Is there any practical reason... to hold off on making payments until I receive a billing statement?
Yes, a few:
- You save time.
- If there is an issue with your purchase, you have better ability to file a dispute with the credit card company.
- You have additional liquidity, so that (in an extreme example) if someone comes up and demands lots of money or they'll kill you, you might have enough that you can stay alive for a bit longer. This also applies to other sudden unexpected expenses, especially ones that can't go on a credit card. Parking or traffic tickets, for example, often can't be paid with credit card and are lower amounts if you pay early (though it's best to just not get them at all if you can avoid them). The extra liquidity sometimes buys you a little more time and financial breathing room.
- As Joe points out, you get the float, but especially in our current low-interest-rate environment that might not matter that much unless your bank balance is near some boundary point there's an incentive to stay above.
- As Aganju points out, at least some credit cards report your balance due and (sometimes) payments made to at least some credit bureaus and this information shows up on your credit report when requested by lenders (or by you; you can and should request/review a free copy at least yearly). An account that regularly shows $0 balance due and $0 high balance shows up as an account that's not actively used. Regularly borrowing and paying off money demonstrates you're a more reliable repayer than someone who just doesn't use the card, and it helps your credit score to have a small but nonzero balance reported, which you pay off in full without incurring interest charges. This Bankrate article has more detail, at least nominally including quotes from reliable sources:
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....The score wants to see some kind of activity."
How low should you go? 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."
That being said, there are downsides especially if you wind up forgetting to make a payment. The easiest thing to do (also from a time management perspective) is to get your billing statement once a month, verify the purchases on it, and at that time you receive the statement schedule an online bill payment so that it will be paid in full before the due date.
As Aganju points out, you don't have to wait for a paper bill in hand or even an e-mail notification; you can go online after your statement date to get the statement. This makes sure you won't have extra costs related to unreliability of mail (if you still receive paper statements)/e-mail, though it does require remembering to check (and/or setting a recurring calendar reminder).
Paying much in advance of that, as is your current practice, might be a good idea to free up available balance if you are planning a purchase that would take you over your credit limit, but this should be relatively rare (and some credit card companies will raise that limit if you have been paying well and ask nicely, though find out first if they do a "hard pull" of your credit report for that).