Ask The Experts: What Will Kill Your Credit Score

Q. I have been watching the show. On two occasions, I thought I heard one of your guests state that paying off and closing a credit card account may adversely affect my credit score. Is this true? Why? What things hurt credit scores? Does having more than 50% outstanding on credit line such as HELOC or credit card? What helps? -Rick

A. Rick - I'm the guest!! And you heard me correctly, almost. Paying off a credit card does not hurt your score but closing it can. Credit scores love to see available credit on your credit cards. In fact, the more unused credit cards you have the better your scores will tend to be especially if you carry a balance on other cards that you don't pay off each month. Leave them open after you get them paid off.

The list of things that can hurt and help your credit score is too long to list. Here's what matters...

How well you pay your bills?

How much debt you have?

How old is your credit history?

Have you been taking on new credit recently?

Do you have experience managing different types of credit?

You can do well in these areas or you can do poorly in these areas. For example, having 50% outstanding on a credit card is not good. That's too much. Shoot for less than 10%.


John Ulzheimer is a nationally recognized credit expert, president of Consumer Education for Credit.comand contributor to On The Money. Learn more about him at