The five things crushing your credit score

Do you think you have this bill paying thing all figured out? You’re adulting like a pro and winning at life every day. 

Are you really, though?

This isn’t like the Millennial childhood of yore, where everybody gets a trophy. (Sorry!) 

Once the novelty of that first credit card wears off, for many of us it becomes just another thing to manage. We pay the bills—mostly on time—and try not to overspend, but here’s the thing. Most people don’t take an active role in creating good credit and, unfortunately, it doesn’t happen automatically. 

Let’s look at the ways you might be inadvertently hurting your credit score.

You’re late.

Just one late payment every so often isn’t a big deal, right? If the payment is less than 30 days after the due date, then no, it’s not a huge deal, although you will have to pay a late fee. (And what a waste of money that is, amiright?) If you’re more than 30 days late paying, however, whatever you do, do NOT write that payment off as missed and move on. The credit card company certainly won’t.

According to personal finance website NerdWallet, “If you have otherwise spotless credit, a payment that’s more than 30 days past due can knock as many as 100 points off your credit score. “

Yikes! Those points can make a real difference in everything from your interest rates on a new loan to what credit cards you can get.

The takeaway? Do whatever it takes to pay on time! OK, we’re not talking about anything drastic here. It’s basic stuff. Set automatic payments, have reminders on your phone and computer, make your dog wear a sandwich board that says, “Don’t forget to pay your bills. Woof!” 

OK, you can skip that last one…but only if you promise to do the others!

You’re closing old accounts.

Yes, shiny and new can be fun, but the established is valuable as well, especially when it comes to credit. Have a credit card for years, the balance is paid off and you don’t use it? Your instinct might be to tidy up and close the account. Noooo! Don’t do it. 

These old credit accounts—even if they’re currently unused—demonstrate to creditors the length of time you’ve been using credit. The longer you’ve been successfully using it, the better it looks.

You have more credibility. Or creditability. 😉 

In fact, much like a fine wine, your old credit card accounts truly only get better with age. “The account’s age by itself will help boost your score. Close your oldest account and you could see your overall score decline,” advised Amy Fontinelle from Investopedia.   

The takeaway? Do nothing. (Hey, we like that!) Leave those old accounts alone to sit there and quietly represent how good you are at paying your bills. 

You’re using too much credit.

“I have credit available, so why shouldn’t I use it?” We’re glad you asked. 

If you’re carrying balances that take up more than 30% of your available credit, creditors will flag that as a negative. Overutilization of credit is a signal to debtors that you don’t have enough cash – whether or not this is accurate. 

The takeaway? Even if you’re paying the bills, multiple high balances are worrisome to those who might otherwise consider lending you money. And let’s not even get into how much interest you’re paying if you’re carrying big balances! Eek. So charge expenses mindfully. 

You’re not mixing it up. 

We understand how confusing financial matters can seem. While it might be tempting to figure out one area of credit and stick with what you know, this is a mistake.

By using multiple types of credit, you actively demonstrate to creditors your ability to balance—and, of course, pay—on various accounts. Keep in mind: you don’t need to go crazy with every type of account. (That won’t help with maintaining that precious balance.) Having a credit card, car loan, and mortgage, for example, serves the purpose. 

The takeaway? Diversification can significantly help in boosting your credit score.

You’re co-signing for the wrong person.

This one is lesser known to most people, but is a trap into which you don’t want to fall. Of course we want to help family and friends, but if someone with poor credit asks you to co-sign a loan for them, we advise you to tread very carefully. 

As co-signer, you’re guaranteeing the loan for that creditor. And is that a risk you really want to take? As Erin El Issa of NerdWallet shared, “If they can’t pay, you’ll have to — or your good credit will suffer the consequences.” 

The takeaway? Avoid co-signing unless you absolutely must.

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