To build good credit and stay out of debt, you should always aim to pay off your credit card bill in full every month.
If you want to be really on top of your game, it might seem logical to pay off your balance more often, so your card is never in the red. But hold off. It's actually possible to pay off your credit card bill too many times per month. Once is enough. In fact, once, most of the time, is ideal.
"If you're paying with every single transaction, it may not even show that you're even using credit and it's reporting to the credit bureau as a zero balance all the time," Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com, tells CNBC Make It.
Instead of proving that you can responsibly pay back what you owe, frequently clearing your balance makes it look like you're not using credit at all.
"To build credit, what you want to do is have a demonstrated track record of using credit responsibly, and over time different forms of credit," McBride says. "With regard to revolving lines like credit cards, you want to demonstrate the ability to put expenses on the card and then to pay that off."
To demonstrate that ability, it's smarter to focus on not letting your balance exceed more than 10 percent of your credit limit at any given time.
"The 10 percent threshold is the point at which it's beneficial to your credit score," McBride says. "Between 10 and 30 percent it's neutral, and it's only when your balance is above 30 percent of your credit line that it actually works against your score."
That's because part of your credit score is comprised of your credit utilization ratio, which which is calculated by dividing your balance by your credit limit. If you have a card limit of $10,000, you never want your balance to exceed $3,000. Ideally, you'll keep it under $1,000.
Of course, using your card for larger purchases, such as furniture or a new phone, could cause you to exceed the optimal 10 to 30 percent of your credit limit on a given card. "That's when you might want to make an additional payment, just so at whatever point your balance gets reported to the credit bureau, it's less than 10 percent of your credit limit," McBride says.
If you're responsible about paying off your bill every month on one card, consider opening a second, third or fourth. Owning additional cards could help boost your credit score by increasing your amount of available credit. Plus, credit cards offer a host of perks, such as airline miles, hotel points and cash back, which can pay off, big time, when used strategically.
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