Credit Card Mistakes That Keep You From Getting a Mortgage

Written By Jeff Hindenach
Last updated December 11, 2020

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April 9, 2015

Simple. Thrifty. Living.

It doesn’t matter if you found the house of your dreams if you can’t nab the mortgage loan needed to buy it. Unfortunately, credit card mistakes can often lead to banks and creditors denying a mortgage application. That’s why it’s important to understand exactly what mistakes are possible and how you can best avoid them. After all, you deserve that mortgage at an excellent rate, so don’t let anything get in your way.

You may have guessed it, but paying your credit card late can lead to a serious hit on your credit score. In fact, about 35 percent of your credit score is calculated based on whether you make your credit card payments on time. Mortgage lenders are almost inevitably going to look at your FICO score when they try to determine whether you should be eligible for a loan, and what interest rate to offer you. If they think you can’t pay your credit card debt, they might also assume you can’t pay off a home.

Try to set up automatic payments or sign up for email or text-based alerts that will warn you when to pay your credit card on time. Paying on time will improve your credit score, and ultimately help you receive better terms on a mortgage. If your credit score is already wrecked from late payments, you can try to employ a credit repair service to help you raise your credit score. If you can’t afford some of the more expensive credit repair programs, here is a list of good, cheap credit repair services.

Not only is credit card debt expensive and already potentially ruining your credit score, but it also becomes a factor when mortgage lends look at your debt-to-income ratio (DTI). In order to understand what your DTI is, simply add up your monthly credit card obligations along with other debt payments you might owe, such as student or car loans, and then divide this by your monthly gross income. In general, the DTI should be 35 or less, and if it’s too high, there’s a good chance your mortgage loan will be denied. If you are having trouble paying down your debt, you can get a free consultation from a debt settlement/consolidation company to help you reduce your debt.

Often, applying for too many credit cards at once or having too many credit cards overall can negatively impact your credit score. Try to avoid adding a bunch of credit cards right before you apply for a mortgage, as each credit card application temporarily lowers your score. At the same time, if you have a lot of credit cards, try to get rid of a few of them. Simply having too many cards might be a sign to creditors that you’re experiencing some kind of financial trouble, which may raise some red flags when it comes time to apply for a mortgage.

In some cases, having no credit card can be a serious detriment to obtaining a home loan. Although you may have student loan information or other loans on your credit record, without a record of credit card purchases, your credit history may look a bit sparse. Mortgage lenders want to see that you can take credit and pay it back, so if you don’t have a credit card, think about taking out at least one and making some purchases from time to time before you attempt to take out a mortgage. Just be sure to pay for all of your purchases on time.

Ultimately, credit cards can be a tool for good, helping you build your credit score and even rack up some nice rewards and bonuses. Just don’t let the above credit card mistakes get in the way of getting the home you always wanted.

About the Author

Jeff Hindenach

Jeff Hindenach is the co-founder of Simple. Thrifty. Living. He graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. He has a long history of financial journalism, with a background writing for newspapers such as the San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Examiner, as well as writing on personal finance for The Huffington Post, New York Times, Business Insider, CNBC, Newsday and The Street. He believes in giving readers the tools they need to get out of debt.

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