Do you need the 15/3 Credit Card Payment Hack?

Despite how much has been written about credit scores, there are always posts about little hacks or tips or tricks you can do to give yourself a little boost. I know because I’ve read them all and most of them are junk.

When it comes to your score, the key idea is that you have to show responsible use over a long period of time. There’s no trick – just make regular on-time payments and you’re good.

Ok but are there any hacks that can help?

Sure, kind of – have you heard of the 15/3 Credit Card Payment “Hack?”

It sounds silly at first but once I explain why it works, it’ll make sense.

Table of Contents
  1. What is the 15/3 Credit Card Payment Hack?
  2. What does this accomplish?
  3. How 15/3 works in practice
  4. Should you be doing this?

What is the 15/3 Credit Card Payment Hack?

It’s just a fancy name for making three payments to your credit card each month.

The first is made 15 days before the date your statement closes.

The second is made 3 days before the date your statement closes.

Hence, 15/3.

(the third payment is after the statement closes)

In many cases, you have to do this manually. There won’t be a way to schedule mid-month payments, plus since you aren’t charging the same amount each time, you’ll want to set the amount.

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If you’re a renter, your rent payments can be used to build a credit history and improve your credit. For this to happen, you need to use a free app called Piñata – they partnered with TransUnion to report your rent payments so you build a credit history that is used to establish and improve your credit score.

It’s completely free, and they also have a rewards program called Piñata Treats – they even give you $30 in rewards just for creating an account.

Learn more about Piñata

What does this accomplish?

It reduces your credit utilization, which is a factor in your credit score.

Credit utilization is the sum of all of our outstanding balances divided by all of your credit limits. It’s meant to measure how much of your total credit limit is being used at any one time. A higher utilization means you’re using more of your credit, which is seen as a risk.

Credit utilization is calculated using your balances, which are reported when your statement closes.

When you make payments before your statement closes, a smaller number is reported because you’ve paid off the debt. Credit card companies don’t report the total amount charged to the card, they simply report what you owe them when the statement closes.

Making extra payments lowers your utilization.

When someone reviews my report, they will see regular, on-time payment of my revolving credit card debt. That’s good.

It won’t, however, show multiple payments each month. It just shows that I’m on-time and current on the account. This won’t speed up your history of on-time payments or anything like that.

If you look at your credit report, you can see that it simply lists the months and whether you’re on-time:

A lot of green dots – but no indication of how many payments were made. Open/Never late is the important part.

How 15/3 works in practice

It’s simple – let’s say I charge $1,000 a month on my credit card. After about 15 days, my credit card balance might be around $500. I log into my account online and schedule a payment for $500.

Then, in about 12-ish days, I log in and pay off the rest of my balance.

In the three days between the 2nd payment and the statement close, I might charge a little bit on the card. That’s the amount that gets reported.

Then I make a third payment, paying off my statement in full so I don’t get charged any interest.

That’s it!

Should you be doing this?

I think keeping a lower utilization might have short term benefits in improving your score but nothing significant in the long run. A lower utilization is better but are a lot of other factors involved.

If you check your score and see that you are on the border between an average and a good score, you may wish to lower utilization to give your score a minor bump. This is important if you are going to need a loan soon, because this bump can save you money.

If you don’t need a loan and/or your score is already pretty good, this is a bit of unnecessary work. Making multiple 15/3 payments for a year won’t improve your score more than on-time regular payments would. It won’t hurt to make these extra payments but it takes time – time you could use on other tasks. (consider these spring cleaning tasks!)

Finally, I don’t see why paying 15 days out and then again 3 days out would make a difference. It might be useful if you’re paid bi-weekly and this helps you budget better, but the 15 day payment is redundant.

If you make a larger payment 3 days out, it serves the same purpose because it’ll lower your statement balance, which is the amount reported to the bureaus.

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About Jim Wang

Jim Wang is a forty-something father of four who is a frequent contributor to Forbes and Vanguard's Blog. He has also been fortunate to have appeared in the New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Entrepreneur, and Marketplace Money.

Jim has a B.S. in Computer Science and Economics from Carnegie Mellon University, an M.S. in Information Technology - Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a Masters in Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. His approach to personal finance is that of an engineer, breaking down complex subjects into bite-sized easily understood concepts that you can use in your daily life.

One of his favorite tools (here's my treasure chest of tools,, everything I use) is Personal Capital, which enables him to manage his finances in just 15-minutes each month. They also offer financial planning, such as a Retirement Planning Tool that can tell you if you're on track to retire when you want. It's free.

He is also diversifying his investment portfolio by adding a little bit of real estate. But not rental homes, because he doesn't want a second job, it's diversified small investments in a few commercial properties and farms in Illinois, Louisiana, and California through AcreTrader.

Recently, he's invested in a few pieces of art on Masterworks too.

>> Read more articles by Jim

Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank or financial institution. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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