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Current score is ~650. Looking to improve my credit as effectively as possible, as I'm looking into houses after getting married next summer. I'm coming off of a tougher employment patch so very much in a "rebuilding" phase. My fiance is very stable and has 800ish credit.

Current debts/loans

  • Credit card #1 - ~5k @ 22% APR - 12k limit
  • Credit card #2 - ~2k @ 23% APR - 10k limit
  • Car loan - ~8k @ 0% APR (1/5 yrs in)
  • Credit card #3 "soft loan" - ~13k @ 0% APR (0/7 yrs in) - 15k limit

Current income post-tax is about 1100/week. I've only had this job since December and have paid off about 8k in debts/loans since. My current goal is to pay 1500/month on Card #1 while maintaining minimum payments for the rest.

All payments are on time, I'm not making hard inquiries or opening new cards (ie. no other factors affecting credit score) during this process

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    Also, since CC1 and CC2 have such close APRs, I'd pay off CC2 first, since it's only 1.33x $1500. – RonJohn Jul 15 at 13:39
  • I believe #1 is 14k and #2 is 10k. Since the "Other" loan is managed on a 0% APR card (other posts here have described that as a soft loan?) Mint still shows my credit utilization at ~90%. That card's limit is 15k. – Chris Jul 15 at 13:48
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    Considering you want to improve your score, it might make sense to split your payments and put $750 on each card per month. Score is based on total utilization AND utilization per card. CC2 would be paid off in 3 months, leaving you with ~$3000 on CC1 to be paid off within 2 months. – Steve-o169 Jul 15 at 13:50
  • A 7 year 0% APR credit card? – RonJohn Jul 15 at 13:55
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    You might want to edit your post to reflect that the "other loan" is actually a credit card account. This makes a big difference in terms of credit score impact, versus it being a fixed installment loan. @RonJohn's answer is still effectively correct, but it does make the question a little confusing for you to have that account labeled as a loan. And if these comments ever vanish it'll make it even more confusing. Might want to also edit the credit limits for each card into the question. – dwizum Jul 15 at 14:37
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The 93% usage rate on the store card is what's really holding down your score.

However, your hair is on fire™ from the CC APRs, so put out those fires first!!

Given what you wrote in the comments, I'd pay off your debt in this order:

  1. CC2, the balance is so close to zero, and the difference between the CC1 and CC2 rates are negligible, paid off in 1.33 months.
  2. CC1, paid off in 4 months.
  3. Store purchase, paid off in 12 months.
  4. The car.

Unless there's something you haven't told us or you don't know about, your score should increase a month after the store card's usage gets below 30%.

  • Thank you very much @RonJohn, I appreciate the time you took to ask questions and break this down. Accepted. – Chris Jul 15 at 14:12
  • This is a case where the debt snowball and avalanche method agree. Debt repayment order: CC2, CC1, car loan, other loan. Then save your down payment, then think about buying a house. You are about 18 months away from starting to save for a down payment. – Pete B. Jul 15 at 14:13
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    @PeteB. If you have a different suggestion, please post it as an answer, not a comment on this answer. – chepner Jul 15 at 14:14
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    @mootmoot your finding of flaw is incorrect because OP explicitly states, "while maintaining minimum payments for the rest." – RonJohn Jul 15 at 14:56
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    Paying that one credit card first has an additional benefit. If you must use a credit card for an expense where paying in cash would be impractical: hotel, rental car, plane ticket; the paid off card can be used without being charged interest. Cards carrying a balance from month to month don't get a grace period. – mhoran_psprep Jul 15 at 16:20
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I agree with RonJohn 100%. I'd only add, once the 2 cards are paid off, step back, and wait a few months. I'd monitor my credit score to see the result of those cards being paid.

I'd then use the freed up monthly cash to save, to solidify both a savings account and an emergency fund. You should start to do the math on the marriage and house purchase before rushing to pay off 0% loans. Think on this - You pay those loans, but the house, all is well, the payments are very reasonable. But, the furniture purchase is higher than cash on hand, and you need to finance $10,000. You are back to the risk of borrowing to buy something. Better to just leave that for now. I'd bet that 2 months after the cards are paid off, the score is well above 700.

  • One high-APR card is at 33% usage, and the other 20%. Will paying them off really affect his score that much? – RonJohn Jul 15 at 15:15
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    For experimenting as a fact finding goal, with no real value to me, I started tracking my score at 20% usage, then started paying the balance 'before' the card reported to the bureaus. The result was a near 50 point gain, and I've been at 850 for nearly a year. And yes, I realize 800 and 850 will get me same rates. Just liked hearing the banker say "Oh wow, 20 years, I've never seen a couple both with an 850" when I got my last equity line. (Note, I can use my card all I want. All that counts is balance when reported) – JoeTaxpayer Jul 15 at 15:22
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    On the other hand, we agree on order. So if paying the cards in full isn’t successful point-wise, he can just keep going. Once the fire is out, I favor not going cash short again. – JoeTaxpayer Jul 15 at 16:14

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