7 “Smart” Credit Tips That Aren’t


There’s a lot of advice floating around out there about how to manage your credit cards and other debts to maximize your credit score. The trouble is, not all this wisdom is created equal, and some tips intended to help your credit can actually have the opposite effect. Here are seven supposedly “smart” tips we’ve heard bandied about recently that generally ought to ignored.

Asking for a lower credit limit

If you can’t control your spending, asking for a lower credit limit may indeed keep you out of trouble by simply capping how much you can borrow. But there’s also a risk to this approach. As MyFICO.com explains, 30% of your credit score is based on how much you owe. The formula looks at how much you owe as a percentage of how much available credit you have, otherwise known as your credit utilization ratio. So if you’re unable to pay off your debts, lowering your credit limit will increase your ratio — and damage your score. The impulse to impose external limits on your spending is understandable, and in some cases wise, but you’re better off focusing your energy on internal restraint.

Paying off an installment account early

Paying off debts early might seem like a good way to improve your credit, but paying off an installment loan like a car loan early can actually ding your score because it raises your utilization ratio. For instance, if you have a $10,000 car loan with a $5,000 balance that you pay off in one fell swoop, your debt load will drop by $5,000, but your available credit will drop by $10,000 once the account is closed.

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