Guide to Paying Bills With a Credit Card: Can You Even Do It?

It is possible to pay bills with a credit card. Using a credit card in this way can help you earn rewards like cash back and travel points.

But it’s not always the right financial move. Keep reading to learn what bills you can pay with a credit card and how using a credit card to pay bills works.

Can You Pay Bills With a Credit Card?

Yes, it is possible to pay certain bills with a credit card. However, using a credit card responsibly is key.

When using a credit card to pay bills, it’s important to make sure doing so won’t cause you to rack up a high balance. Paying bills with a credit card makes the most sense when you can easily pay off your credit card balance in full right away.

If done responsibly, a card holder can earn credit card rewards — like cash back, travel points, and gift cards — for spending on purchases they have to make every month without paying interest. Plus, making regular, on-time payments can help build your credit score.

When Should You Not Use a Credit Card to Pay Bills?

As great as the potential to earn rewards is, if someone can’t afford to pay their credit card balance, charging their bills can lead to high interest charges and late fees (which are two ways credit card companies make money).

It also might not make sense to pay bills with a credit card if it leads to paying an extra fee from the merchant.

What Bills Can You Pay With a Credit Card?

There are limitations on which bills you can pay with a credit card. And, as briefly noted earlier, you may owe a fee for using a credit card to pay bills, which could outweigh the benefits earned.

Here are 10 examples of bills you can pay with a credit card, as well as explanations on how paying these bills with a credit card works.

1. Streaming Services

The vast majority of streaming services accept credit card payments to cover the monthly cost of the subscription. To pay this bill with a credit card, all you’ll need to do is enter their credit card number on the streaming service’s website. The card will then automatically get charged each month unless you cancel or suspend your membership.

It’s unlikely any streaming service will charge an extra fee for using a credit card to pay for their subscription.

2. Utilities

Some utilities providers allow credit card payments, so it’s worth investigating this option to determine if it’s accepted. If your utility provider will take a credit card payment, then setting it up is usually as simple as providing your credit card number when you pay your bill online, over the phone, or through the mail. You can often set up autopay as well.

However, watch out for the additional convenience and processing fees that some providers may charge. Higher bills are more likely to offset this fee given the greater earning potential for credit card points or other rewards.

3. Cable

Cable is another bill you can pay with a credit card. To determine how to do so, you’ll want to consult your cable provider. You may be able to enter your credit card number on the online payment portal or provide this information over the phone. Setting up autopay is also usually an option with a credit card.

There is typically no additional processing fee to pay cable bills.

4. Phone

Another bill you might pay with your credit card is your phone bill. You can likely set this up online on your phone provider’s website or by giving them a call. If you’re unsure of how to pay bills with a credit card, simply consult your phone provider.

You’ll typically face no additional processing fees.

5. Internet

Your internet service is another bill that you can cover using your credit card. As with other utilities and services, consult your internet provider if you need assistance getting this set up. In general, however, you can do so through your online payment portal. If you don’t want to go through the legwork each month, you can usually set up autopay with your credit card.

Most internet providers won’t charge an additional processing fee to pay your bill with a credit card, meaning those costs won’t cut into any rewards you earn with a cash back credit card or other type of rewards credit card.

6. Rent

Most landlords don’t allow credit card payments, but there are third-party solutions that can allow someone to pay their rent with a credit card. This includes services such as Plastiq and PlacePay, which act as intermediaries.

However, you’ll generally pay a convenience charge or other fees. You’ll want to assess whether the benefits of using your credit card to pay rent outweigh the costs.

7. Mortgage

Mortgage servicers generally don’t allow credit card payments. However, there are third-party payment processing services through which you could pay your mortgage. Still, some credit card issuers may prohibit you from paying your mortgage through these services.

In addition to restrictions, you’ll want to look out for processing fees. These could cancel out any rewards you could earn from covering your mortgage with a credit card.

8. Car Loan

Just like mortgage services, most auto lenders also don’t accept credit cards for loan payments. If you do find an auto lender who’s willing to accept a credit card for payment, you’ll likely face a hefty processing fee.

Additionally, credit card interest rates tend to be higher than those of auto loans, so if you’re not confident you could immediately pay off your credit card balance in full, you could simply end up paying a lot more in interest.

9. Taxes

It is possible to pay some taxes with a credit card. The IRS allows you to pay on its website using a credit card. However, you’ll face a processing fee ranging from 1.82% to 1.98%, depending on which payment processor you select. If you opt to pay using an integrated IRS e-file and e-pay service provider, such as TurboTax, your fee could range even higher.

10. Medical Bills

While you can pay medical bills with a credit card, it might not be the most cost-effective option. This is because credit cards can charge high interest and fees, and there’s the potential to damage your credit score. Many medical providers may offer interest-free or low-interest payment plans, or a personal loan could offer a lower rate than a credit card.

If you do think the rewards and convenience of using a credit card is worth the risk, the process of paying bills with a credit card will vary by medical institution. Before charging your medical bills to a credit card, you may want to at least try to negotiate medical bills down.

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

Benefits of Paying Bills With a Credit Card

There are a few key benefits associated with paying bills with a credit card.

1. Ease of Payment

It may be possible to pay a bill with a credit card online, in an app, or over the phone.

2. Easy to Prove Payment

If a payment dispute arises, paying by credit card is an easy way to keep a record of payments.

3. Identity Theft Protection

If either a credit card or someone’s personal information gets stolen, a credit card issuer will pay back some or all of the charges.

4. Autopay

It’s easy to use a credit card to set up autopay for bills so you never accidentally forget to pay them.

5. Can Build Credit History

Given how credit cards work, using a credit card to make payments and then paying that balance off on time and in full can help build your credit score.

6. Earn Rewards

Purchases made with a credit card helps earn cash back and credit card points.

Downsides of Paying Bills With a Credit Card

There are also some downsides to paying bills with a credit card that are worth keeping in mind.

1. May Cost More

Because many bill services charge fees to pay with a credit card, it’s possible to spend more than necessary on processing fees.

2. Can Lead to High-Interest Debt

If someone can’t afford to pay off their credit card balance after using it to pay for bills, they can end up with high-interest debt on their hands.

3. Processing Fees Can Cancel Out Rewards

It’s important to do the math to make sure that the cost of processing fees isn’t canceling out the cash back you’re earning with the purchase.

4. Leads to Another Bill to Pay

Similar to when you pay a credit card with another credit card, paying a bill with a credit card simply leads to another bill to pay. This can cause more hassle than it’s worth.

5. Can Hurt Credit Utilization Ratio

Carrying a higher balance on a credit card can lead to a higher credit utilization ratio, which is damaging to credit scores. One of the common credit card rules is to keep your utilization below 30%, meaning you’re not using more than this percentage of your total available credit at any given time.

Recommended: What Is a Charge Card

Guide to Using a Credit Card to Pay Bills

At this point, it’s clear that it is possible to pay some bills with a credit card. But should you? In short, it depends.

If the bill provider won’t charge a processing fee and the consumer can afford to pay off their credit card balance in full, then paying their bills with a credit card is a great way to earn rewards and build a credit score.

However, in many cases, the processing fee some merchants charge can outweigh the value of cash back or other rewards earned. Not to mention, carrying a credit card balance can lead to incurring expensive interest and fees.

The Takeaway

It is possible to pay some bills with a credit card, but doing so can lead to paying costly processing fees or even accruing interest charges. It’s important to crunch the numbers to see if paying a bill with a credit will result in earning enough rewards to justify any processing fees.

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

Should I put non-debt bills on a credit card?

If someone can afford to pay off their credit card balance in full and the processing fee they’ll owe isn’t, it can make sense to put a non-debt bill on their credit card. They just have to remember to then pay their credit card bill to avoid owing any fees or interest, which could undercut the potential benefits.

Is it wise to pay monthly bills with a credit card?

Paying monthly bills with a credit card can lead to processing fees in some scenarios. If someone won’t owe a fee, they can benefit from earning cash back by paying their bills with a credit card. This can be a savvy move to make if they can afford to pay off their credit card bill in full each month, thus avoiding interest charges.

Is it better to pay bills with a credit or debit card?

Paying a bill with a credit card can lead to earning rewards, which a debit card can’t offer. There’s also often purchase protection. However, if you’re worried about handling credit card debt responsibly, you may opt for using a debit card, as this will draw on money you already have in your bank account. With either a debit or credit card, however, you’ll want to look out for fees.

Should I pay off my credit card in full or leave a small balance?

It’s always best to pay off a credit card balance in full if possible before a credit card’s grace period ends. The grace period is the time between when the billing cycle ends and your payment becomes due. You won’t owe interest as long as you pay off your balance in full before the statement due date. Otherwise, you could owe interest charges and fees.

What happens if you pay the full amount on your credit card?

Paying the full amount on a credit card makes it possible to avoid paying interest. After a credit card is paid off in full, the consumer can simply enjoy the rewards they earned by making purchases with their credit card.

Does paying a bill with a credit card count as a purchase?

Yes, paying a bill with a credit card does count as a purchase. This makes it possible to earn cardholder rewards like cash back when paying bills.


Photo credit: iStock/Damir Khabirov

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.

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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Credit Card Promotional Interest Rates: Understanding Special Offers on Credit Cards

Some credit cards offer a promotional interest rate, as low as 0% APR, for purchases and/or balance transfers. Often, these promotional interest rates are offered for a limited period of time when you apply for a new card, though some issuers offer promotional rates for existing cardholders as well.

If you have a large purchase coming up, or an existing credit card balance that you want to transfer over, these cards can save you a significant amount of interest. You’ll just want to make sure to pay off the full balance by the end of the promotional period, as your interest rate will likely jump significantly when your promotional APR expires.

What Are Credit Card Promotional Interest Rates?

A credit card promotional interest rate is an interest rate that is offered for a limited amount of time, as a promotion. During the promotional period, you’ll be charged a lower interest rate than your typical interest rate.

It’s common for credit cards to offer these introductory promotional interest rates for new members when you open a credit card account. However, it’s also possible for issuers to offer promotional interest rates to existing cardholders.

Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card

How Credit Card Promotional Interest Rates Work

One common scenario for how credit card promotional interest rates work is that an issuer might offer a 0% promotional interest rate on purchases and/or balance transfers for a certain period of time. When you’re using a credit card during the promotional interest period, you won’t pay any interest.

It’s important to note that there are two major types of promotional interest rates, and they vary slightly. With a 0% interest promotion, you won’t pay any interest during the promotional period. If there’s any balance remaining at the end of the promotional period, you’ll begin paying interest at that time. With a deferred interest promotional rate, on the other hand, you’ll pay interest on any outstanding balance back to the date of the initial purchase.

Benefits of Credit Card Promotional Rates

As you may have guessed, there are certainly upsides to taking advantage of credit card promotional interest rates. Here’s a look at the major benefits.

Low Interest Rate During the Promotional Period

One benefit of credit card promotional interest rates is the ability to take advantage of a low or even 0% interest rate during the promotional period. Having access to these promotional rates can give you added flexibility as you plan your financial future.

Ability to Make Balance Transfers

One possibility to maximize a credit card promotional rate is if you have existing consumer debt like a credit card balance. By using a balance transfer promotional interest rate, you can transfer your existing balance and save on interest. This can help lower the amount of time it takes to pay off your debt.

Can Pay For a Large Purchase Over Time

If your credit card has a 0% promotional interest rate on purchases, you can take advantage of that to pay for a large purchase over time. That way, you can spread out the cost of a large purchase over several months rather than needing to pay it off within one billing period.

Just make sure to pay your purchase off completely before the end of the promotional period to avoid paying any interest.

Drawbacks of Credit Card Promotional Rates

There are downsides to these offers to consider as well. Specifically, here are the drawbacks of credit card promotional interest rates.

Deferred Interest

You need to be careful if your credit card promotional rate is a deferred interest rate, rather than a 0% interest rate. Because of how credit cards work with a deferred interest rate promotion, you’ll pay interest on any outstanding balance at the end of the promotional period — back to the date of the initial purchase. This amount will get added to your existing balance, driving it higher.

Penalty Interest Rates

You still have to make the minimum monthly payment on your credit card during the promotional period. If you don’t make your regularly scheduled payment, the issuer may cancel your promotional interest rate. They may even impose an additional credit card penalty interest rate that’s higher than the standard interest rate on your card.

May Encourage Poor Spending Habits

Establishing good saving habits and living within your means is an important financial concept to live by. While it may not always be possible, it’s generally considered a good idea to save up your money before making a purchase. While a 0% interest promotional rate means you won’t pay any interest, it can contribute to a mindset of buying things you don’t truly need.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

How Long Do Credit Card Promotional Interest Rates Last?

By law, credit card promotional interest rates must last at least six months, but it is common for them to last longer. You may see introductory interest rates lasting 12 to 21 months, or even longer.

Regardless of how long your promotional period lasts, make sure you have a plan to pay your balance off in full by the end of it. Credit card purchase interest charges will kick in once your promotional period is over.

Zero Interest vs Deferred Interest Promotions

Both 0% interest rates and deferred interest rates are different kinds of promotional rates where you don’t pay any interest during the promotional period. However, they come with some key differences:

Zero Interest Deferred Interest
Often marketed with terms like “0% intro APR for 21 months”” Often marketed as “No interest if paid in full in 6 months”
No interest charged during the promotional period No interest charged during the promotional period
Interest charged on any outstanding balance starting at the end of the promotional period At the end of the promotional period, interest is charged on any outstanding balance, back-dated to the date of the initial purchase

What to Consider When Getting a Card With a Zero-Interest or Deferred Interest Promotion

One of the top credit card rules is to make sure you pay off your credit card balance in full, each and every month. But if you’re carrying a balance with a promotional credit card rate, you’ll want to make sure you understand if it’s a 0% rate or a deferred interest promotion.

With a 0% promotional rate, you’ll start paying interest on any balance at the end of the promo period. But with a deferred interest promotional rate, you’ll pay interest on any balance, back-dated to the date of the initial purchase.

In either case, the best option is to make sure that you have a plan in place to pay off the balance by the end of the promotional period.

Paying off Balances With Promotional Rates

You’ll want to have a gameplan for how to pay off your balance before the end of the promotional period. That’s because at the end of the promotional period, your credit card interest rate will increase significantly.

If you still are carrying a balance, you will have to start paying interest on the balance. And if you were under a deferred interest promotional rate, that interest will be calculated back from the initial date of purchase.

Watch Out for High Post-Promotional APRs

Using a 0% promotional interest rate can seem like an attractive option, but it can lull you into a false sense of financial security. You should always be aware that the 0% interest rate won’t last forever. Your interest rate will go up at the end of the promotional period, and if you’re still carrying a credit card balance, you’ll start paying interest on the balance.

Exploring Other Credit Card Options

There are some other credit card options besides getting a card with a promotional interest rate. For instance, you might look for a credit card that offers cash back or other credit card rewards with each purchase.

Before focusing on credit card rewards or cash back, however, you’ll want to make sure that you first focus on paying off your balance. Otherwise, the interest that you pay each month will more than offset any rewards you earn.

If you’re carrying a balance, you can also attempt to get a good credit card APR by making on-time payments and asking your issuer to lower your interest rate. By simply securing a good APR, you won’t have to worry about it expiring and then spiking like you would with a promotional APR.

The Takeaway

Some credit cards offer promotional interest rates to new and/or existing cardholders. These promotional interest rates could be a 0% interest rate for a specific period of time, or a lower interest rate to encourage balance transfers.

While taking advantage of promotional interest rates can be a savvy financial move if you have existing consumer debt or need to make a large purchase, you’ll want to make sure you have a plan to pay off your balance in full before the promotional period ends. That way, you avoid having to pay any interest.

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

Will my interest rate spike after a promotional deal ends?

Yes, generally credit card promotional interest rates last only for a specific number of months. The way credit cards work is to charge interest on balances that are not paid off. So, while your credit card may charge 0% or a lower promotional rate for a period of time, the interest rate will rise once the promotional period is over and will apply to any outstanding balance on the card.

How does promo APR work?

Promotional APR offers are generally put forward by credit card companies as a way to entice new applicants. Cards may offer a 0% introductory APR for a certain number of months on purchases and/or balance transfers. Once the promotional period is over, your interest rate will rise to its normal level.

Should you close a credit card with a high interest rate?

Having a credit card with a high interest rate will not negatively impact your credit or your finances if you’re not carrying a balance. So, simply having a high interest rate is not a reason, in and of itself, to close a credit card. But if you have a balance on a credit card with a high interest rate, you might want to consider doing a balance transfer to a card with a promotional 0% interest rate while you work to pay it off.

Is my credit card’s promotional rate too good to be true?

Promotional interest rates are a legitimate marketing strategy used by many credit card companies. While you shouldn’t treat them as a scam, you also need to make sure that you are aware of the terms of the promotional rate and how long the rate is good for. Make a plan to completely pay off your balance by the end of the promotional period before your interest rate increases.


Photo credit: iStock/Jakkapan Sookjaroen

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

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Are Credit Card Rewards Taxable? Guide to Paying Taxes on Rewards

In some cases, the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) does consider credit card rewards taxable income and in some cases, they don’t tax earned rewards. Confused? Don’t worry: Read on to learn when credit card rewards are taxable income and when they aren’t.

What Are Credit Card Rewards?

To better understand how credit card rewards are taxed, it can help to know what credit card rewards are. When a consumer uses a credit card they may earn different credit card rewards, such as points, cash back, and airline miles.

Depending on their redemption value, these rewards can be worth up to hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Your cardholder agreement should outline the credit card rules for how to earn rewards using a specific credit card, as well as how to redeem them.

How the IRS Treats Credit Card Rewards

In some cases, credit card rewards are taxable; in other cases, no. Take a closer look at which types of rewards and in which scenarios credit card rewards are counted as taxable income by the IRS.

Rewards Treated as Rebates on Spending

Luckily, cash back rewards and other rewards like miles or points aren’t considered taxable income when earned by making purchases. The IRS considers these types of rewards as rebates, discounts, or bonuses rather than income.

The trick is that the cardholder has to spend a certain amount to earn a reward in order for the IRS to not classify the rewards as income. For example, if a new credit card offers $200 in cash back when the cardholder spends $2,000 within the first six months of opening their account, that $200 would not be considered taxable income.

Rewards Considered as Income

Certain rewards are considered income. The way to identify which rewards are taxable income is by looking at how they’re earned.

As mentioned previously, if someone spends money to earn rewards, those rewards won’t be taxed. If, however, someone is given a $150 gift card simply for signing up or referring a friend for a new credit card, that $150 is viewed as taxable income — because they didn’t spend any money to earn it.

When Are Credit Card Rewards Taxed?

Again, credit card rewards that aren’t earned through spending (such as some introductory bonuses) can count as income that the IRS will expect the cardholder to pay income taxes on. Some scenarios in which credit card rewards may get taxed include:

•   If you received a sign-up bonus simply for opening a credit card or account

•   If you earn a reward for referring a friend

When Your Credit Card Rewards Are Taxable

As briefly mentioned above, any monetary rewards that a cardholder didn’t earn through spending can be considered taxable income.

Let’s look at how this can work with two different credit card bonus offers. If a cardholder is offered $100 if they spend $1,500 in the first three months of having their account open and they spend enough to earn that bonus, that reward won’t count as taxable income. On the other hand, if a cardholder is offered a $100 gift card simply for opening their new account, they will need to pay income tax on the $100.

When Your Credit Card Rewards Are Not Taxable

As briefly mentioned above, credit card rewards aren’t considered taxable income if someone spends money to earn them. When a cardholder acquires the rewards (cash back, travel miles, etc.) through purchases, then those rewards are classified as a rebate or a bonus, not taxable income.

For instance, this may include:

•   Sign-up bonuses that require meeting a spending threshold

•   Rewards earned from credit card spending

•   Miles earned through travel

Are Business Credit Card Rewards Taxable?

It doesn’t matter if the rewards are earned with a personal credit card or a business credit card — the same rules surrounding income taxes apply.

Where business credit cards can affect taxes is when it comes time to take tax deductions. For example, if someone bought $2,000 worth of equipment for their business and earned $40 in cash back rewards doing so, they can only deduct $1,960 on their taxes. In other words, they can only deduct the net cost of business expenses, which cash back reduces.

How to Know If You Owe Taxes on Credit Card Rewards

It can be hard to keep track of how much taxes are owed on credit card rewards. If someone earns a bonus without having to meet a spending requirement, the credit card company might send the cardholder an IRS Form 1099: either a Form 1099-INT or Form 1099-MISC specifying the amount of income they earned.

Whether or not you receive this form, however, you’ll need to report the bonus on your income taxes. To make doing this easier, it can be helpful to keep track of any bonuses not earned through spending. That way, if the credit card issuer doesn’t send a Form 1099-INT or Form 1099-MISC, you can still complete your taxes properly.

Reviewing old statements to look for statement credits in the form of cash back or other types of rewards can be helpful.

Recommended: How to Pay Taxes With a Credit Card

Avoiding Taxes on Your Credit Card Rewards: What to Know

To avoid taxes on credit card rewards, all the cardholder has to do is not seek out credit cards that offer bonuses for simply signing up for the credit card. If the rewards are earned through spending, they won’t run into any taxes, thus allowing them to pay less tax.

The Takeaway

In general, taxes only apply to rewards that don’t require any spending to earn. If you’ll owe taxes on your rewards, the credit card issuer typically will send a Form 1099-INT or Form 1099-MISC specifying the amount of income you’ve earned and will need to report.

Being smart about credit cards and their usage is about more than just rewards, however.

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 credit card cash back rewards taxable?

Only credit card rewards that cardholders receive without having to spend money to earn them in any way are considered taxable income. If a cardholder earns cash back for spending money using their credit card, it won’t count as taxable income.

Are loyalty points taxable?

If someone spends money to earn loyalty points (such as purchasing airline tickets), they won’t have to pay taxes on those points. If, however, they received the points simply for signing up for a credit card, that would count as taxable income that they’ll need to report.

Are credit card rewards reported to the IRS?

In some cases, yes, credit card rewards are reported to the IRS. When this happens, the credit card company might send the cardholder a Form 1099-INT or Form 1099-MISC specifying the amount of income they earned that they’ll need to report.

Do you have to pay taxes on credit card rewards?

Cardholders need to pay income taxes on credit card rewards they didn’t need to spend money to earn. If they had to spend money to earn a reward, such as cash back, that won’t count as taxable income.


Photo credit: iStock/Grayscale Studio

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.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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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Maxed-Out Credit Card: Consequences and Steps to Bounce Back

Maxed-Out Credit Card: Consequences and Steps to Bounce Back

When you’ve maxed out on your card — or reached your credit card spending limit — it can have a negative impact on your finances. Here’s a closer 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 your card or 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.

Recommended: What Is a Charge Card

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 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.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

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. Many financial experts advise keeping to no more than 30% or, better still, 10% of your credit limit.

•  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 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 no more than 30%, preferably closer to 10%. 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. That will also help you avoid interest on credit cards.

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. Also make sure you understand how a balance transfer can impact your credit, as you will likely have a hard inquiry temporarily lowering your score.

Request Help

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 nonprofit 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.

The Takeaway

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.

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 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 build 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 website .

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What Are Credit Card Points and How Do They Work?

Credit card points are a common incentive for cardholders to actively make purchases on a rewards credit card. Once earned, cardholders can use credit card points toward a redemption option they find worthwhile. This can include travel or a purchase credit toward a good or service.

Read on to learn more about how credit card points work, including how to get and how to use credit card points.

What Are Credit Card Points?

Credit card points are one of many different credit card rewards that card issuers offer to consumers through a rewards program. For instance, a program might offer you two points for every dollar you spend on the card, which you could then redeem for use once you’ve accumulated a certain amount of points.

Points act as a form of currency within a credit card rewards program, designed to entice cardholders into maintaining spending activity on the card. Some reward programs for credit cards are also co-branded to encourage loyalty to a particular brand.

How Do Credit Card Points Work?

Understanding how credit card points work ultimately comes down to knowing how to earn points on credit cards — and then how to redeem them.

Earning Points on Credit Cards

There are a number of ways to earn points on your rewards credit card account:

•   Everyday purchases: Using a card as your primary payment method for your routine expenses is one way to earn points. Depending on your preferences and the features of other rewards cards in your wallet, you might choose to put purchases, like your morning coffee, groceries, rideshare expenses, and more on the card.

You might also choose to dedicate certain spending categories to a rewards card that offers bonus points toward that purchase. For example, if your rewards card offers 5X points when using your card at the supermarket, you might decide to use the card for grocery costs only.

•   Shopping with credit card partners: Part of finding the right card for you is researching whether the credit card partners with brands and services that you already shop with. For example, some cards partner with ride-sharing services, like Lyft, and offer bonus points for every Lyft purchase put on the card.

Note that some card issuers require you to pre-register for this type of bonus point incentive. You might have to link your rewards card to your Lyft account in order to receive bonus point credit for ride costs, for instance.

•   Sign-up bonuses: If you’re expecting a costly upcoming expense, like a medical bill or home repair, a common strategy to earn credit card points quickly is finding a competitive credit card bonus offer. Sign-up bonuses typically offer a promotional bulk quantity of points after you spend a minimum amount on the card within the first few months of opening the account.

Putting your large purchase on a new card accelerates your point earnings, but make sure you can pay your monthly statements in full to avoid interest charges — one of the important credit card rules to abide by in general. If you allow your balance to roll over into the next month, it can cut into the value of a sign-up points bonus.

•   Referral points: When you refer a friend to your rewards credit card program, some card issuers offer a referral bonus. Typically, you’ll receive a referral bonus reward, and your friend also receives bonus points if they meet certain spending requirements on their new card. Referral points vary by credit card, but it’s another option for cardholders who want to earn points on credit cards while giving friends a bonus perk, too.

Redeeming Points on Credit Cards

You can redeem credit card points in various ways. Common options to redeem credit card rewards points, depending on your card’s redemption choices, include:

•   Flights

•   Hotel stays

•   Car rentals

•   Statement credits

•   Cash back

•   Gift cards

•   Merchandise

•   Online retailers

•   Special experiences

•   Charitable donations

Redemption typically takes place through the card issuer’s app or website, or through the issuer’s dedicated rewards program website.

Types of Credit Card Rewards

Credit cards offer different types of rewards options. The common “currencies” are points, miles, and cash back.

Reward Points

You can earn credit card points by making purchases on your rewards card. Some credit card products offer a flat rate per dollar spent on your card, while others offer bonus points toward a spending category.

For example, a card might offer tiered bonus points at a rate of 5 points per dollar at restaurants, 3 points per dollar toward every gasoline purchase, and 1 point per dollar on everything else.

Miles

Miles are a common reward unit that’s typically used among travel credit cards and airline-branded rewards cards. Depending on the mileage rewards program, you’ll typically earn bonus miles when charging travel-related expenses on your rewards credit card. Some credit cards also let you earn miles on non-travel purchases at a lower mile-per-dollar rate.

This type of credit card reward is ideal for regular travelers who often fly to their destination and are interested in using credit card rewards to travel for less. If you prefer flying on a specific airline, a branded rewards credit card can help you earn miles toward a future flight, in addition to other redemption options, like hotel stays or goods. General rewards mileage cards can be redeemed in a similar way, but it’s not restricted to a particular carrier.

Cash Back

Credit cards that offer cash back rewards let you earn a percentage of cash back based on the amount you spend. This can typically be redeemed as statement credit to reduce how much you owe on your monthly credit card bill, which can be part of using credit cards responsibly. Or it can be redeemed as cash sent directly to you. Some cash back credit cards let you redeem cash back rewards as credit toward a purchase through one of the issuer’s partners.

If you’re not an avid traveler, a cash back card can be a straightforward option to earn and redeem rewards. Many card issuers offer a flat-rate rewards model that offers an easy-to-remember cash-back percentage on all card purchases.

How Much Are Credit Card Points Worth?

The value of each credit card point is generally worth 1 cent. However, reward valuations vary between credit card reward programs and can also differ based on how you choose to redeem them.

For example, your credit card points could be worth 1 cent when you redeem them for cash or gift cards, but worth 1.25 cents when you redeem them for travel-related options, such as flights or dining. Keep in mind that these amounts can vary widely, so it’s important to understand the terms and conditions of your credit card.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

Getting the Most of Your Credit Card Points

Below are a few helpful ways to maximize your credit card points:

•   Stay on top of bonus categories. Some rewards credit cards offer rotating bonus spending categories that temporarily increase the points you can earn per dollar spent on the card. These types of cards often require you to “enroll” in the bonus category, so familiarize yourself with your card’s bonus calendar.

•   Be aware of bonus limits. Read the rules of your rewards program, including thresholds on the maximum dollar amount that’s eligible for bonus rewards.

•   Calculate if the annual fee is worth it. Before signing up for a rewards credit card, review your spending habits over the last year. Note the spending categories and amounts you’ve spent. Based on this information, calculate whether the card’s rewards program and benefits — like TSA PreCheck credit and other perks — exceed the annual fee you’d spend each year.

The Takeaway

Accruing credit card points, miles, or cash back can be worthwhile as long as you use your card responsibly and select a rewards card that fits your lifestyle. Before putting your earned rewards toward a high-dollar purchase, or applying earned cash rewards to your monthly statement, keep your objective in mind.

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

FAQ

Do credit card points expire?

Typically, credit card points don’t expire. However, your points might expire if your credit card account is closed, falls into bad standing, or after a period of inactivity. Different cards have varying rewards program terms and conditions, so check with your card issuer to see if your credit card points have an expiration timeline.

Do credit cards with rewards have higher interest rates?

Rewards credit cards tend to have higher interest rates compared to regular credit cards. Cardholders with a positive credit history and strong credit score generally qualify for lower interest rates compared to those with a low credit score.

What is the use of earning reward points on my credit card?

Earning rewards points on your credit card allows you to get something in exchange for the spending you do with your credit card. For example, depending on your rewards program, you can redeem credit card points as a cash back reward or put them toward future travel or other purchases.


Photo credit: iStock/stefanamer

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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