What Is A Personal Line of Credit & How Do You Get One?

What Is a Personal Line of Credit & How Do You Get One?

A personal line of credit is a type of revolving credit line that can be used to pay for a variety of personal expenses. It works in a similar way to a credit card — a lender approves you for a specific credit limit, and you draw only what you need and pay interest only on the amount you use. This is different from a personal loan, which is a type of installment loan. With an installment loan, you receive a lump sum of money up front that must be repaid at specified intervals.

While both options allow you to borrow money, each comes with its own benefits and drawbacks. Continue reading for more information on personal lines of credit and when this type of financing may make the most financial sense.

What Is a Personal Line of Credit?

A personal line of credit is what’s known as a revolving credit vehicle. It’s similar to a credit card in that:

•  It has a maximum credit limit.

•  A minimum payment is required every month.

•  When the debt on the credit line is repaid, money can be withdrawn again.

Although a personal line of credit doesn’t include a physical card, you can generally write checks, withdraw cash at an ATM, and transfer money into another account using the line. Generally speaking, the interest rates on a personal line of credit are lower than those on a credit card.

Personal lines of credit may be secured (requiring collateral) or unsecured (not requiring collateral). Whether secured or unsecured, some lines of credit require minimum payments of interest and principal, while others only require interest payments for a period of time, known as the draw period. That means that for a set period, you can draw money from your line of credit and only need to make interest payments during that time. After the draw period is over, the line of credit is no longer revolving (meaning, you can’t borrow against it anymore), and you’re typically required to make interest and principal payments.

Unlike personal loans, which tend to have fixed interest rates, a personal line of credit may have a variable rate during its draw period, then switch to a fixed rate once that period ends.

Where to Get a Personal Line of Credit

Personal lines of credit can be found at some banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions. However, not every lender offers them.

How to Get a Personal Line of Credit


The process for applying for a personal line of credit is usually similar to applying for other loans or credit cards. Lenders may accept applications online, in-person, or over the phone, and specific application requirements may vary by lender.

Before formally applying, it’s a good idea to review your credit score and shop around at different lenders to compare the rates and terms you may qualify for. Many lenders will allow you to see if you prequalify, which may require a soft credit check, which won’t impact your credit score. Also be sure to evaluate any fees associated with the line of credit and review the draw period and repayment periods.

Once you’ve determined which loan you’d like to apply for, you’ll need to gather the required documentation (such as statements for proof of income). Your chosen lender will generally have a list of required documents. From there, you’ll fill out the application and wait for approval. At this stage, the lender will usually complete a hard credit inquiry which may temporarily impact your credit score.

When to Use a Personal Line of Credit


Personal lines of credit typically offer greater flexibility when it comes to accessing the loan and repaying it than other types of financing, such as a personal loan.

If you’re planning to do a home renovation, for example, you may not need a big chunk of money all at once. A line of credit allows you to access money over time to pay for things in dribs and drabs as you pick out the tile for your kitchen and your contractor finally gets around to installing it. This flexibility can reduce your interest charges because you are only borrowing money you plan to use immediately.

Another benefit of a line of credit is that you can pay it off and then typically borrow from it again. This can make it a good backup to have in case you suddenly experience an expensive emergency that you don’t want to put on your credit cards.

You may also be able to choose a line of credit with a draw period that allows you to only pay interest on the money borrowed for a period of time.

Awarded Best Online Personal Loan by NerdWallet.
Apply Online, Same Day Funding


Drawbacks to a Personal Line of Credit


One drawback is that unsecured lines of credit can be more difficult to qualify for than some other types of loans, such as a home equity line of credit (HELOC). This is because unsecured loans are generally more risky for the lender. Without collateral, the lender needs to be sure that the borrower has the ability to pay back their loan. That’s why for some, it may be easier to qualify for a HELOC (which uses your home as collateral) than a personal credit line. However, keep in mind that with a HELOC, you are taking on some additional risk by putting your house on the line.

Also, the flexibility that comes with a line of credit may be a double-edged sword. The ability to keep borrowing for an extended period of time could lead to feeling tempted to take on more debt or take longer to pay off debt… all of which could mean more interest charges over time.

Using a Personal Loan as a Personal Line of Credit Alternative


When comparing a personal line of credit vs. a personal loan, the major difference is that a personal loan is an installment loan. Like a personal line of credit, personal loans can be used to pay for nearly any personal expense. Borrowers receive a lump sum payment and pay back the loan in installments.

A personal loan may make more sense for borrowers who have a firm idea of their budget or a fixed expense, such as for medical bills, buying an engagement ring, or consolidating debt. Additionally, depending on creditworthiness, the average interest rate on a personal loan may be lower than that of a personal line of credit. Though interest rates will vary by lender so evaluate the options available to you.

Also compare any fees or penalties associated with the personal loan. If a personal loan has a prepayment penalty, you may not be able to benefit from paying off the personal loan early.

Other Personal Line of Credit Alternatives

•   HELOC: With a home equity line of credit, borrowers tap into the equity in their home to borrow a line of credit. This is a secured loan where the home functions as the collateral. This can help borrowers qualify for a more competitive interest rate than with an unsecured personal line of credit, but it also means that if the borrower has issues repaying the HELOC, their home is at risk.

•   Credit Card: In certain situations, a credit card may be used to help pay for emergency expenses. Be aware that credit cards generally have high interest rates — the average credit card interest rate was 27.65%, as of June 4, 2024.

•   Secured loans for a specific purpose: For example, if you are buying a car, you may be better off with a car loan over a personal line of credit or personal loan.

The Takeaway


Personal lines of credit offer flexibility for borrowers because they are a revolving line of credit that functions similarly to a credit card. Borrowers can continue drawing on the line of credit for a set period of time to cover the cost of necessary expenses. For a one-time expense, however, you may be better off with a personal loan vs. a personal line of credit.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.


SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.


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


Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

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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Preapproved vs Prequalified: What’s the Difference?

What does it mean to be prequalified or preapproved for a mortgage? One lets a future homebuyer dream, and the other takes that homebuyer one giant step closer to reality. Here’s a look at how these two steps vary, how each can play a part in a home-buying strategy, and how one in particular can increase the chances of having a purchase offer accepted.

What Does Prequalified Mean?

Getting prequalified is a way of finding out how much you might be able to borrow to purchase a home, using the most basic information about your finances. Getting prequalified by phone or online usually takes just minutes.

Here’s how it goes: You provide a few financial details to mortgage lenders. The lenders use this unverified information, usually along with a soft credit inquiry, which does not affect your credit scores, to let you know how much you may be able to borrow and at what interest rate.

Getting prequalified can give homebuyers a general idea of loan programs, the amount they may be eligible for, and what monthly payments might look like, the way a home affordability calculator provides an estimate based on a few factors.

You might want to get prequalified with several lenders to compare monthly payments and interest rates, which vary by mortgage term. But because the information provided has not been verified, there’s no guarantee that the mortgage or the amount will be approved.

What Does It Mean to Be Preapproved?

After you get prequalified, you can consider the options before you from a range of lenders. You’ll want to brush up on types of mortgage loans, and then zero in on the lender — and loan — you feel is the best fit. Then you’ll face the probe known as mortgage preapproval.

Preapproval for a mortgage loan requires a more thorough investigation of your income sources, debts, employment history, assets, and credit history. Verification of this information, along with a hard credit pull from all three credit bureaus (which may cause a small, temporary reduction in your credit scores) allows the lender to conditionally preapprove a mortgage before you shop for homes.

A preapproval letter from a lender stating that you qualify for a loan of a specific amount can be useful or essential in a competitive real estate market. When sellers are getting multiple offers, some will disregard a purchase offer if it isn’t accompanied by a preapproval letter.

When seeking preapproval, besides filling out an application, you will likely be asked to submit the following to a lender for verification:

•   Social Security number and card

•   Photo ID

•   Recent pay stubs

•   Tax returns, including W-2 statements, for the past two years

•   Two to three months’ worth of documentation for checking and savings accounts

•   Recent investment account statements

•   List of fixed debts

•   Residential addresses from the past two years

•   Down payment amount and a gift letter, if applicable

The lender may require backup documentation for certain types of income. Freelancers may be asked to provide 1099 forms, a profit and loss statement, a client list, or work contracts. Rental property owners may be asked to show lease agreements.

You should be ready to explain any negative information that might show up in a credit check. To avoid surprises, you might want to order free credit reports from www.annualcreditreport.com. A credit report shows all balances, payments, and derogatory information but does not give credit scores.

Knowing your scores is also helpful. There are a few ways to check your credit scores without paying.

Those who have filed for bankruptcy may have to show documentation that it has been discharged.

Calculate Your Potential Mortgage

Use the following mortgage calculator to get an idea of what your monthly mortgage payment would look like.

Do Preapproval and Prequalification Affect Credit Scores?

Getting prequalified shouldn’t affect your credit scores. Only preapproval requires a hard credit inquiry, which can affect scores. But the good news for mortgage shoppers is that multiple hard pulls are typically counted as a single inquiry as long as they’re made within the same 14 to 45 days.

Newer versions of FICO® allow a 45-day window for rate shoppers to enjoy the single-inquiry advantage; older versions of FICO and VantageScore 3.0 narrow the time to 14 days.

You might want to ask each lender you apply with which credit scoring model they use.

First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.


Do I Have to Spend How Much I’m Preapproved for?

No! The preapproval amount is your maximum house-hunting budget. Staying well under that number can’t hurt and might free up money for, say, a college fund, retirement, or — groan — emergency home repairs.

Recommended: Guide to First-Time Home Buying

Are Prequalification and Preapproval the Same Thing?

By now you know that they are not one and the same. Here’s a visual on what’s needed for each:

Prequalification

Preapproval

Info about income Recent pay stubs
Basic bank account information Bank account numbers and/or recent bank statements
Down payment amount Down payment amount and desired mortgage amount
No tax information needed Tax returns and W-2s for past two years

Do I Need a Prequalification Letter to Buy a House?

No. Nor do you have to have a preapproval letter when making an offer on a house.

But getting prequalified can allow you to quickly get a ballpark figure on a mortgage amount and an interest rate you qualify for, and preapproval has at least three selling points:

1.    Preapproval lets you know the specific amount you are qualified to borrow from a particular lender.

2.    Going through preapproval before house hunting could take some stress out of the loan process by easing the mortgage underwriting step. Underwriting, the final say on mortgage approval or disapproval, comes after you’ve been preapproved, found a house you love and agreed on a price, and applied for the mortgage.

3.    Being preapproved for a loan helps to show sellers that you’re a vetted buyer.

The Takeaway

Prequalified vs. preapproved: If you’re serious about buying a house, it’s important to know the difference. Getting prequalified and then preapproved may increase the odds that your house hunt will lead to a set of jangling keys.

Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.

SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.


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


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


*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

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.

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

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.

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

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

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

In contrast, when you pay with a credit card, you may not have to make any payment immediately. Instead, the credit card company will send you a monthly statement. You’ll likely need to make at least a minimum payment and will owe interest on any remaining balance. As long as you continue to make at least the minimum payments, there’s no limit to how long you can take to repay your purchase.

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

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

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

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

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

Pros and Cons of Buy Now, Pay Later

Next, consider the pros and cons of Buy Now, Pay Later:

Pros

Cons

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

What Is a Credit Card? And How It Works

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

When you apply for a credit card, the issuer will do a hard pull on your credit. If approved, you’ll be given a specific credit limit that is the maximum amount you can borrow.

As you borrow against that limit when using a credit card, your available credit is reduced. Similarly, it’s replenished when you make payments.

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

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

Pros and Cons of Credit Cards

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

Pros

Cons

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

Difference Between Buy Now, Pay Later and Credit Cards

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

Buy Now, Pay Later

Credit Cards

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

What Is a Buy Now, Pay Later Credit Card?

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

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

Among the companies offering such products are American Express, Chase, and Citi.

Choosing a Buy Now, Pay Later Credit Card

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

Benefits of Buy Now, Pay Later Credit Cards

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

•   Earn credit card rewards on your purchases.

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

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

Risks of Buy Now, Pay Later Credit Cards

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

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

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

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

Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card

The Takeaway

Buy Now Pay Later and credit cards are two ways to pay for your purchases over time. With BNPL, you’ll usually pay an initial deposit at the time of purchase, and then you’ll make several fixed payments over the course of a few months. With credit cards, you have a set credit limit; each month, you’ll get a statement with your total monthly charges and any outstanding balance. If you don’t pay your statement balance in full, you’ll owe interest on any unpaid amount. Each option has its pros and cons. Another possibility is to get a Buy Now, Pay Later credit card, which combines features from both types of plan.

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

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

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

Will BNPL affect my credit score?

Generally speaking, BNPL plans do not impact your credit score as long as you make your payments on time. However, if you do not fulfill your BNPL contract, your outstanding debt may be reported to the credit bureaus, which could have a negative impact on your credit score.

Will BNPL replace the use of credit cards?

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


Photo credit: iStock/RgStudio

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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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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A Guide to Credit Card Grace Periods

A Guide to Credit Card Grace Periods

Your credit card’s grace period is the length of time that starts at the end of your billing cycle and ends when your payment is due. During this period, you may not have to pay interest on your balance — as long as you pay it off in full by your payment due date.

While a lot of credit cards have a grace period, not all of them do. Here’s a look at how grace periods on credit cards work and how you can take full advantage of them.

What Is the Grace Period on a Credit Card?

Credit cards allow you to borrow money over the course of a one-month billing cycle, during which you may not need to pay interest. The end of your credit card billing cycle is also called your statement date. That’s when your monthly credit card statement is sent to you in the mail or becomes available online. Credit card payments are due on the payment due date, about three weeks later. The time in between these dates is what’s known as the grace period.

During this time, you won’t be charged any interest on the purchases that you made during the billing cycle. However, because of how credit card payments work, you must pay off your credit card balance in full by your payment due date in order to avoid interest payments. At the very least, you must make your minimum payment, and you’ll then owe interest on whatever balance you carry into the next month.

Recommended: What Is a Charge Card?

How Credit Card Billing Cycles and Grace Periods Work

Grace periods on credit cards are different from the grace period for other loan products. For example, the grace period for a mortgage lasts about 15 days. If your payment is due on the first of the month, you’d have until mid-month to make your payment before it’s considered late and you’re charged potential late fees.

This is not how credit card grace periods work. The grace period for revolving credit — which is what a credit card is — comes before the payment due date. As such, credit card grace periods don’t protect you from late fees. Rather, they give you a period of time in which you can avoid interest payments.

If you miss the date when credit card payments are due, your payment is considered late. Late payments may trigger penalties, and they can have a negative effect on your credit score if they’re reported to the credit reporting bureaus.

Limits on Credit Card Grace Periods

Credit card companies are not required to offer their customers a grace period. However, many of them choose to do so.

Federal law requires credit card companies to send you a bill within 21 days of the payment due date, meaning you’ll get at least three weeks’ notice of how much you owe for your previous billing cycle (after the credit card closing date). However, the amount of time you’ll have for your grace period will vary by lender.

Credit card grace periods typically only apply to purchases. That means if you’ve used your credit card for a cash advance, for example, you’ll have to start paying interest on the date of the cash advance transaction.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

How Long Is the Typical Grace Period for a Credit Card?

Typically, grace periods last at least 21 days and up to 25 days.

You can find out how long your grace period is by checking your cardholder agreement. The length of your grace period should be listed alongside fees and your annual percentage rate (APR). You can also call your credit card company and ask them directly.

You may also have a longer grace period for special promotions. Those can be as long as 55 days.

What Types of Transactions Are Eligible for Credit Card Grace Periods?

As mentioned above, generally only purchase transactions are eligible for the credit card grace period. Cash advances — which allow you to borrow a certain amount of money against your line of credit — typically are not eligible. They will start accruing interest the day you make the transaction.

Similarly, if you transfer a balance from one credit card to another, you’ll start to accrue interest on that balance immediately. The only exception is if you have a balance transfer credit card with a 0% introductory rate for a period of time. If you pay off the balance during that period, you won’t owe interest. However, interest will accrue on whatever remains of your balance at the end of that period.

Taking Maximum Advantage of Your Credit Card’s Grace Period

If you pay off your credit card bill in full each month, you’ll avoid accruing credit card interest. Even carrying a small balance will disrupt your grace periods. If you do, you’ll owe interest on the remaining amount, and all of the new purchases that you make in the next billing cycle will accrue interest immediately as well.

To take full advantage of your credit card’s grace period, plan your purchases accordingly to ensure you’re able to pay your bills in full and on time. For example, if you’re going to make a large purchase, you may want to do so close to the first day of your billing cycle. That way, you’ll have the full cycle (about four weeks), plus your grace period (about three weeks), to pay off your purchase without owing any interest.

Can You Lose Your Credit Card’s Grace Period?

It is possible to lose your credit card grace period if you don’t make on-time payments in full each month by the payment due date. If you lose your grace period, you’ll be charged interest on the remaining portion of your balance. In the new billing cycle, you’ll also owe interest on any new purchases on the day the transaction takes place. This can lead to you falling into a debt cycle, which isn’t easy to get out of. (It’s wise to educate yourself on what happens to credit card debt when you die, too.)

Luckily, issuers usually restore grace periods once you’ve paid your outstanding balance and are back to making full on-time payments for a month or two.

The Takeaway

Your credit card grace period is an important tool that can save you money on interest if you pay off your balance in full each month. If you don’t pay your balance in full each month, you could lose this privilege temporarily. As such, you’d end up owing interest on your previous remaining balance and any new purchases.

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

FAQ

What is the grace period for credit card payments after the due date?

Credit card grace periods occur before the payment due date. Payments made after that date are considered late. After the due date, cardholders will owe interest on their balance. Further, they may lose their grace period until they can pay their balance off in full for one or two months.

What happens if you are one day late on a credit card payment?

Being one day late on a credit card payment can still trigger late fees, interest, and potentially the loss of your grace period. Late payments may also be reported to the credit reporting bureaus, which can have a negative impact on your credit score.

What is the typical grace period for a credit card?

Federal law requires that credit card companies provide your bill at least 21 days before your next payment due date. The length of the grace period can vary depending on the credit card issuer, though they typically last 21 to 25 days.


Photo credit: iStock/Moyo 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.

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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