Unusual ways to hurt your credit score
Unusual ways to hurt your credit report and score.
A library book out too long? There are plenty of surprising ways to damage those all-important credit numbers.
Not filling out a moving form
When you move, it’s important to report your change of address to the United States Postal Service or you risk missing important mailings such as credit card and utility bills. The last thing you want to do is get behind on payments, because that will be reported to the credit bureaus. Some credit card companies will report you as soon as you are 30 days late. While you’re at it, be sure to place a hold your mail when you go away. You don’t want someone stealing your mail and your identity.
Asking a banker to check your score
If you have friends who work at banks, especially if they are in lending, you might be tempted to ask them to check your credit score for free. Rather than jump through the hoops of free credit-score companies or paying for it yourself, it might seem harmless to ask a friend to look it up. Besides probably being misuse of company resources, that small favor will result in a hard inquiry on your report, which will hurt your credit score. When you look up your own score, the credit bureaus treat it as a soft inquiry because you are asking about yourself. When you ask your bank, all that the bureau sees is a bank requesting your score, as if you had applied for a loan.
Not paying library fines
Years ago, owing the library a few dollars wasn’t a big deal. Today, with local budgets in a pinch, everyone is trying to find ways to make more money and fund valuable community services. This means that some libraries are sending even the most trivial of debts to collection agencies. Those agencies tack on their own fees and penalties and report the debt to the bureaus, and that can have a devastating effect on your credit.
Unpaid parking or speeding tickets
Did you get a parking ticket in another state? What about a speeding ticket or other citation? Since citations are considered debts to the county and governments are not in the business of ignoring debts of any kind, this will almost always be turned over to a collections agency. That agency will tack on penalties and fees and report it to the bureau, and, much like unpaid library fines, this will be extremely painful for your credit score.
Paying less than owed
Let’s say you already have a past-due amount on your report and you want to get the debt off your back, so you agree to pay 75% of the debt. That actually hurts your score because the 25% you don’t pay will be reported as a new charge-off on your credit report. You can prevent this when you negotiate with the debt holder, but if you fail to do so, most will report the charge-off. The debt will be settled, but the impact on your credit report will persist. It does seem counterintuitive to be punished after paying, but that’s how it works.
Cards with no limit
Some credit cards come with no listed limit, which at first may seem like a good thing. In reality, those credit card companies aren’t reporting a credit limit to the credit bureaus, so the bureaus assume the limit is $0 for their calculations. This makes make your credit utilization on such cards artificially high, which hurts your score. If the only credit card you had was one of these limitless credit cards, your credit utilization would be infinite.