What Is Credit Utilization Ratio? Everything You Need to Know

19 January, 2024
10 mins
Brett Johnson, AVP, Global Enablement

Table of Content

Key Takeaways
Introduction
What Is a Credit Utilization Ratio?
How Is the Credit Utilization Ratio Calculated?
Example of Credit Utilization Ratio
Types of Credit Utilization Ratio
What Is a Good Credit Utilization Rate?
Does Credit Utilization Impact Your Credit Score?
Ways to Lower Your Credit Utilization Rates
5 Crucial Mistakes to Avoid While Managing Credit Utilization Ratio
Wrapping Up
FAQs

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Key Takeaways

  • The credit utilization ratio signifies the percentage of your total available credit that you’re currently using, serving as a pivotal metric assessed by credit reporting agencies to determine a borrower’s credit score.
  • A lower ratio is generally favorable, as it indicates proficient credit management.
  • You can improve your credit utilization ratio by spreading your purchases across cards, paying your debt every month, and timing your payments wisely.
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Introduction

Every business understands the importance of managing finances effectively. But do you know that beyond cash flow, a business’s financial well-being greatly hinges on its skill in utilizing available credit resources. That’s where comprehending and optimizing the credit utilization ratio plays a pivotal role.

Your credit utilization ratio speaks volumes about your credit management habits. It mirrors the percentage of your total available credit that is currently in use, serving as a vital metric to showcase how effectively a company leverages its available credit.

Understanding the dynamics of credit utilization, its substantial impact on your credit score, and mastering the calculation of this ratio are crucial aspects of prudent credit management. With this in mind, let’s delve into what credit utilization entails, how to compute it, and why maintaining a low ratio is imperative.

Let’s begin by understanding what a credit utilization ratio is.

What Is a Credit Utilization Ratio?

The credit utilization ratio represents the proportion of your total available credit that you currently utilize. This crucial ratio is a key factor used by credit reporting agencies in determining a borrower’s credit score. 

Maintaining a lower credit utilization ratio generally has a positive impact on your credit score, indicating proficient credit management. Conversely, a higher ratio might raise concerns about potential credit risk.

Recommended Reading: Credit Management Guide: Everything You Need to Know.

How Is the Credit Utilization Ratio Calculated?

This ratio is calculated by dividing the total outstanding balances on your credit accounts by the total credit limit across all accounts.

To compute the credit utilization ratio, follow these steps:

  1. Sum the outstanding debt across all revolving credit accounts, such as credit cards.
  2. Total the credit limits of all accounts to determine the available credit.
  3. Divide the total balance by the available credit and convert the result to a percentage.

Example of Credit Utilization Ratio

Let’s consider an example to calculate the credit utilization ratio:

Suppose you have two credit cards with individual balances of $1,000 and $2,500, and their respective credit limits are $5,000 and $10,000. Here’s how you would calculate your credit utilization ratio:

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A favorable credit utilization ratio typically remains at 30% or lower. Lowering your credit utilization ratio has the potential to enhance your credit score, making it easier to obtain additional credit with better terms.

Types of Credit Utilization Ratio

Credit utilization ratios come in two main types: the overall credit utilization ratio and the individual credit card utilization ratio.

The overall credit utilization ratio represents the percentage of your total available credit that you’re presently using across all your credit cards and other lines of credit. To calculate this ratio, divide your total credit card balances by your total credit limits, then multiply by 100.

For instance, if your total credit limit is $10,000 and your current combined balances amount to $2,000, your overall credit utilization ratio would be 20%.

Conversely, the individual credit card utilization ratio concentrates on the percentage of available credit used on each specific credit card. Calculate this ratio by dividing the balance on each card by its respective credit limit, then multiply by 100. Remember, both the overall and individual ratios influence your credit score.

Understanding these distinct types of credit utilization ratios is pivotal for maintaining a healthy credit profile. By keeping your overall ratio low and effectively managing the utilization of each card, you showcase responsible credit usage and enhance your chances of securing favorable loan terms in the future.

What Is a Good Credit Utilization Rate?

In most cases, a lower credit utilization ratio is preferable as it typically indicates responsible credit management, potentially leading to a positive impact on your credit score. However, identifying a precise figure that qualifies as an ideal “good” rate remains ambiguous, primarily due to the diverse financial landscapes across industries.

Different sectors may aim for varying credit utilization rates based on their unique operational models. For instance, certain industries may strive for lower rates, ranging between 10% and 20%, while others, such as retail or service-oriented businesses, might find operational efficiency with slightly higher rates, possibly targeting a range between 20% and 30%.

The key lies in recognizing that determining an optimal credit utilization rate isn’t a uniform standard. Instead, it fluctuates based on industry benchmarks, individual financial objectives, and credit rating goals. Therefore, aligning your credit utilization rate with your industry’s norms and your financial objectives holds more significance than comparing rates across diverse sectors. 

Nonetheless, as a general guideline, a good credit utilization ratio is typically considered to be 30% or lower.

Does Credit Utilization Impact Your Credit Score?

Yes, your credit utilization ratio does impact your credit score. It is a significant factor in credit scoring models like FICO and VantageScore, accounting for 20% to 30% of the total score.

A high credit utilization ratio, meaning you are close to maxing out your credit cards, can lower your credit score.

On the other hand, using a small portion of your available credit tends to improve your credit score.

Maintaining a low credit utilization ratio is a strategy that can positively impact your credit health.

In short, a high credit utilization ratio can potentially lower your credit score, while a low credit utilization ratio tends to improve your credit score. It is essential to keep your credit utilization ratio low to maintain a healthy credit score and improve your credit health.

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Ways to Lower Your Credit Utilization Rates

Now that you understand how a low credit utilization ratio positively impacts your credit health, it’s crucial to learn how to improve it. Below are a few strategies to lower your credit utilization ratio:

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  1. Pay off debt each month: Paying off your credit card balances in full every month can help maintain a low credit utilization ratio.
  2. Time your payments wisely: Make payments at the right time to ensure that your credit utilization ratio is calculated based on a lower balance.
  3. Request a credit limit increase: Asking for an increase in your credit limit can help lower your credit utilization ratio without increasing your spending.
  4. Avoid closing credit cards: Closing credit cards can negatively impact your credit utilization ratio, as it reduces your available credit.
  5. Spread your purchases across cards: Using multiple credit cards to make purchases can help lower your credit utilization ratio by distributing your spending across different cards.
  6. Pay off balances more than once a month: Paying off your credit card balances twice a month, instead of once, can help reduce your credit utilization ratio.
  7. Set up balance alerts: Monitoring your credit card balances and setting up alerts can help you stay on top of your spending and maintain a low credit utilization ratio.

5 Crucial Mistakes to Avoid While Managing Credit Utilization Ratio

Now that you know how to improve your credit utilization ratio it is important to know what not to do as these mistakes can have a significant impact on your overall credit health. By avoiding these mistakes, you can ensure that you are making the most of your available credit and maintaining a healthy credit score. Let’s take a closer look at the five crucial mistakes to avoid while managing your credit utilization ratio.

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  1. Maxing out your credit cards: One of the biggest mistakes you can make is maxing out your credit cards. This means using up all of your available credit, which can hurt your credit utilization ratio. Ideally, you should aim to keep your credit utilization below 30% of your total available credit. By keeping your balances low, you demonstrate responsible credit management and improve your chances of obtaining future credit.
  2. Closing old credit accounts: Another mistake to avoid is closing old credit accounts. While it may be tempting to close unused accounts, doing so can harm your credit utilization ratio. Closing an account reduces your total available credit, which in turn increases your overall credit utilization ratio. Instead of closing old accounts, consider keeping them open and using them sparingly to maintain a healthy credit mix.
  3. Applying for too much new credit: Applying for multiple new lines of credit within a short period can negatively impact your credit utilization ratio. Each time you apply for new credit, it results in a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can temporarily lower your score. Additionally, having too many new accounts can increase the temptation to overspend and potentially lead to higher balances and a higher credit utilization ratio.
  4. Ignoring small balances: It’s easy to overlook small balances on your credit cards, but doing so can be detrimental to your credit utilization ratio. Even if the balance is minimal, it still contributes to your overall utilization. To avoid this mistake, make it a habit to pay off small balances in full each month. By doing so, you can keep your credit utilization ratio low and maintain a positive credit history.
  5. Not monitoring your credit utilization ratio: Perhaps the biggest mistake you can make is not monitoring your credit utilization ratio regularly. Your credit utilization ratio can change frequently, especially if you have fluctuating balances or receive credit limit increases. By keeping an eye on your ratio, you can identify any potential issues and take steps to address them promptly. Regularly checking your credit report and utilizing free credit monitoring tools can help you stay on top of your credit utilization ratio.

Remember, responsible credit risk management is key to achieving your long-term financial goals.

Wrapping Up

Understanding and managing your credit utilization ratio is pivotal for maintaining financial stability. A high ratio can hinder your access to loans, credit cards, and other financial opportunities.

Now that you comprehend the significance of the credit utilization ratio, take charge of your finances to enhance your financial position. Here are actionable steps to improve your credit utilization ratio: Regularly monitor your credit utilization ratio. Ensure timely bill payments. Limit new credit applications. Regularly review your credit reports.

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FAQs

1. What is the ideal credit limit utilization ratio?

The ideal credit limit utilization ratio is generally considered to be 30% or lower. Maintaining a ratio below this threshold is typically recommended for a healthy credit profile. It shows responsible use of available credit and can positively impact your credit score.

2. Is higher credit utilization better?

No, higher credit utilization is not better. A higher credit utilization ratio, especially exceeding 30%, can negatively impact your credit score. It may indicate a higher risk of potential default, which can lower your creditworthiness.

3. What is a bad credit utilization ratio?

A bad credit utilization ratio is typically considered when it exceeds the recommended threshold of 30%. This higher ratio can signal financial stress or potential credit risk, negatively affecting your credit score and creditworthiness.

4. Can closing a credit card affect your credit utilization rate?

Yes, closing a credit card can impact your credit utilization rate. When you close a card, it reduces your total available credit. If you maintain the same balances across other cards, the reduction in available credit could increase your utilization rate, potentially negatively affecting your credit score. Consider keeping the card open, especially if it has no annual fee, to maintain a lower utilization rate. If the card has an annual fee and you’re considering closing it, inquire with the card issuer about switching to a no-fee card to maintain your credit history and available credit.

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