How Does Credit Utilization Affect Your Credit Score?

How Does Credit Utilization Affect Your Credit Score?

When it comes to improving your credit score, the term credit utilization should be on your radar. That’s because it’s one of the major factors that can affect your overall score. The lower your credit utilization — meaning the less of your total available credit you’re using — the higher your credit score could be.

Here’s a closer look at how credit utilization affects credit score, from how much lowering your credit utilization will affect your score to how long credit utilization affects a score.

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

What Is Credit Utilization and Why Does It Matter?

Credit utilization is the percentage of your overall credit limit that you use on your revolving credit accounts — most commonly, credit cards. In other words, it’s how much of your available credit you’re using.

Credit utilization is one of the most important factors that scoring models look at when calculating your credit score, since it suggests the risk you could pose as a borrower. The lower your credit utilization, the more it will appear that you can handle debt or use a credit card responsibly. Thus, a lower utilization rate is reflected in a higher credit score.

To calculate your credit utilization, add up all of your credit card balances and then divide that amount by your overall credit limit across your credit cards. For example, let’s say you have three credit cards, with an overall credit limit of $15,000. You’re carrying a balance of $4,000 across all of those cards. Using the previously explained equation, your credit utilization would be around 26%.

Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Limit

Factors That Affect Your Credit Score

Aside from your credit utilization, there are other factors that affect your credit score. These include:

•   Payment history: Another major factor aside from credit utilization is whether you pay your credit and debt accounts on time. If you consistently make on-time payments, the more creditworthy you’ll appear, and this will reflect on your score.

•   Credit history length: Credit scoring models typically take into account how long your current accounts have been open. They may even consider how long it’s been since you’ve used certain kinds of accounts. Generally, a longer credit history is a positive thing for your credit score.

•   Credit mix: Having different types of accounts may demonstrate to lenders how you handle different kinds of debt.

•   New credit: Opening multiple credit accounts or having a series of hard inquiries could signal to lenders that you pose a greater risk as a borrower. As such, it may negatively impact your credit score.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

How Credit Utilization Affects Your Credit Score

Your credit card utilization accounts for 30% of your FICO credit score, which is the scoring model used by the majority of lenders.

Since lenders look at your credit score to assess your creditworthiness, having a low credit utilization is key. That’s because if you’re using most of your available credit, it suggests to lenders that you could be a greater risk. A high utilization rate could signal to lenders that you may be stretched too thin financially and need to rely too much on credit, and therefore could have a hard time paying back what you borrow.

Your credit score is also dependent on other factors, such as the number of credit cards you have. For example, if you have one credit card with a low limit, having a high credit utilization may affect your score more compared to someone with multiple credit cards and high credit limits. Same goes for someone with a lengthy credit history that’s been mostly excellent, compared to someone who has no or a limited credit history.

All this to say: Credit utilization is an important factor in determining your credit score, but there are other aspects as well, such as your payment history.

Tips for Managing Your Credit Utilization and Credit Score

By managing your credit utilization, you can improve or maintain a better credit score. The following are a few effective tactics to do so.

Keeping Your Credit Utilization Rate Under 10%

Though keeping your credit utilization under 30% can help to improve or maintain your credit score, the lower it is, the better.

While you may be tempted to keep it at zero, that may not be as helpful as you think. A 0% credit utilization could signal that you’re not using your credit regularly. Since lenders want to see how you currently manage accounts, it will be hard to approve you for a loan if they see you’re not using any.

Instead, consider charging smaller amounts on your credit card and trying to keep your utilization rate to under 10%, which is a benchmark for achieving a high score. That way, you should be able to afford to pay the balance and show creditors you’re using credit regularly.

In addition to keeping your overall utilization below 10%, you’ll want to make sure that your utilization on each of your credit cards is also below that percentage. In many cases, credit utilization may refer to your per-card utilization.

Your best bet would be to look at your current credit card spending limit for each card and then aim to keep each card’s balance to no more than 10% of that amount. So if you have two credit cards with limits of $3,000 and $5,000, respectively, you wouldn’t want to charge more than $300 to the first card and $500 to the second.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card

Asking for a Higher Credit Limit

Getting a higher credit limit can lower your credit utilization even if you maintain the same balance on your cards. It also gives you more wiggle room — if you need to carry a balance on a credit card, you won’t have to worry as much about a big increase in your credit utilization.

When it comes to asking for a credit limit increase, issuers tend to look more favorably to those who have maintained good credit history, whose income went up, and even those who have less debt. If you do make a request, some credit card companies may conduct a hard credit inquiry, which could temporarily affect your credit score.

Making Payments Twice in a Month

By paying your credit card twice a month, your balance will remain lower. It will also increase the chances of your credit card issuer reporting that lower amount to the credit bureaus.

This could mean that your calculated credit utilization is lower, therefore increasing your chances of seeing a positive effect on your credit score. Plus, it will help you avoid racking up excessive credit card debt, which can have a negative impact on your score.

Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card

Keeping Your Credit Cards Active

It may be tempting to close a credit card that you don’t use anymore. However, if you do so — or if you don’t use a credit card for a while and the card is closed automatically — your credit utilization will automatically go up. This is true even if your balance is still the same, as your overall credit limit is now lower.

Instead, consider keeping that card open, even if you make a small purchase on it every few months.

Recommended: Can You Buy Crypto With a Credit Card

The Takeaway

Credit cards are useful tools, helping you make purchases, earn rewards, and build your credit. In order to reap the positive benefits, make sure to use your credit cards responsibly — including by keeping your credit utilization low. Given how credit utilization affects credit score, it may be worth exploring ways to manage your current utilization in order to lower it.

One way to lower your credit utilization is to increase your overall credit limit, which you can do when you get a credit card. If you’re looking for a credit card that suits your needs, consider SoFi’s credit card.

FAQ

What is a good credit utilization ratio?

A good credit utilization ratio is 30% or lower. Ideally, you should aim to maintain a credit utilization ratio of around 10% to show lenders you’re responsible with credit.

How long does credit utilization affect credit score?

Your credit utilization won’t affect your credit score forever. As long as you take the steps to lower it, you can see improvements within a short amount of time.

How much will lowering my credit utilization affect my credit score?

Lowering your credit utilization can have a major impact on your credit score. That’s because credit utilization makes up around 30% of your credit score calculation with most scoring models.


Photo credit: iStock/Ridofranz



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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Guide to Lowering Your Credit Card Utilization

How Using Your Credit Card Less May Affect Your Credit Score

Your credit utilization is the percentage of your overall credit limit that you’re using, and it can have a major effect on your credit score. As your credit usage decreases, it can positively affect your score since it shows you’re responsible with credit. On the flipside, high credit utilization can ding your score as it suggests you’re overspending

If you’re wondering how to lower credit card utilization, there are some steps you can take to do so and help your credit score bounce back.

What Is Credit Card Utilization?

Credit card utilization, or simply credit utilization, is how much of your credit limit you’re using on your revolving credit accounts. You can calculate this percentage by taking the total of your credit card balances and dividing it by your total credit limit.

For instance, let’s say you have two credit cards with limits of $3,000 and $5,000. You have a balance of $600 on the first card and $1,000 on the second card. By taking the total of your balances — $1,600 — and dividing it by your overall credit limit — $8,000 — you’d end up with a credit utilization rate of 20%.

Why Does Your Credit Utilization Matter?

When it comes to your credit score, scoring models look at various factors, including your credit utilization on both individual accounts and overall. In other words, if your overall credit utilization is high, or one of your revolving accounts has a high balance, your score could be negatively affected.

Considering that credit utilization determines 30% of your FICO score, which is the scoring model used by most lenders, it’s a major factor that affects your credit score.

What Is a Good Credit Card Utilization Rate?

As a credit card rule, you should aim to keep credit utilization under 30%. While this is the baseline, the lower your credit utilization is, the better.

A lower credit utilization rate demonstrates to lenders that you are responsible with your credit and don’t appear to rely on credit too heavily.

Tips for Lowering Your Credit Card Utilization

The good news is that you can raise your credit score relatively quickly just by lowering your credit utilization. Here’s how to lower credit utilization.

Paying Down Your Balance

Making payments before the due date arrives or the billing cycle ends could mean your balance goes down before your credit card issuer reports the amount to the credit bureaus. You could even make a payment right after your purchase goes through.

Having a lower credit card balance lowers your credit utilization, even if your credit limit remains the same.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

Cutting Down on Spending

Budgeting carefully and reducing your spending could prevent you from racking up excessive credit card debt and getting stretched too thin financially.

However, that’s not to say you can’t use your credit card. Rather, limit your spending to what you can afford to pay off in full that billing cycle. Additionally, if you find your debt starting to balloon, consider pausing your credit card usage until you’ve gotten your balance under control so your credit utilization isn’t pushed higher.

Paying off Credit Card Balances With Personal Loans

If you’re carrying a balance on a credit card, one option to pay it off is taking out a personal loan. You could qualify for a lower interest rate, which can make the debt easier to get a handle on paying off. Plus, a personal loan is an installment loan, which means it won’t count toward your credit utilization.

However, you need to make sure you can still afford the payments and can qualify for competitive rates and terms. Some lenders may charge an application or origination fee — take this amount into consideration when deciding whether it’s worth going this route.

Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card

Requesting a Credit Limit Increase

Increasing your credit card limit can lower your credit utilization even if your outstanding balance remains the same. To get a credit limit increase, contact your credit card issuer to request one, either by calling the number listed on the back of your card or logging onto your online account.

Keep in mind that your credit card issuer may not approve your request. You may have to meet certain criteria to qualify, such as having a history of on-time payments and responsible credit usage.

Opening a New Credit Card

Opening a new credit card can increase your overall credit limit, and therefore potentially lower your credit utilization. Keep in mind that you most likely won’t know what your credit limit will be until you’ve been approved for the card. Plus, submitting an application generally triggers a hard credit inquiry, which could have an effect on your credit score.

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

Avoiding Closing Unused Cards

It might sound logical to close credit cards that you haven’t been using, but doing so could have negative consequences. More specifically, closing a credit card lowers your overall credit limit, which could increase your credit card utilization even if your credit card balance remains the same.

Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Limit

Becoming an Authorized User

You could ask your spouse, family member, or close friend to add you on their credit card as an authorized user. If the primary cardholder maintains a low balance and has a high credit limit, it could lower your overall credit utilization.

Before going this route, however, speak with the primary cardholder to determine whether becoming an authorized user will help your credit score. You’ll also want to be clear on how you plan on using the card, or if you’d rather be a cardholder in name only.

Finding Out Whether Your Issuer Reports to Credit Bureaus

Most credit card issuers will report your payment activity and account balance every 30 days to the credit bureaus, though the reporting date might not coincide with your payment due date. If your card issuer reports your payment activity before you make a payment, it could look like you have a high balance, which could increase your credit utilization rate.

To remedy this, contact your card issuer to determine when it reports to the credit bureaus. Aim to pay off as much of your balance as you can before that, or request a new due date that’s ahead of when your issuer reports to the bureaus.

How Will Lowering Credit Utilization Affect Your Credit Score?

The lower your credit utilization, the higher your credit score could be. Remember, your credit utilization is one of the major factors that affects your credit score. Aim to keep your credit utilization well below 30% — try using any of the methods mentioned above to do so — in order to help your score.

Recommended: Can You Buy Crypto With a Credit Card

The Takeaway

Credit utilization — the percentage of your overall credit limit you use — has a major effect on your credit score. It’s best to keep your utilization as low as possible, but the benchmark generally recommended is that it should reach no higher than 30%. If your credit utilization rate has crept up, there are some tactics you can try to lower it, from paying down your balance to getting a new card.

If you’re looking to open a new credit card to try and lower your utilization, consider applying for a credit card with SoFi. The SoFi credit card is designed to help you save, invest, and pay down debt. Plus, it offers generous cash-back rewards.

Sign up for the SoFi credit card today.

FAQ

How can I fix high credit utilization?

You can decrease your credit utilization by paying off your balances early, asking for a credit limit increase, applying for a new credit card, and cutting down on spending.

How can I keep my credit utilization below 30%?

You can keep your credit utilization below 30% by watching your spending and balances across all your credit cards.

How low should I keep my credit utilization?

It’s best to keep your credit utilization below 30%. That being said, the lower your credit utilization rate, the better.

Does zero utilization hurt your credit score?

Zero utilization doesn’t hurt your credit score. However, 0% utilization doesn’t necessarily help your credit score either, as you can’t demonstrate on-time payments and other positive credit behavior.


Photo credit: iStock/Farknot_Architect



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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Guide to Metal Credit Cards: What You Need to Know

Guide to Metal Credit Cards: What You Need to Know

Pulling a metal credit card out of your wallet was once considered a status symbol. Today, however, more card issuers have added credit card metal options to their card offerings for customers who prefer a sleek — and heavier — plastic alternative.

But beyond being metal instead of plastic, you may wonder what is a metal credit card exactly and are they better? We delve into the similarities and differences between plastic and metal credit cards, as well as how to get a metal credit card if you’re looking to add some heft to your wallet.

What Is a Metal Credit Card?

A metal credit card functions much in the same way as its plastic cousin. You can swipe a metal card at a point-of-sale terminal, or if the card is chip- or RFID-enabled, you can insert or tap it for payment.

Additionally, cardholders who have a metal credit card but prefer to use their digital wallets, can use their digital metal card the same way as other credit cards in their digital wallet. To use a credit card in this manner, simply tap your device toward the card reader to activate the transaction.

A key distinction with metal credit cards, however, is the material that the physical card is made of. They’re typically composed of some type of hard, durable metal.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

A Brief History of Metal Credit Cards

The credit card issuer to spark buzz with its metal credit card was American Express. In 1999, it launched the Centurion Card — colloquially called the Black Card — which was the first metal card of the time.

The innovative, invite-only card was offered to the highest spenders of AmEx’s Platinum Card. Its exclusivity, coveted benefits, and unique credit card metal material set an impressive bar for the luxury credit card market moving forward.

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

What Are Metal Credit Cards Made Of?

The transition from traditional, lightweight plastic to various metals is why some credit cards are heavy. Specific materials that are used for metal credit cards vary across card issuers, with many companies keeping information about their credit card metal materials under lock and key.

As an example, the metal used for the Apple Card is titanium, while some cards use stainless steel, metal alloys, 24 karat gold, palladium and other metals, as well as hybrid cards that have a metal exterior with a plastic core.

Why Metal Credit Cards Are Popular

Since AmEx launched its metal Centurion Card, metal cards have oozed a sense of luxury and prestige. This premium metal card phenomenon went mainstream when Chase announced its metal Sapphire Reserve credit card in 2016.

The heavier material of metal credit cards has a noticeable in-hand feel that some cardholders prefer. Metal credit cards are also generally associated with elite status. For some, the perk of carrying a card that feels and looks special can be attractive.

Differences Between Metal and Plastic Credit Cards

Although metal credit cards have grown in popularity in the market, traditional credit cards made out of plastic are still commonly available. Below are the main differences to know between a metal versus plastic card:

Metal Credit Card

Plastic Credit Card

Made of various metal materials Commonly made of PVC plastic
Weighs more (10.5 grams and up) Weighs less (approximately 5 grams)
Some have a higher barrier of entry Can be more accessible to consumers
Highly durable Less durable
May need to mail back to the issuer for safe disposal Can dispose of using commercial-grade tools

Similarities Between Metal and Plastic Credit Cards

As mentioned earlier, how a credit card works doesn’t vary whether it’s metal or plastic. You can add both metal and plastic cards into a digital wallet for convenience and use them in the same way to make purchases.

Further, both options offer the same bank-level security features you’ve come to expect from a credit card since encryption isn’t dependent on the material of the card. Rather, it’s contained within other features of the card, like the magnetic strip or chip-and-PIN technology.

Finally, despite the noticeable added weight of a metal credit card, their dimensions are roughly the same as those of a plastic credit card. Both a metal and plastic credit card fit into a standard wallet’s card slot, although metal cards might be slightly thicker.

How to Get a Metal Credit Card

Various card companies offer credit card products that issue a metal card, if you qualify. A good credit card rule of thumb to find the right card — whether metal or otherwise — is to compare various features, such as annual fees, rewards programs, sign-up bonus incentives and minimum required spend, and other card benefits.

Here are some examples of where to get a metal credit card and its specific card product name(s):

•   Amazon: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

•   American Express: Gold Card, Platinum Card, Centurion Card

•   Apple: Apple Card

•   Capital One: Savor, Venture X

•   Chase: Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve

•   Citi: Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard

•   HSBC: Elite World Elite Mastercard

•   JP Morgan: Reserve Credit Card

•   MasterCard: Gold Card, Titanium Card, Black Card

•   U.S. Bank: Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card

Factors to Consider Before Getting a Metal Credit Card

Flashing credit card metal when dining out might seem intriguing, but the bells and whistles of a premium metal card will also cost you. And, at the end of the day, a credit card’s material doesn’t affect what a credit card is and how it serves you.

Generally, credit card companies offer a metal credit card for its premium card products that charge steep annual fees. For example, for the privilege of using a swanky metal card, you might have to pay an annual fee of $95, with some cards charging up to a $550 annual fee.

If that’s within your budget, take a closer look at the benefits and incentives that the metal card offers, compared to non-metal cards. Whichever card you get next should serve your needs, whether that’s preference for high bonus reward categories in your top monthly spending categories or unique travel benefits and protections.

Also, consider that getting rid of your metal card takes a bit more effort than a standard plastic card. Whether you close your account or you’re issued a replacement for an expired card, you’ll usually have to mail your old metal card to the issuer for disposal. They’ll issue you a dedicated envelope to do so, but it’s an extra step that doesn’t exist with a plastic card.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card

Pros and Cons of Metal Credit Cards

As you can see, there are both upsides and downsides to metal credit cards. Here are the pros and cons to take into consideration before you get a metal credit card:

Pros

Cons

Sleek style Slightly bulkier in wallet
Less prone to damage May need to mail in for disposal
Typically offers premium card benefits Typically has a high annual fee
Associated with luxury Novelty is fading

How to Destroy a Metal Credit Card

If your existing metal credit card has passed its credit card expiration date, you won’t be able to destroy it using a standard pair of scissors, nor can you put it in a shredder that could typically handle your plastic cards.

To effectively destroy a metal credit card, you must either:

1.    Return it to your card issuer by mail. Your issuer will provide you with a prepaid mailing envelope.

2.    Drop it off at a local branch. If your issuer has a brick-and-mortar location, it might be able to dispose of it or mail it to the correct department.

Since the card is made of metal, it requires industrial-grade tools to dispose of securely. Additionally, shredding it yourself might result in injury. Consider relinquishing the metal card to your issuer for safe disposal.

The Takeaway

Metal credit cards might add panache to your credit card rotation, but their aesthetic appeal shouldn’t be the only reason to seek one out. A plastic card that has a generous rewards program might be more valuable in the long run than a metal credit card that has limited perks. Always consider your own credit card habits, the types of purchases you make, and the benefits that are most valuable to you when shopping for a new credit card.

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

Can anyone get a metal credit card?

Everyday consumers who meet a card issuer’s lending criteria can be eligible for a metal credit card. Unlike decades prior when metal credit cards were accessible to a select few by invitation only, today more card issuers offer their own metal credit card.

Are metal credit cards safe?

Yes, metal credit cards are safe to use. They have the same security features as their plastic credit card counterparts. The main difference is that the credit card metal material is more durable.

Can I request a metal credit card?

No, generally, a metal credit card is not a feature you can choose. Instead, metal credit cards are offered for specific credit card products that you can apply for.

Why are some metal credit cards heavy?

Credit card metal materials vary depending on the card. Some card companies use materials like stainless steel, aluminum, titanium, or a blended mix of metals to create the card. Different metals have different weights, some of which may feel heavier.

Are metal credit cards generally better?

No, metal credit cards aren’t better than plastic cards in terms of how the card functions or its features. Metal credit cards do have an edge when it comes to durability, however.


Photo credit: iStock/VioletaStoimenova

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.

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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Why Credit Cards Get Declined: 7 Common Reasons and Solutions

Why Credit Cards Get Declined: 7 Common Reasons and Solutions

There are several reasons why your credit card might get declined when trying to make a purchase. For instance, it could happen due to insufficient funds or because you’ve maxed out your card. Ultimately, the reason why your card is being declined depends on the particulars of your situation.

Awkward? Frustrating? Embarrassing? You bet. And in some instances, having your card get declined — especially when you have money — can be worrisome and costly. Let’s take a look at seven common reasons why your credit card may get declined and what you can do if it happens to you.

What Does It Mean for Your Credit Card to Be Declined?

When a credit card is declined, something went awry, and your transaction wasn’t processed. In turn, you won’t be able to make a purchase with that card. That’s because the credit card issuer did not provide authorization on your account — an essential component to what a credit card is and how credit card transactions function.

Sometimes, your credit card is declined due to what turns out to be an easy fix — for instance, a simple blunder like punching in the wrong ZIP code or a chip malfunction. In other cases, the reason might be something more complex and require steps to resolve before you can resume using a credit card.

7 Reasons Why Your Credit Card May Have Been Declined

Standing at the register wondering, ‘Why is my card being declined?’ Knowing the reason can help prevent the situation from happening again and ensure that future transactions go through smoothly.

1. You’ve Met Your Credit Limit

If you’ve maxed out your card — meaning you reached your credit limit — the issuer might block further purchases from going through.

Your credit limit is how much credit a card issuer extends you on a particular card. This amount varies from cardholder to cardholder, and it hinges on a handful of financial factors. You can find your credit limit on your credit card statement as well as in your cardholder agreement.

You’re more likely to reach your upper credit limit if you’re carrying an existing credit card balance. Beyond causing your credit card to get declined maxing out on your card — or getting close to it — can ding your credit. That’s because it increases your credit utilization rate, which is a factor in determining your credit score. It’s generally recommended to keep your credit usage below 30%.

What to do: Pay down your balance. You can also request a higher credit limit, but this could open the door to racking up more debt.

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

2. Your Transaction Was Flagged as Suspicious

Wondering ‘why is my card getting declined when I have money?’ In this scenario, it could be due to something entirely out of your control. For instance, the card issuer might block a transaction from going through to protect you from fraudulent activity.

Fishy purchases might include a transaction for a big-ticket item or a first-time purchase from a website or app. Or, it may raise a red flag to the card issuer if you use a card after a long dormant, or if there’s a cascade of purchases made in different locations within a short period of time.

What to do: Often, the card issuer will contact you to let you know that there’s been suspicious activity on your card and that your card has been temporarily blocked. You’ll be asked to review the last few transactions to make sure they’re indeed legitimate and that they were made by you. You can also reach out to the credit card company to see why your card has been blocked.

3. There’s a Large Transaction Pending

A merchant might request a credit card hold on your account if you make a large-ticket purchase. That’s because the merchant wants to ensure it will get paid what it’s owed. If there’s a hold on your card, that means that a portion of your credit limit is set aside, which could prevent further transactions from being authorized.

Holds are also common for transactions where the grand total might not be determined when you make an initial payment — think hotels, resort fees, purchases on cruise ships, and car rentals. The hold is usually lifted a few days after a transaction is cleared, if not sooner.

What to do: You can clear a hold by either reaching out to your credit card issuer or the merchant and requesting that it’s lifted. While there are no guarantees, it’s worth asking.

Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Limit

4. You Provided Incorrect Payment Details

Punching in incorrect payment details — think your billing address, card number, credit card expiration date, or security code — can result in your card not going through. And when you’re trying to use your card at the gas pump or at a brick-and-mortar store, entering the wrong ZIP code on the keypad can also trigger a “card declined” message.

What to do: Double-check all information before attempting to resubmit payment. Or, if you’re making an in-store purchase, consider using a mobile payment platform.

5. You’ve Defaulted on Payment

One of the significant consequences of a credit card late payment is that your card issuer might block you from making further purchases. A single late payment usually won’t trigger this result, but if you’re late for several months in a row, you might default on your card. In turn, your transactions might not go through.

Not only does falling behind on your payments impact your ability to tap into your card to pay for things, but it also dings your credit. Plus, it can trigger late fees.

What to do: Make a credit card payment as soon as you can. Once your payment is posted, your card should be unblocked and you can start using it again.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

6. Your Credit Card Is Deactivated or Expired

Cards usually expire three to five years from its issue date, after which point you can no longer use the card. Because the period until expiration varies, don’t forget to glance at the expiration date on a credit card if it’s been some time since it’s gotten some use.

You also won’t be able to use a credit card that’s been idle for a long stint or deactivated entirely. How long it takes for your card to be deactivated due to a lack of use will vary.

What to do: If you’re juggling multiple credit cards, remember to routinely check the expiration dates. You might also consider keeping a log of when each card expires, or when you last used it.

7. Your Purchase Was Attempted While Traveling

If a purchase was made in Prague and you live in Pittsburgh, this could alert the card issuer of potentially suspicious activity. In turn, a temporary freeze might be placed on your account.

What to do: Set a travel notification before you depart. Some card companies make it easy for you to set a notification on its mobile app. Otherwise, give the issuer a call to give them a heads-up of your travel dates and planned destinations.

What to Do if Your Credit Card Is Declined

The steps you’ll need to take to get to the bottom of a credit card getting declined largely depends on why it happened. In general, however, here are some moves you should make if your card was declined.

Contact the Credit Card Company

Reaching out to the credit card company can help you figure out exactly why your card was declined. If it was due to reasons such as suspicious activity or because you were traveling, you can verify the transactions. In turn, your hold can get lifted.

Verify Account Details

Incorrect information stored on retailer accounts, payment platforms, and your digital wallet could result in a failed transaction. Check to make sure the details on the cards on file are accurate.

Make a Card Payment

If you’re behind on your payments, make a credit card minimum payment as soon as possible. Once the payment goes through, the card issuer will likely unblock your card.

Preventing Your Credit Card From Being Declined

To avoid a declined credit card in the first place, mind these steps:

•   Set card alerts. Signing up for email or text alerts for your credit card transactions will help you stay on the lookout for suspicious activity. You can get notifications when purchases are made over a certain threshold or for any in-store, online, or over-the-phone purchases.

•   Keep tabs on your card balances. Monitor your spending and check how much of a balance you have on your cards. Stay below your credit limit to remain in the clear. As discussed previously, maxing out your cards — or nearing the threshold — will put you in danger of a declined credit card.

•   Stay on top of your payments. Make it a priority to stay on top of paying off your cards. Pay at least the minimum amount required by the credit card payment due date. Consider putting your card payments on autopay, which will help you ensure you make your payments on time. On-time payments will also help boost your credit score and avoid late or returned payment fees.

•   Set travel notifications. Some credit cards have a travel notification feature on their app. Before you depart, reach out to your card issuer to let them know when and where you’ll be traveling.

The Takeaway

Having your credit card declined while trying to pay for something can feel frustrating. It’s important to figure out why your card is being declined, whether it’s due to late payment or an expired card. From there, you’ll know what steps to take to prevent it from happening again and ensure that you can use your card when you need it.

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

Can a credit card be unblocked?

Yes, you can unblock a credit card. How you’ll do so depends on the reason it was blocked in the first place. As such, you’ll first want to get to the bottom of why your credit card was blocked. Then, you’ll need to take the necessary steps to release the block. For example, if your card was blocked due to suspicious activity, you’ll need to call the card issuer and confirm you made the last few purchases.

How long does it take to unblock a credit card?

It depends. If it’s a temporary block, your card can get unblocked immediately. But in other instances, it can take a couple days or even a couple weeks to unblock a credit card.

How can I check the status of my card?

You can check the status of your card by logging onto your account via a computer or mobile app. You can also check its status by calling the customer service number listed on the back of the credit card and inquiring.

How long does it take for a declined transaction to come back?

It depends on the card issuer and the reason why the transaction was declined. In some cases, it can take a few days. And in other cases, it can take longer.


Photo credit: iStock/bernardbodo

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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A Guide to How a Credit Score Simulator Works

A Guide to How a Credit Score Simulator Works

A credit score simulator is an online tool that can help you see how certain behaviors and decisions might impact your credit score in the future. It might take your existing credit history into account and how certain actions could affect your credit score.

For example, perhaps you open a new credit card or have an account sent to collections. A credit score simulator would take these marks into consideration and help you estimate the impact they may have on your credit score.

What Is a Credit Score Simulator?

A credit score simulator is an online, interactive tool that can help you assess how certain decisions or events will affect your credit score. Because everyone has a unique credit history, these tools can only help you to estimate the impact of changes to your credit score, rather than making this determination for certain.

Nevertheless, credit simulators can be useful, especially if you are working to improve your credit. There are many actions you could take that may affect your credit score — here are just a few examples:

•   Financing a home or car

•   Using a balance transfer credit card to consolidate your debt

•   Closing a credit card

•   Declaring bankruptcy

These are just a handful of the ways your credit score could rise or fall; there are many more examples. With so many possibilities, it can be difficult to predict how changes to your credit history will affect your credit score. Once you know what a credit card is, it quickly becomes apparent how a credit score simulator can help.

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

How Does a Credit Score Simulator Work?

After gaining an understanding of how credit cards work, you can start to understand how a credit simulator works. Each credit score simulator is different, but there are some commonalities in how they work.

Some start with your current credit score provided by a credit reporting bureau, then let you see how some of the changes mentioned previously would affect your score if you were to make them. While there’s no guarantee they will be completely accurate, they should give you an idea of the potential impact on your credit score.

Other credit score simulators might guide you through several questions about your credit profile. The result estimates your current credit score based on your responses. For example, the myFICO credit score estimator asks you about things like how many credit cards you have, how long ago you opened your first card, and whether you’ve missed a payment.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

How Your Credit Score Is Calculated

Credit score simulators generally use popular credit scoring models to estimate your current or future credit score. For instance, they might use FICO® Score 8 or VantageScore 3.0. These models use certain credit factors to calculate your score.

While each credit scoring model is different, certain behaviors tend to have a positive influence on your credit score, regardless of the model. Typically, some of the factors affecting credit score are:

•   Payment history: This is usually one of the most important factors in the calculation of your credit score. To avoid a negative impact on your credit score, you’ll want to avoid being more than 30 days late on any credit card payments.

•   Credit utilization ratio: This ratio is simply the total outstanding balance on all of your credit cards divided by their total credit limit. One of the credit card rules is that you should aim to keep this ratio below 30%.

•   Derogatory marks: These are items like bankruptcies, tax liens, and collections. It’s best to avoid these altogether if possible, especially since they can stay on your credit report for seven to 10 years.

•   Credit age: Creditors like to see that you have a long history of responsible credit use. Thus, your credit score may be slightly more favorable if your oldest credit card is decades old. The same holds true for loans.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

What a Credit Simulator Can Do

A credit score simulator can help estimate either your current credit score or what your credit score might be in the future. The result is that they can help you better understand how different actions will increase or decrease your score.

Thus, they can help you prioritize which actions to take. Should you pay off your credit cards quickly, or should you focus more on your loans for now? Credit score simulators can help you answer these questions when the answer isn’t so obvious.

What a Credit Simulator Cannot Do

The main thing that credit simulators cannot do is tell you exactly what credit score you should expect to have at a given point in the future. There are simply too many variables at play to know with absolute certainty what your score will be.

For one, your credit card issuer might use a different credit scoring model. Another possibility is that there are other changes to your credit profile that could impact your score. Perhaps you finish paying off a credit card six months from now, but an emergency suddenly arises that results in you taking out a personal loan.

The fact that there are so many possible scenarios is why we say credit simulators can only help you estimate your score rather than tell you exactly what it will be.

When It Makes Sense to Use a Credit Simulator

It makes sense to use a credit simulator in certain situations. For example, suppose you plan to finance the purchase of a new car. That will certainly have some impact on your credit, but the effect will vary depending on your credit history. A credit simulator can help you estimate what that impact will be.

Credit simulators can also help you decide which actions to prioritize if you have a bad credit score. Many of these possible actions might improve your score, but chances are, some will help more than others. Over time, you can gain a better understanding of which kinds of actions tend to have the largest impact.

Other Tools to Monitor Your Financial Health

Credit simulators are not the only thing that can help you monitor your financial health. Here are some other tools to consider:

•   Credit score monitoring: While credit simulators can help you estimate how changes to your credit report will affect your score, credit monitoring tools give you credit score updates on an ongoing basis. They can also give you a breakdown of your credit factors and how your score has changed over time.

•   Budgeting tools: Budgeting tools are useful because they often let you sync all of your bank accounts and credit cards in one dashboard. You can then see all of your balances in real-time.

•   Identity theft protection: If your identity is stolen, it can have a major impact on your credit and your finances as a whole. Thus, it’s not a bad idea to have this protection just in case.

What Makes a Good Credit Score?

It’s tough to overstate the importance of having good credit. Nevertheless, what constitutes good credit will vary from person to person. The general idea is you must show creditors that you are a responsible borrower and that you aren’t going to default on your debt (in this case, your credit card).

This is why things like late payments and high credit utilization can drastically lower your credit score. Late payments suggest you may not be able to reliably make your payments. And a high credit utilization suggests you may have a higher risk of default as you are using a high percentage of the credit available to you.

The Takeaway

Credit score simulators are one tool that can help you assess how different behaviors can affect your credit score. Because they are just simulators, they may not be completely accurate. Still, they can give you an idea of what to expect and help you reach your financial pals.

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

Are the changes made by a credit score simulator guaranteed?

In short, no. Credit scores are complex and other factors could affect your score in the meantime. Nevertheless, credit simulators can help you better understand how various changes may affect your credit score.

How long do credit score changes usually last?

How long changes to your credit score last depends on reporting to credit bureaus. Each bureau has its own schedule, but credit card updates usually happen every 30 to 45 days. However, some changes — such as a bankruptcy declaration — can remain on your credit report for as long as 10 years.

How accurate is a credit score simulator?

Credit score simulators should be relatively good at estimating credit score changes based on the information provided or available to them at any given moment. However, credit reports can change frequently, and simulators can’t usually predict what will happen with your credit a day, a week, or a month from now.


Photo credit: iStock/millann

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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