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Opening, or simply applying for, a new credit card can temporarily ding your credit score. But getting a new card can also come with a few advantages for your credit, such as raising your credit limit. Here’s what to know.
How applying for a credit card can hurt your credit
When a card issuer looks at your credit information because you’ve applied for a credit card, it is a so-called hard pull. That can lead to a slight drop in your credit score, whether you are approved or not. A hard pull, or hard inquiry, stops impacting your credit score in a year or less, but it stays on your credit report for about two years.
How opening a new credit card can hurt your credit
Applying for a new card can cause your score to slip a bit, but getting a new card can result in a bigger drop if you use a lot of that new line of credit. Or if you have only one or two other cards, and they are only a few years old.
Here’s how opening a new card might hurt your credit:
A new credit card might hurt your score if you make a big purchase or get a balance-transfer card and transfer your higher-interest debt to the card so that you have high credit utilization. The amount of your credit limit that you use is weighted heavily. Credit utilization is calculated both per-card and overall.
Experts recommend going no higher than 30% on any card, and lower is better.
However, it’s smart to look at overall finances, not just your credit score. Accepting a drop in your score due to high credit utilization because you got a 0% balance transfer card deal to pay off debt may be worth it.
Lower average age of accounts
How long you’ve had credit also affects your score. Your new card can reduce the average age of your credit. If you have few credit cards, it will have a bigger impact than if you have many.
Length of credit history, however, is a relatively minor factor in credit scores. It counts as 15% of your FICO score. VantageScore, another credit score provider, lists “depth of credit,” the age of your credit accounts, as making up 21% of your VantageScore 3.0 score.
How opening a new card can help your credit
A new line of credit can also help your credit profile.
A better track record
Paying on time, every time is essential for good credit. FICO, the credit score used most for credit decisions, says payment history accounts for 35% of credit score. Competitor VantageScore says it makes up 40% of your 3.0 score.
If you’re trying to build credit, nothing is more important than consistent, on-time payments. A new account gives you another opportunity to build up a record of on-time payments.
More room on credit cards
A new card will increase your overall credit limit. If your spending stays the same, your overall credit utilization will be lower, and that could help your score.
Credit scores award points for showing you can manage more than one type of credit. If you have an installment loan but do not have an existing credit card, successfully managing your new credit card is likely to help. But if you already have several credit cards, adding one more is not as likely to have much of an impact.
When you apply for a credit product that involves a hard inquiry on your credit, you may get an influx of marketing messages from lenders. This happens because credit bureaus sell marketing lists triggered by hard inquiries. But you can opt out, either permanently or for five years. Visit OptOutPreScreen, a service of credit bureaus Equifax, Experian, TransUnion and Innovis, or call 888-567-8688. The bureaus say your request will be effective within five days. Note that you may still receive marketing offers from lenders that use other sources. Opting out does not affect your credit score or your ability to apply for credit or insurance.