How Does Personal Responsibility Affect Your Credit?
Explore how good financial habits can help you build a healthy relationship with credit
Understanding the ins and outs of credit can be challenging. What’s a credit score? How do credit reports work? What, exactly, is credit utilization? And what do you have control over? It can be a lot to digest.
Here are a few things to know about which factors are within your control—and how personal responsibility might affect your credit.
Why Are Good Credit Habits Important?
As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) says, credit scores are predictors of how likely you are to pay back your debts on time.
That means that your credit scores might help companies determine whether you’re a good candidate for things like mortgages, car loans, credit card applications, rental applications and even jobs.
Make Payments on Time
You should make your payments on time, every time, according to the CFPB.
That’s because your payment history can impact your credit scores. And missed or late credit card payments can not only affect your credit—depending on the card, they can lead to late fees and interest rate increases, too.
You could consider setting up automatic payments or electronic reminders to help you make sure you always pay on time.
Stay Below Your Credit Limit
Another important personal habit that can impact credit health: Only use the credit you need. Better yet, stay well below your credit limit.
Why? Your credit scores could be affected by your credit utilization ratio—or how much of your total available revolving credit you’re using. The lower your credit utilization ratio, the better your credit scores might be. In fact, the CFPB recommends using no more than 30% of your total credit limit.
Create a Budget
Creating a budget is a key step to reaching your financial goals, the CFPB says.
How does your credit card come into play? Credit cards aren’t just for spending—you can also use your credit card for budgeting. That’s because your credit card comes with a very useful tool for managing your money: your monthly credit card statement.
You can start by grabbing your latest credit card statement or checking it online. Read through your purchases or transactions and group your expenses into categories. Then, sort those categories into essential and nonessential spending.
Once you can clearly see where your money is going, you can create a realistic monthly budget. And you might even find ways to cut back on nonessential spending and start to save or pay down debt instead.
Consider Your Credit History
It may be tempting to close a credit card you don’t use. But keep in mind, it may impact your credit.
Your credit utilization rate may increase if you close a credit card because you’d have less total available credit. And that can affect your credit scores too.
Once the account closes, the average age of your credit accounts could also change, depending on how long you’ve had the account. Because your credit scores are based partly on the length of your credit history, a shorter history can impact your credit scores.
But like any financial decision, you have to consider your unique circumstances. It’s a good idea to weigh the pros and cons of your particular situation before deciding whether to keep your credit card account open.
Pay More Than the Minimum
The CFPB says that if possible, you should pay your credit card bill in full each billing cycle. And if you can’t pay the full balance, it’s a good idea to pay off as much as you can.
Making at least your credit card minimum payments on time every billing cycle helps you avoid penalties and fees. And it keeps your account in good standing.
But if you only pay the minimum and not the full balance, you’ll carry a balance. And you might be charged interest on that balance. Those interest charges can add up and make it harder to pay off your credit card debt.
Monitor Your Credit With CreditWise From Capital One
CreditWise gives you free access to your TransUnion® credit report and weekly VantageScore® 3.0 credit score—without hurting your score. That’s because it uses soft inquiries to monitor things. And CreditWise is free and available to everyone—even if you don’t have a Capital One account.
Government and private relief efforts vary by location and may have changed since this article was published. Consult a financial adviser or the relevant government agencies and private lenders for the most current information.
We hope you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment or financial advice or to indicate that a particular Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.
Capital One does not provide, endorse or guarantee any third-party product, service, information, or recommendation listed above. The third parties listed are solely responsible for their products and services, and all trademarks listed are the property of their respective owners.
Your CreditWise score is calculated using the TransUnion® VantageScore® 3.0 model, which is one of many credit scoring models. It may not be the same model your lender uses, but it can be one accurate measure of your credit health. The availability of the CreditWise tool depends on our ability to obtain your credit history from TransUnion. Some monitoring and alerts may not be available to you if the information you enter at enrollment does not match the information in your credit file at (or you do not have a file at) one or more consumer reporting agencies.