I've planned four bachelorette parties in the past five years (and attended five, including my own). I have the planning part down to a science. But this time around I had a little surprise -- my credit score dropped 24 points when I checked it on my way home Sunday night.
Now, I should preface this with saying that the damage is temporary. It's not fair to say the bachelorette party "wrecked my credit" since I've already remedied the cause of the credit score drop — my high credit utilization this month (more on how I fixed my credit later).
In my experience, planning bachelorette parties takes a lot of coordination, a lot of ridiculous party store supplies and a lot of PayPal/Venmo/Chase QuickPay account transfers. Most of the parties have been short weekend trips for groups ranging from six to 11 people, so it boils down to a few major expenses: house rental, transportation, an activity and a dinner out. The other things you end up buying— wine tastings, drinks at bars, lunches and breakfasts — tend to get paid for individually, without a joint tab.
The major expenses often require a point person, though — one credit card to rule them all. Even when you find a great house that can accommodate everyone at a very reasonable price, someone has to pull the trigger and put it on their credit card to reserve the space and, when you're the one (or two) planning the trip, it tends to be you. Then, you collect the money from the other attendees and pay off your credit card immediately.
I've never minded doing this. After all, I write for a credit website, I'm very mindful of my credit, monitor my accounts daily, check my credit scores every month, and am constantly thinking about managing my money. For some people, this would be an understandable burden. After all, a house that can accommodate 11 women for a weekend isn't cheap. If you're already struggling to pay your balance in full every month with just your normal spending, it may not be the best move. After all, you could be short and then face interest charges.
The Hidden Benefit of Bachelorette Party Planning
There is a notable upside to putting all that spending on your credit cards and then immediately paying them off, though -- the rewards. I made $500 off my credit cards last year and paid no interest charges or annual fees. This year, I've already made roughly $150, so I'm on pace to beat last year's total. If you're using the right credit card, you can really rake in the rewards on the group expenses of a bachelorette party. For example, I used my Chase Sapphire card (read a full review here) and got double points on our group's lunch bill this weekend.
At the end of the weekend, I simply tallied up all the group expenses and gave everyone a per-person total they owed me. Everyone transferred me the money that day, easy breezy.
Why My Score Dropped 24 Points
So why did my credit score drop so much, exactly?
I had charged enough on my credit cards that I had a 20% credit utilization this month. That means I had enough charges on my credit cards that I had spent 20% of my combined credit card limits. One thing you should know about my spending habits is that I charge nearly everything to my credit cards and then pay them off in full every month— it's how I make so much money from my credit card rewards. So the bachelorette expenses aren't that whole 20%. But I normally spend around 10% of my limits, sometimes 12%, and this month the extra charges bumped me up to 20% for the first time in a very long time.
How I Fixed It
This is the easy part. I used the money the bachelorette party attendees paid me and immediately paid off two of my credit cards in full. That's brought my total utilization down to about 7% right now. (You can see how your utilization is impacting your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.) I don't plan to apply for any new credit this month, so a temporary credit score drop is something I can weather without issue. A healthy utilization rate is under 30%, but as you can see from my story, it's even better to keep it under 10%. I have a good credit score, and still do after the slight ding, and I want to keep it that way.
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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.