Imagine two people borrowing the same amount of money from the same lender. One has a stellar credit utilization ratio. The other has a relatively poor number. Well, the first person could end up paying thousands of dollars less than the second individual due to a lower interest rate.
Your credit utilization rate accounts for 30 percent of your overall credit score. Given its significance, you should strive to make yours impressive.
Calculating Credit Utilization
To figure out your credit utilization ratio, take your monthly balance and divide it by your credit limit. Let’s say you have a credit card with a $2,000 limit. Last month, you charged $200 on it. When you divide 200 by 2,000, you get 0.1. Thus, last month’s utilization ratio for that card is 10 percent.
Your credit reporting agency will give you a utilization score for each of your credit cards as well as other types of credit like home equity loans. It will also assign you an overall credit utilization score. The agency will compute that comprehensive number by adding all of your balances and all of your limits and then dividing the first sum by the second.
If your credit utilization score is too high, it’s harder to obtain loans with favorable terms. That’s because potential lenders will see you as someone who charges too much and who may, at some point, have trouble making loan payments.
Know Your (Credit) Limits
For a credit utilization score, the magic number is 30 percent. Try not to go over it. A strong utilization rate is between 10 and 20 percent, and an exceptional one is less than 10 percent.
To stay below the 30 percent mark, always monitor your credit card limits. If a credit card issuer lowers your limit, rely on that card less often. Conversely, if a credit card company raises your limit, you can feel free to use that card a little more frequently. Similarly, keep checking your balances online. If you’re coming close to 30 percent on one of your cards, don’t touch it again until next month.
Your credit card companies might have a program wherein they text you when you’ve hit a certain percentage of your limit. You could ask them to let you know when you’ve reached 20 percent or so.
Credit Card Carefulness
If your credit utilization score is currently higher than 30 percent, don’t worry too much. You can bring it down soon enough. Your first step is to carry more cash and keep more money in your checking account. That way, when you shop for groceries, clothing and other personal items, you can leave your plastic in your purse or wallet.
In addition, don’t shop on the Internet as much. Or, if you must buy products from digital stores, get in the habit of using a debit card rather than a credit card. Always search cyberspace for deals and discounts, too.
Higher Credit Lines
You might want to get in touch with one or more of your credit card issuers to apply for a limit increase. Just be aware that a credit card company must conduct a hard inquiry on anyone who makes such a request. A hard inquiry will probably lower your credit score a little.
Seeking a limit increase carries some risk. If your credit history isn’t in good shape, your credit card company could choose to reduce your limit instead, putting you in an even worse predicament.
On the other hand, if your credit report is exemplary, you could receive a credit limit increase without even asking for it. Either way, with a greater limit, you could spend the same amount of money, but your utilization rate would still go down.
In any event, approach a higher credit limit with caution. When you’re granted one, it’s natural to start spending more. And, unfortunately, it’s easy to go too far. In short order, you could be facing a higher credit utilization rate and mounting debts.
Could you lower your utilization ratio by getting more credit cards and spreading out your spending? It’s possible, but you should resist that idea. A credit reporting agency might view your new credit cards in a negative light and lower your score accordingly. Not to mention, every time you apply for a credit card, the issuer will have to do a hard inquiry.
Plus, with extra credit cards, it becomes more likely that you’ll charge more than you can afford or forget to make a payment.
Give Yourself Some Credit
Finally, it’s a great idea to partner with a credentialed credit repair company. Its team members can study your credit history and find mistakes, questionable entries and other problems that are unfairly bringing your scores down, including your credit utilization ratio. Those pros can then contact your credit reporting agencies and convince them to fix the inaccuracies.
Knowing that your credit utilization number is going in the right direction should give you feelings of pride and security. Getting a low interest rate and advantageous conditions on your next loan or mortgage will feel even better.