Should I Split Up My Credit Card Balance?

Advice to manage credit-to-debt raio.

A selection of credit cards
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Q: I know that my FICO credit score depends in part on the total amount of my credit-card debt vis-á-vis the credit limits on my cards. I have five accounts, each with a $10,000 limit, and I owe a total of $20,000. Does it matter if the debt is concentrated on one or two cards, or spread across all five? That is, am I better off carrying a balance of $4,000 on each card or dividing the debt between two cards ($10,000 on each) with zero balances on the other three?

You are better off dividing up your debt among the five cards. The fact that you have multiple cards with balances may drop your score slightly, but maxing out your credit on two cards would lower your score even more.

Your FICO score is compiled on the basis of five criteria, which are assigned different weights. The "amounts owed" category, which makes up 30% of your score, looks at the percentage you are using of your total available credit, how much youÕre using on each card and the number of accounts with balances greater than zero. Other criteria include your payment history and the length of your credit history.

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The important thing is not to worry about micromanaging your debt -- just concentrate on paying it off. As John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education for, explains, "You canÕt fool the FICO scoring model. Consumers may think that they can manipulate debt by moving it to other cards, but in the end you still have the same amount of debt."

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Senior Reporter, Kiplinger's Personal Finance