We've recently (last 6 months or so) paid off several of our cards completely, and are working to pay down our last, highest utilized card. We don't generally need to charge much and can pay in "cash" (generally a bank debit card in our case). However we could also charge some of the things we would normally pay for with debit and pay off the balance in full.

I am aware of the benefits of having overall credit utilization as low as possible (we're aiming for < 20%) but is there any credit score benefit to the practice of actively using a card and paying it off every month as opposed to not using the card at all?


  • Great answers and a lot of good information - thanks, everyone!
    – cori
    Nov 9, 2010 at 18:50

4 Answers 4


There is a benefit to using it, but you only need to make 1-2 charges a year per card to get the benefit. That is enough to keep the account considered active and help your credit history length.

In your situation I'd say buy a lunch/dinner on each card a few times a year and stop using them until you have all your cards down to the point where you can pay them all off each month.


For buying online and such, a credit card has better protection than a debit card. If you run into any problems, you can dispute the charges. Worst case scenario, you can simply refuse to pay, but most often, if you have been wronged, your credit card company will take the charge away (Amex is known to be particularly good at this).


If you are going to do this, make sure that you use a credit card that currently has a zero balance. If you pay this off each month, you won't owe any interest. If you use a card that already has a balance, you usually will be paying interest on any new purchases.


I think the risk is that if you don't use a card at all, the issuer may cancel the card. I've had this happen, and while it wasn't a major issue for me, it was a card I had for a long time and its loss lowered my "average account age". There's a case to be made for using the cards you want to keep by just charging say, gas, on a regular basis.

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