financial goals you might have, like paying down eligible SoFi debt.

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 long does it take for your credit score to go up after buying a house?

When you get a mortgage (or any type of loan), the potential lender will likely do a hard pull of your credit report. Because the number of recent inquiries you have is a factor that makes up your credit score, this hard pull may temporarily drop your credit score. The good news is that it usually only drops by a couple of points, and even that small effect usually goes away after a couple of months.

How long should I wait after closing to make another big purchase?

You want to be careful about making large purchases or applying for any other credit before you are approved for a loan. This is because your lender and underwriter will be digging into your credit report in detail to make sure your overall financial situation is sound, and they’ll want to know about anything out of the ordinary. After you close on your mortgage, you don’t need to be as careful about making another big purchase, as long as it fits into your overall financial picture.

What credit score is needed to get a mortgage?

There isn’t a specific credit score that’s needed to get a mortgage. Instead, each lender will have its own criteria for approving mortgages. Your overall credit score, your total down payment, and the house itself will all play a role in whether you’re approved, and at what interest rate.


Photo credit: iStock/sturti

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.

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.

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.

Members 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.

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 .

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Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.


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