Dear Credit Card Adviser,

Does putting all or most of my monthly expenses on one credit card negatively affect my credit score if I pay them in full and never carry a balance?

-- Sara

Dear Sara,

It can make sense to pile expenses onto one credit card, especially if that card offers a generous rewards or cash-back program. However, this move can backfire when it comes to your credit score.

Your credit score factors in how much available credit you're using on your credit cards. This debt-to-credit limit ratio, or utilization, is figured for each credit card you have and across all of your credit cards. The higher the ratio, the more points you lose.

Consistently charging up a single credit card each month could result in a lower credit score the next time a lender or another business checks it.

That's because the balance on your credit report may not be zero even if you're paying off your monthly charges each month. The balance on your credit report will reflect the most recent balance reported by the card issuer. That's often the balance on your last statement date.

If you're trying to increase or maintain your credit score for an upcoming credit check, you'll want to keep your utilization down. To maximize your score, use less than 10% of your credit limit. That translates to charging less on your credit card if you're paying the balance in full every month. If you're an organized person, you also could pay before the statement closing date.

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