Use cards a little and pay balances in full to build credit

Dear Experian,

I am trying to rebuild my credit. Is it better to keep a zero balance on the credit cards that I have recently paid off or keep a small amount and pay them off each month? I still have some credit cards that have a balance on, which I plan on paying off completely. I would just like to know the best way to raise my credit score.



Dear LLO,

The best thing to do is actually a combination of the possibilities you list.

Ideally, you should keep the credit cards open. Use at least one of the cards to make small purchases each month. However, you should not carry a balance. Instead, pay off the charges each month so that you don’t carry a balance from one pay period to the next.

Making small purchases will keep the card active and keep your balance well below your credit limit. This demonstrates that you consistently manage debt well and can add positive points to your credit scores. Paying the balance in full will prevent paying interest or finance charges on revolving balances.

A combination of using the card but paying off charges to maintain a zero balance will likely improve your credit scores over time.

Thanks for asking.

- The “Ask Experian” team

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