12 Things You Didn’t Know Messed Up Your Credit Score
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Everyone talks about how important it is to maintain a decent credit score, but how much do you really know about your score and what affects it? Here are 12 things that could be messing up your credit score.
1. Not keeping tabs on it.
Do you know your credit score? How often do you check it? You can get a copy of your credit report for free, once a year, from all three credit agencies – TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. TransUnion makes the process incredibly easy, and provides great tips on fixing any inaccuracies. Be sure to take advantage of TransUnion’s credit score simulator, which estimates how your current score would change based on any future actions. TransUnion also offers identity protection which monitors your credit, alerts you to any suspicious activity, and provides up to $1,000,000 in ID theft insurance.
Sign up through our link and get Transunion credit monitoring for $9.95 a month (50% off)
Contrary to popular belief, checking your credit score will not lower your number – so don’t be afraid to do it. You may want to consider signing up to a website such as Credit Sesame, which is entirely free to join and sends you an updated score each month. It also sends daily alerts to let you know if anything has changed, and allows you to track all of your financial information in one place. It’s a great tool to utilize, and is an excellent way to stay on top of your score. It costs you absolutely nothing, so why not give it a go?
Sign up to Credit Sesame and get your free credit score.
2. Taking out loans & opening credit cards.
When you apply for a credit card or loan, the company or lender will pull your credit report. This is a hard inquiry, which means they’re thoroughly examining your account to see if you’re a good candidate. Each hard inquiry shaves a few points off your score, so try to limit or spread out your applications. However, don’t worry about potential landlords checking your credit – these are “soft inquiries” and don’t affect your score.
3. Asking to increase your credit limit.
If you’re seeking more spending power, you can always ask your credit card company to increase your limit. This is a good alternative to applying for an entirely new credit card, and it can positively impact your credit score. But be careful – when you approach your financial institution for an increased credit limit, ask if they will initiate a hard inquiry or a soft inquiry. Each company handles such requests differently, so you need to be careful before you take this step.
4. Getting a new phone plan.
If you’re signing up for a new phone plan, the service provider will make a hard inquiry into your credit. Remember, hard inquiries take a few points off your credit score. If you’re trying to open a new phone line, registering for a new credit card, and applying for a loan at the same time, your credit score will feel the hit, and you’ll be more likely to be denied by all parties.
5. Not using your credit card.
It probably seems like a good move to use cash instead of putting everything on your credit card and potentially paying interest and penalties on late bills. However, long periods of inactivity on your credit card means the company might close it, and a closed card will ding your credit score.
6. Closing old credit card accounts.
If you’re not using a credit card anymore, it might be tempting to close the account. However, closing accounts looks bad on your credit, especially when it’s an account you’ve had for a long time. Closing old cards shortens your credit history, and can significantly influence your score.
7. Transferring credit balances to one card.
It might seem easier to carry around and pay off one credit card instead of many, but doing so could actually hurt your score. Adding all of your balances to one card raises your utilization ratio. When you come close to maxing out a card, an alert is put on your credit report, which makes you seem high risk. Using several cards and making payments on time can greatly increase your score.
8. Using your debit card for car rentals.
Although most rental companies won’t lend you a car unless you can put the charges on a credit card, some allow you to use a debit card. However, opting to use a debit card means the car company will pull your credit before they hand over the keys. This will take a few points off your credit score.
9. Financing purchases through the store.
When you’re buying a big item like a couch or a bed, you might be drawn to a particular store because of their purchase plan. It probably says something like “take the item home today and pay nothing for 12 months with 0% interest.” That sounds great, but taking advantage of the deal means opening a line of credit. Since you’re opening it through the store instead of through a financial institution, it’s marked as a “last resort loan,” which negatively impacts your credit and makes you seem like more of a risk when it comes to borrowing.
10. Not paying medical bills.
Medical bills are stressful enough on their own, because you’re already undergoing a procedure or treatment that caused the bills to pile up in the first place. Depending on your insurance, you might not get much help financially, and you might not be getting paid medical leave from your job. Unfortunately, unpaid medical bills are turned over to a collection agency, and just one negative account on your credit report can cause your score to drop 50-100 points. It’s worth paying down your medical bills to keep your score high.
11. Co-signing loans.
If you’re asked to co-sign a loan for someone else, think twice before you do so. It can either have a positive or negative impact on your credit, depending on how financially responsible the primary signer is. If they make their payments on time, being a co-signer on their account can increase your score. If they stop paying, however, your score could be negatively affected and you could be left to make the payments on your own.
12. Filing for bankruptcy.
Duh. It sounds pretty obvious, but filing for bankruptcy kills your credit score. It takes it down by hundreds of points and stays on your report for 10 years. Needless to say, it takes a long time to repair that kind of damage.
If you do find yourself in need of credit repair, a service like Lexington Law can be a great resource. It’s been helping people improve their credit scores for over 27 years. Head over to the website for a free consultation which will give you a complete review of your credit report and summary. If there’s anything inaccurate on your report, it can help get those items removed.