Credit cards can be great for building, maintaining and even improving your overall credit. But when overused, hefty balances can be quite detrimental. Unfortunately, the average cardholder under the age of 52 appears to be carrying big balances, or, more specifically, using an average of 80% of their available credit.
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That was the finding of a recent TransUnion study, which also showed that these consumers, making up the “Millennial” and “Gen X” generations, are more likely to have subprime credit than those age 52 or older.
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How you use your available credit, also known in the credit scoring industry as your credit utilization ratio, makes up a good chunk of your credit score —30%, in fact. While the total amount that you owe (credit cards, home loans, car loans, etc.), is included in determining your credit score, it’s the credit cards – or revolving accounts – that have the most impact on it. In order to maximize your scores in this section, you should keep your balances in relation to your credit limits as low as possible, under at least 30% and ideally 10%.
TransUnion’s study found that older folks — the Baby Boomers (52-70) and the Silent Generation (70+)— are faring better in this regard than their younger counterparts, using just 65% and 51% of their available credit, respectively. And, these older generations are less likely to have a bad credit score.
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Aside from not racking up too much debt, monitoring your credit is useful for keeping an eye on your credit utilization. And, remember, no matter what demographic you belong to, you can generally build good credit in the long-term by making all payments on time, keeping debt levels low and adding a mix of accounts organically over time.