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13 Things that May be Harming your Credit Score

 Published on February 21, 2024

13 Things that May be Harming your Credit Score

Your credit score is a three-digit number that is meant to represent your creditworthiness, and it can play an important role in your financial life. Whether you're applying for a mortgage, car loan, or a personal loan of any kind, your credit score may impact the interest rates and terms you may qualify for. Even with how important this number can be, for a lot of people, there may be some confusion on what impacts their scores. With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at some of the intricacies of credit scores and explore the often-overlooked factors that may be silently eroding your financial standing.

1. Late Payments and Missed Payments: The Silent Culprits

One of the most significant factors affecting your credit score is your payment history. Timely payments on credit cards, personal loans, and other financial obligations can impact your score. On the other hand, late payments and missed payments can also have an impact in the other direction.

If you consistently pay bills after the due date or, worse, miss payments altogether, creditors may report these incidents to credit bureaus. This can result in an impact to your credit score, making it even more important to manage due dates and create a reliable system for on-time payments.

2. High Credit Card Balances: Balancing Act Gone Wrong

Credit card usage is a double-edged sword. While responsible use can build your credit history, carrying high balances can sometimes be detrimental. Your credit utilization ratio, or the amount of credit you're using compared to your total available credit, plays an important role in determining your credit score.

Ideally, you should aim for a credit utilization ratio below 30%. Going over this threshold can signal financial distress to lenders, potentially impacting your credit score. Regularly monitor your credit card balances and aim to keep them within a manageable range to avoid impacting your credit score.

3. Closing Old Credit Accounts: The Unintended Consequences

Closing old or unused credit accounts might seem like a smart move to simplify your financial portfolio. However, this decision can have some unexpected consequences for your credit score. The length of your credit history is a factor in determining your creditworthiness.

Closing old credit card accounts shortens your credit history, potentially impacting your credit score. Even if a credit card is no longer in active use, keeping it open may help maintain a longer credit history, influencing your overall credit score. Keep in mind though that this is assuming that you’re not paying fees on those unused accounts. You should also fully understand all consequences before you decide to keep your accounts open, so you make the decision that’s right for your financial situation.

4. Applying for Multiple Credit Accounts: The Inquiry Conundrum

In some cases, when you apply for credit, a hard inquiry is generated on your credit report. While a single inquiry might not have a big impact your credit score, multiple inquiries within a short period can be concerning to lenders. It may suggest that you’re in financial distress or actively seeking credit, both of which can be red flags.

Be strategic when applying for credit and avoid a flurry of applications in a short timeframe. If you're rate shopping, try to do it within a condensed period to minimize the impact on your credit score.

5. Defaulting on Loans: A Lasting Stain

Defaulting on a loan is one of the most detrimental actions for your credit score. Whether it's a mortgage, car loan, or personal loan, failing to meet your repayment obligations can lead to severe consequences. Not only will the defaulted account be reported on your credit report, but it may also result in legal action and a significant drop in your credit score.

Person looking at personal loan contracts.

If you find yourself struggling with loan payments, it's crucial to communicate with your creditors and inquire about potential options such as loan modification or refinancing to prevent default and mitigate the impact on your credit score.

6. Identity Theft and Fraudulent Activity: The Silent Intruders

In the digital age, identity theft and fraudulent activity can be big threats to your credit score. If someone gains unauthorized access to your financial accounts or opens credit accounts in your name, it can wreak havoc on your credit history.

Regularly monitor your credit reports for any suspicious activity and consider using credit monitoring services. If you find any signs of identity theft, act right away by reporting it to the relevant authorities and working with your creditors to resolve the issue and protect your credit score.

7. Cosigning Loans: Sharing the Risks

Cosigning a loan for a friend or family member may seem like a generous gesture, but it comes with risks. When you cosign a loan, you’re equally responsible for the debt. If the primary borrower misses payments or defaults, it reflects on your credit history as well.

Before cosigning, carefully assess the financial responsibility of the other party and the impact it could have on your credit score. Establish open communication about the loan terms and make sure that you're prepared to take on the responsibility if necessary.

8. Ignoring Errors on Your Credit Report: The Oversight Trap

Credit reports are not infallible, and errors can happen. Overlooking inaccuracies on your credit report, like incorrect account information or unauthorized transactions, can impact your credit score. Regularly review your credit reports from all the major credit bureaus and try to get any errors fixed. Promptly correcting errors can help to make sure that your credit score is based on accurate information.

9. Settling for Minimum Payments: The Interest Accumulator

While only making minimum payments on your accounts such as credit cards might seem like a reasonable thing to do, it can have long-term consequences if it goes on for too long. Creditors assess interest on the remaining balance, and carrying a balance over time can result in big interest charges.

On top of that, while consistently making only minimum payments won’t have a direct impact on your credit score, it can have a big effect on your credit utilization, which is a big part of determining your score. If you’re only paying the minimum, your outstanding debt is going to be higher than it would if you were able to make bigger payments. Strive to pay more than the minimum whenever possible to reduce overall interest and lower your credit utilization rate.

10. Frequent Job Changes: Employment and Financial Stability

While your job status itself doesn't directly affect your credit score, frequent changes in employment can indirectly impact your financial stability. Lenders may view a history of job-hopping as a potential risk factor, leading to concerns about your ability to repay debts. A stable employment history can instill confidence in creditors, influencing your creditworthiness. If possible, try to maintain a steady employment record to strengthen this aspect of your financial profile.

11. Overlooking Public Records: Legal Troubles and Credit Scores

Certain public records, like bankruptcies, can significantly impact your credit score. These items could stay on your credit report for several years, potentially impacting your ability to qualify for rates that may be more affordable for you. If you are dealing with such issues, it's crucial to address them head-on. Consult with a financial advisor or legal professional to explore options for resolving these issues and mitigating their impact on your credit score.

12. Maxing Out Credit Cards

Like we’ve mentioned, credit utilization is a key factor in your credit score, and maxing out your credit cards can have a detrimental effect. When your credit card balances approach the credit limit, it raises concerns about your ability to manage debt responsibly. Aim to keep your credit card balances well below the maximum limit to maintain a healthy credit utilization ratio. Responsible credit card use demonstrates financial discipline and may impact your credit score.

13. Not Building a Credit History: The Credit Vacuum

Having no credit history can be just as challenging as having a poor credit history. Lenders use your credit history to assess your creditworthiness, and if you have limited or no credit history, lenders might not be able to collect all the information they need to assess your application. To build a credit history, consider starting with a secured credit card or becoming an authorized user on someone else's credit account. Timely payments and responsible credit use may gradually establish a credit profile.

Lady smiling looking at a computer.

Pay Attention to These Factors

Your credit score is a dynamic and ever-changing indicator of your financial health. Understanding the factors that may be harming your credit score is important for taking proactive steps to protect and impact it. From payment history and credit utilization to the types of credit you hold, each element plays a role in shaping your creditworthiness.

Regularly monitoring your credit report, practicing responsible financial habits, and addressing issues promptly may contribute to a positive credit score trajectory. By unraveling the mystery of credit scoring and making informed choices, you can pave the way for a healthier and more robust financial future.

Disclaimer: This page provides general information only and does not constitute financial, legal or other professional advice. For full details, see Fora’s Terms of Use.