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Utilization is important to understand if you need to bump your credit score higher before a loan or credit card application.Unlike your payment history, which keeps a history of any missed payments, your utilization can change each time your score is pulled.You can nudge your score higher by paying down balances, increasing your credit limits or charging less on your credit cards if you pay in full each month.As for a zero balance, FICO consumer affairs manager Barry Paperno says, "The idea here is the lower, the better, in terms of the utilization percentage, but something is better than nothing."How low should you go?Thanks for asking this question during our May 16 live chat on credit scores. Utilization contributes toward the amounts-owed portion of your FICO score, a scoring model commonly used by lenders.The amounts-owed factor counts for 30 percent of your score.
If you don't use your credit card, does it increase your credit score as long as the credit card company is reporting a zero balance?Some say you should charge a balance of less than 20 percent to show utilization. For those who don't know, utilization is the debt-to-credit limit ratio on revolving accounts such as credit cards.You can pay in full and still have a balance showing on your credit report.Utilization is figured for each card as well as all cards.In a recent interview, FICO spokesman Craig Watts said, "If your utilization is 10 percent or lower, you're in great shape as far as utilization goes."To get a low utilization, you don't need to carry a balance and pay interest.
Credit card issuers typically report the balance as of your last statement date.