Using a credit card can be easy — almost too easy. And should a financial emergency pop up, or you reach for your credit card to make a cascade of purchases, before you know it, you’re faced with a maxed out credit card.
When you’ve maxed out on your card — or reached your credit card spending limit — it can have a negative impact on your finances. Let’s take a look at what happens if you max out on a credit card and how it can affect your credit score, as well as how to prevent maxing out in the first place and tips to bounce back if you already have.
When Is a Credit Card Maxed Out?
So, what is a maxed out credit card? Maxing out on a credit card simply means that you’ve reached the credit limit on your credit card. For instance, if you have a $20,000 credit limit on a card, and your balance hits that $20,000 mark, it’s maxed out. As such, you may not be able to put any more purchases on that card.
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What Happens If You Max Out Your Credit Card?
There are a number of financial impacts of a maxed-out credit card. For starters, your card will likely get declined if you try to make a purchase. This is because rather than overdrafting a credit card, your credit card is typically just turned down (though in some cases, you could instead face fees for exceeding the limit, and the charge will go through).
Additionally, you could end up paying quite a bit in interest if you can’t pay off your entire statement balance in full. Plus, it could take you a long time to pay off your balance, further increasing the interest you pay over time. Your minimum payment due may also increase, depending on how it’s calculated by your issuer.
A maxed-out credit card also means that your credit score will take a hit. That’s because your credit utilization — how much of your available your credit you’re using — makes up 30% of your credit score. If you’re maxing out a credit card, it looks as if you’re overextended financially, which signals to lenders that you’re a risk.
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Guide to Prevent Maxing Out Your Credit Card
To avoid maxing out on your credit card, here are some steps to take:
• Establish an emergency fund: Without an emergency fund, you’ll likely resort to using your credit card in a pinch, which could lead you to max out your credit card. To avoid ending up in this situation, aim to stash away at least three to six months of living expenses. If that seems like a tall order, start with one month of living expenses, and go from there.
• Keep tabs on your spending: A golden rule of using a credit card responsibly is to check your credit card statements to monitor usage. Aim to check your balance at least once a week, if not more frequently.
• Know how much of your credit you’re utilizing: Another of the golden credit card rules is to know what a reasonable balance to keep is and how much of your credit card is being utilized at any given time. For instance, if 30% is the maximum amount you’d like to maintain on your card, and your credit limit is $5,000, then $1,500 is the highest balance you should aim to carry.
• Request an increase to your credit limit: If you increase your credit limit, it would lower your credit use. However, keep in mind that you also run the risk of racking up a higher credit bill. When considering requesting a credit limit increase, you’ll want to make sure you won’t end up simply spending more.
How Maxed-Out Credit Cards Can Affect Your Credit Score
If you’re wondering if it is bad to max out on your credit card, know that it absolutely can have a negative impact on your credit score due to how credit cards work.
When you carry a high balance on a card, it drives up your credit utilization ratio, which can drag down your score. It’s generally recommended to keep the amount of your total credit you’re using at around 30%; if your cards are all maxed out, your ratio is closer to 100%.
However, you can save your score from the negative effects of a maxed-out credit card if you can pay off the balance in full before the statement period closes. If you do this, the maxed-out balance would not get reported to the credit bureaus.
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Tips on Bouncing Back from a Maxed-Out Credit Card
If you’ve hit your credit card spending limit, it is possible to recover. Here are some tips for how to bounce back from what happens when you max out your credit card.
Consider a Balance Transfer Card
Transferring your existing balance to a balance transfer card with a 0% APR interest rate could help you save money on interest. However, you’ll need to have a plan in place to pay off the balance in full before the interest rate kicks in and you’re back in the same place once again. Also note that balance transfer fees may apply, which are generally 3% to 5% of the amount you’re transferring.
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If you’re really struggling to keep your credit card spending down or are having trouble making payments, consider working with a professional. A credit counselor or non-profit credit counseling organization can sit down with you to learn about your debt situation and the state of your finances. From there, they can suggest a game plan to help you manage your debt.
Consider Personal Loans
Another way to bounce back from maxing out on a credit card is to take out a personal loan to pay off your credit card debt. This might make sense financially if you qualify for a lower interest rate with the loan than you have on your credit cards. It could also simplify the payment process by rolling all your debts into a single loan.
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If you’ve hit your spending limit on your credit cards, it can negatively impact your credit score and translate to paying more in interest over time. While it’s best to avoid, should you max out on your cards, there are ways to recover and rebuild your credit.
Once you’re back on track, look for a credit card that will reward you for your use. The SoFi credit card, for instance, features up to 3% cash back rewards on all eligible purchases. Cardholders earn 1% cash back rewards when redeemed for a statement credit.1 Plus, you can lower your APR after making 12 on-time payments of at least the minimum due.
What happens if I max out my credit card but pay in full?
If you max out your credit card but pay off your balance in full before the statement period ends, your credit utilization ratio won’t be impacted. In turn, it won’t have a negative impact on your score.
Can I still use my card after reaching the credit limit?
After you’ve reached the credit limit on your card, you generally won’t be able to make purchases on it. Your card won’t go through, and transactions will be declined. In some cases, however, your transaction may go through and you’ll instead owe a fee.
Is it bad to max out your credit card?
Hitting the spending limit on your credit card can have a negative financial impact. First, it can bump up your credit utilization ratio, which can bring down your credit score. It also could equate to a higher monthly minimum payment, and more interest paid over time. Plus, you likely won’t be able to put any more purchases on that card.
How can maxing out your credit card affect your credit score?
When you hit the spending limit on a card and don’t pay it off before the statement period ends, it impacts your credit utilization ratio, which makes up 30% of your credit score. In turn, your credit score will take a hit. On the flip side, decreasing the balances on your card can help boost your score by lowering your credit utilization.
Photo credit: iStock/nensuria
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
The SoFi Credit Card is issued by The Bank of Missouri (TBOM) (“Issuer”) 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.
1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.