Table of Contents In this article

Why You Can Trust CNET Money

CNET Money’s mission is to help you maximize your financial potential. Our recommendations are based on our editors’ independent research and analysis, and we continuously update our content to reflect current partner offers. How we rate credit cards
Advertiser Disclosure

CNET editors independently choose every product and service we cover. Though we can’t review every available financial company or offer, we strive to make comprehensive, rigorous comparisons in order to highlight the best of them. For many of these products and services, we earn a commission. The compensation we receive may impact how products and links appear on our site.

Credit Card Payments: The Key to Avoiding Debt and Boosting Credit

Paying your credit card bill before it's due can keep you out of debt and grow your credit score.

Dan Brownsword / Getty

Paying off your credit card bill ahead of time -- and in full -- means you won’t have to worry about expensive interest charges. On-time payments can help you build your credit while avoiding punitive charges, like late fees or penalty APRs.

Making multiple payments throughout the month can also boost your credit score, by keeping your credit utilization low, and help you avoid a hefty bill. Find out how early payments can improve your finances, and how to create a payment schedule that works best for you.

Is it bad to pay off your credit card bill early?

Your billing cycle is the period of time -- typically about one month -- during which your credit card transactions are recorded. At the end of the billing cycle, you’ll receive your credit card statement, which details all the purchases you’re now responsible for paying before the due date. 

Treating your credit card like a debit card and making regular payments as you make purchases is one way to pay off your balance during your billing cycle. Another way is to make one or more larger lump sum payments before your billing cycle ends. 

Posting credit card payments during your billing cycle can have several positive effects on your credit. Here are a few ways it can help boost your credit score:

Helps you avoid interest charges

When you pay your full credit card balance off early -- whether that’s before the billing cycle ends or before your statement’s due date -- you won’t be hit with interest charges on the purchases you make. Just remember that you have to pay the full statement balance to avoid interest each month. 

This move can be incredibly helpful considering how high credit card interest rates have surged over the last period. The average credit card APR for July is above 20%. Not only can paying your statement balance each month help you avoid these exorbitant charges, but avoiding interest can also help limit your credit card debt.

Strengthens your on-time payment history 

Credit card issuers report your card activity to the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. While they report a range of different data, the most important issue they report on that impacts your credit scores is your payment history. In fact, payment history is the biggest determinant of FICO credit scores, making up 35% of the calculation.

If you pay off your credit card balance before your statement ends or before the due date, that sends a positive signal to credit reporting agencies. Having a strong payment history will boost your credit, which will in turn help your likelihood of being approved for future loans or credit applications.

Lowers your credit utilization 

Having a low debt-to-credit ratio, also known as credit utilization, is another factor that helps determine how good your credit score is. Experts generally recommend keeping your credit utilization below 30%. By paying your balance in full and early, you’ll be able to keep your credit utilization rate low. This can positively impact your credit score.

Credit card issuers typically report your credit utilization at the end of your monthly billing cycle, according to Experian. That means if you pay the bulk of your bill before your cycle ends, your credit utilization might go below 10%.

Should you ever avoid paying your credit card bill early?

There’s generally no harm in making payments to your credit card bill during your billing cycle. And it’s always a good practice to pay your balance in full by your due date to avoid interest, late payment fees and dings to your credit. One way to limit overspending when using a credit card is to make weekly payments toward your balance, which can help promote healthy budgeting.

With these details in mind, you should feel comfortable paying your credit card bill early each month, or even making multiple payments throughout the month as you like. You won’t hurt your credit if you do so, and this strategy can even boost your credit score and help you keep debt levels in check.

Should you set up automatic payments on your credit card?

Whether you opt to pay your credit card bill once or several times per month, using autopay can help avoid damaging your credit and other headaches caused by missing a credit card payment. It can even make keeping up with credit card bills easier when you’re busy. 

Most card issuers offer the option to set up automatic payments -- either for the minimum or the full statement balance -- using a bank account paid automatically on your behalf.

While you might prefer to make payments manually, setting up automatic payments is a good backstop for the times you might get busy and forget. At the very least, it will make sure you never get hit with late fees or a penalty APR on your credit card account.

What about the 15/3 rule?

You may have heard about something called the “15/3 rule” online, and how it can help your credit. Essentially, this rule states you should make half of your credit card payment 15 days before your due date, then make the other half of your payment three days before your bill is due.

This strategy is designed to boost your credit by increasing the number of on-time payments reported to the credit bureaus. However, credit reporting agencies only report your payments to the credit bureaus once per billing cycle, so this strategy is mostly a waste of time. The only real benefit you can get from following this rule is a lower credit utilization ratio throughout the month.

The bottom line

Paying your credit card balance before your billing cycle ends can be beneficial in the short term and long term. It’ll prevent you from missing a payment, help you avoid expensive interest charges, increase your credit limit and improve your credit score faster.


If you can’t pay early, aim to pay your statement balance in full by the due date. And if you can’t afford to cover the entire statement balance, make sure to pay the required minimum to avoid late payment fees. Then you can work toward paying down the remaining balance before using your card again.


There are no negative consequences that come with paying your credit card bill before the due date. In fact, this strategy can help you keep credit card balances low while avoiding debt.

Editors’ note: An earlier version of this article was assisted by an AI engine. This version has been substantially updated by a staff writer.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

Evan Zimmer has been writing about finance for years. After graduating with a journalism degree from SUNY Oswego, he wrote credit card content for Credit Card Insider (now Money Tips) before moving to ZDNET Finance to cover credit card, banking and blockchain news. He currently works with CNET Money to bring readers the most accurate and up-to-date financial information. Otherwise, you can find him reading, rock climbing, snowboarding and enjoying the outdoors.