Ask Money

Should I carry a balance to boost my credit score

Chris Farrell Jan 20, 2011

Question: A friend told me today that she pays off nearly all of her monthly credit card bill each month, but leaves $10. She does this on the advice of someone who went thorough bankruptcy and claims that it’s the best way to build your credit as it forces the company to report that you’ve “paid on time”. I’ve always paid the full amount each month, assuming that’s the best way to build credit. Can’t imagine that paying the full amount would not be the best strategy. I’ve never heard of this idea – is there any truth to it? Janine, Hopkins, MN

Answer: You’ve heard the expression, don’t take stock tips from barbers and friends? Well, let’s modify the insight a bit to say don’t listen to anyone telling you it’s financially savvy to carry a balance on a credit card. It isn’t. Pay off the bill in full.

That said, what the credit score maestros care about is that you pay the bill on time. Your friend pays her bill on time and she isn’t penalized for leaving $10 on the tab. You you aren’t handicapped for eliminating the debt every month, either. On the other hand, her credit score and yours both benefit from being conscientious credit card bill payers.

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