Liz Weston: Will carrying a zero balance on my credit cards increase my credit score?

Dear Liz: If I pay off my credit card and carry a zero balance, will my credit score go up quite a bit?

Answer: That depends, among other factors, on how much of your available credit you were using on that card. The closer you were to being maxed out — which means using most or all of your available credit — the more dramatic the improvement you might see.

But your credit scores also depend on a number of other factors, including how long you’ve had credit, how many open accounts you have, how much of the available credit you’re using on those accounts, when you last applied for credit and whether you have any negative marks, such as late payments, in your credit reports.

In general, credit scores respond favorably if you use only a small portion of your available credit. People trying to obtain top scores generally try to keep their credit usage below 10% of their credit limits.

Dear Liz: Can someone who has remarried claim survivor benefits from a deceased former husband?

Answer: Possibly, if the marriage lasted at least 10 years, the divorce occurred at least two years ago and she remarried at age 60 or later.

Divorced survivor benefits can be up to 100% of the former husband’s benefit. The amount would be reduced if the ex-wife applies before her own full retirement age, which is currently between 66 and 67. (Survivor benefits could be further reduced or even eliminated if the ex-wife receives a pension from a job that did not t pay into Social Security, under the “government pension offset” rules.) If the ex-wife has earned a Social Security benefit of her own, she would get the larger of the two checks rather than both amounts.

The rules for divorced survivor benefits are different from those for divorced spousal benefits. Divorced spousal benefits may be available while the ex-husband is still alive, but only if the ex-wife has not remarried. Also, divorced spousal benefits max out at 50% of the ex-husband’s benefit.

Liz Weston, Certified Financial Planner, is a personal finance columnist for NerdWallet. Questions may be sent to her at 3940 Laurel Canyon, No. 238, Studio City, CA 91604, or by using the “Contact” form at askliweston.com.

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