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This is the average credit score for someone with a credit card balance—and how to prevent a balance from hurting you

The average FICO Score for someone with a credit card balance in 2020 was 735, says Experian.

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Consumers with a credit card balance have an average FICO Score of 735, according to Experian's 2020 Consumer Credit Review.

While Experian can't specify whether these cardholders are paying off their balances in full each statement period or carrying a balance month-to-month, it's notably higher than the average FICO Score in the U.S., which hit a record high of 710 in 2020.

According to Experian, 75% of Americans have credit card balance of more than $0, but if you don't pay your statement in full each month, you could get hit with big interest charges.

Ahead, CNBC Select looks at other findings from Experian's annual review that shows how consumers are responsibly managing their own credit card balances, plus why you should pay yours off if you can.

1. They are lowering their credit utilization

The past year was tough for millions of Americans, but many credit cardholders were able to continue to pay their bills and cut back on spending.

Experian's Consumer Credit Review found that credit card balances decreased by 14% overall — the biggest change of all the debt categories.

The lower credit card balances helped to drive down consumers' credit utilization rates (how much of their available credit they use) and increased their credit scores.

2. They are making on-time payments

According to Experian's review, credit card late payments also decreased year over year. According to the bureau's report, "the percentage of consumers' accounts that are 30 or more DPD (days past due) was reduced by 29% in 2020." By comparison, in 2019 credit card delinquency rates 30 or more DPD increased by 3%.

Payment history is the most important factor that determines consumers' credit scores (followed by amounts owed), making up 35% of the FICO Score calculation.

Certainly, other factors play a part in credit scores as well:

What factors influence your credit score
  1. Payment history (35%)
  2. Amounts owed (30%)
  3. Length of credit history (15%)
  4. New credit (10%)
  5. Credit mix (10%)

Why you should pay off your credit card balance in full

In order to get the most out of your credit card, you should try to pay your balance in full every month to avoid being charged notoriously high interest.

The average credit card APR is 16.43%, according to the Federal Reserve's most recent data. And because the majority of credit card issuers compound interest on a daily basis, your balance grows a little each day it goes unpaid. Paying only the minimum is a surefire way to end up in credit card debt, which is why financial experts like Ellevest co-founder Sallie Krawcheck recommend paying off your credit card before building an emergency fund.

If you are one of the many Americans with an outstanding credit card balance, consider a balance transfer credit card to accelerate paying it off for good. During the intro 0% APR period, you can transfer your existing credit card debt and then pay it off over a certain number of months (anywhere from 6 to 20) without accruing any additional costly interest charges.

Select analyzed over 100 popular balance transfer cards to find the best of the best based on the average American's consumer habits. Our top choice is the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card, which offers an introductory 0% interest for the first 20 billing cycles on both balance transfers and purchases (after, 15.24% - 25.24% variable APR; balances must be transferred within 60 days from account opening). That's a long period of time that you can chip away at your credit card debt without it growing month over month (as long as you don't charge anything additional onto the card).

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

On U.S. Bank's secure site
  • Rewards

    None

  • Welcome bonus

    None

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 20 billing cycles on balance transfers and purchases

  • Regular APR

    15.24% - 25.24% (Variable)

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either 3% of the amount of each transfer or $5 minimum, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    2% to 3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees. Terms apply.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.