Good habits and a credit score

Question: We use a credit card to pay for all monthly expenses and then pay it off at the end of each month. My credit score fluctuates every quarter, depending on when the accounts are checked. My question is how can we convince the credit rating company that we do not carry any credit card debt from one month to the next? My score is currently at 749 but has been as high as 815. Thanks, I really enjoy your program. Randy, Macomb, IL

Your Credit ScoreAnswer: Personally, I think you're fine when it comes to your credit score. It's a good one. No one really has a single credit score. It can fluctuate, depending on when the credit report snapshot is taken, when new information is added, and when old information is deleted or declines in significance.

The real borrowing hit from a lower credit score comes when the score falls to 700 and lower.

I'm glad you're paying off the bill on time and in full at the end of the month. It's a sound personal finance habit. However, there isn't much difference -- if any -- between carrying a small balance and paying off the bill completely when it comes to your credit score. What you don't want to do from a credit scoring perspective is put on too much debt on the card. I wonder if that could be having a slight impact on your score?

"Now, paying your bill in full every month is an excellent financial habit," writes Liz Pulliam Weston in Your Credit Score (now in its fourth edition). "But even if you can and do pay your balances off, you need to pay attention to how much you're charging each month. You need to stay below -- well below -- your credit limits."

Your Credit Score is a terrific resource. Check it out.

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.

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