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I monitor my credit score using Credit Karma and the only item that impacts it from month to month is my credit card utilization percentage. I pay my credit card in full every month. The credit card companies report my balance outstanding to the credit agencies "at some point" of the month.

My credit card statement is dated around the 20th of the month and the due date is the following month around the 17th. If I have a large balance on the card and allow the automated payment to go through on the 17th then my credit score dips for that month. This makes sense and is reasonable because my utilization percent has gone up.

I've tried paying off the balance on the first of the month and also the first weekend of the month and sometimes this stops my credit score for that month dipping. Other times it does not.

There doesn't seem to be a hard and fast rule on when to "pay early" on the credit card to beat the timing of when the credit card company reports your balance to the credit agencies.

How do I work out the best date to pay off my credit card to get a zero (or low) balance reported to the credit agencies?

(In this particular case it's a Citi credit card but I would imagine that the same rule should apply to any credit card.)

This related question talks about how/why utilization impacts credit score but does not talk about the timing of payments to address this: Can reducing credit card utilization quickly improve credit score?

One of the comments on the original post says: "pay as much of the bill if you can before the closing date" but this simply isn't true as I've empirically tested this.

The second rated answer to that question provides some vague "about" answers but nothing concrete that can be used to ensure you get the right date.

And I guess a follow up question would be "what is reported? Is it the previous statement closing balance or the current balance at the time of reporting?"

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  • @DilipSarwate - to some degree but the answer is not accurate. i.e. within 2 days of statement date is not true as I've seen this work/not-work withing 2 to 3 weeks of statement date.
    – Guy
    Sep 26, 2021 at 20:28

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One way to reduce your utilization and help your score is to ask for a credit increase from your current card. In many cases they do this automatically if you consistently have a high utilization but you always pay it down. Though this might not be automatic during this health crisis.

Some credit card companies make it easy to request an increase from the website. It is easier than getting another card.

How do I work out the best date to pay off my credit card to get a zero (or low) balance reported to the credit agencies?

You are overthinking it.

It has been decades since I had a reported usage of zero. The cards we use regularly mean that my balance is never zero. That is because I keep using the card during the grace period. I always pay before any interest would accrue. My scores are consistently high, though there is a drop once a year when I pay our life insurance bills through the card.

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  • Getting to zero is not important - as you pointed out also not necessary. Paying off most of it early is the objective so that utilization percent is in the single digits before it's reported. It just seems that there is no pattern or transparency into when this for credit card companies.
    – Guy
    Sep 26, 2021 at 20:31

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