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13 Scary Things That Can Surprisingly Ruin Your Credit

The terror usually ends in horror movies once the credits start rolling. But that may not be the case when you look at your credit score. For many people, their credit score can be frightening to look at if you don’t pay attention to it.

Most people know the big things that can ruin your credit score. Missing payments on your loans and borrowing too much money based on your income level are the typical ways people see their credit score take a hit. But there are a quite a few other truly scary things that can ruin your credit too.

Here is a list of thirteen things that you may not realize can ruin your credit score when they hit your credit report.

1. Someone Opening an Account in Your Name
Identity theft can take on many forms. It’s not always about someone getting ahold of your credit card number or Social Security number.

You should check your credit report from each of the three national credit bureaus in the United States annually. The recent revelation that employees at Wells Fargo opened credit cards and bank accounts without their customers’ knowledge to receive bonuses is a clear example of why you must continually monitor your credit report and look for new accounts that you may not have opened.

2. You Close Too Many Credit Card Accounts
There is a danger of having too many credit cards. There are the obvious risks that it will negatively impact your credit score. It will also offer the temptation to charge more on your credit cards possibly.

But there is a danger of losing track of just how many credit card accounts you have open. Too many credit cards also play havoc with your credit score as you move to a new address or new apartment. Many people find themselves missing minimum monthly payments because a credit card that they don’t use anymore is not charging an annual fee.

Credit card companies can report these missed payments to the credit bureaus and damage your credit score. There is also a danger of credit card companies sending new credit cards to an address where you no longer live.

3. You Never Check Your Credit Report
Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCR), you can receive a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian once a year. Many financial experts recommend that you request one credit report every four months, rotating which credit bureau you submit the request through.

This method will allow you to see each credit report every year and stay on top of potential issues to your credit report every four months. You can request your free annual credit reports at You will have to pay a fee to receive your actual credit score from the bureaus, though.

4. You Don’t Clean Up Mistakes on Your Credit Report
If you don’t check your credit report very often, errors can linger on your report hurting your credit score. You should report issues and errors to the credit bureaus as soon as you find them.

They have made it easier than ever to report errors. Now, many of them allow you to report an error to your credit report directly on their websites. You can go directly to the Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian websites to report errors at each of the credit bureaus.

They don’t always talk to each other, though. So, you will need to report the error to each one separately.

5. Paying Your Rent Late
You can’t build your credit history by paying your rent on time. Most landlords do not report payments to the credit bureaus. But, you can be sure that they report late payments to them, which will hurt your credit score and potentially impact your ability to rent another home or apartment in the future.

6. Not Telling Creditors You Have Changed Names
It may seem like a minor issue, especially if you changed your name after getting married. But, you should notify all of your creditors and the credit bureaus that you have changed names.

Your bank accounts, credit cards, and other loans are an integral part of your credit history. You have to keep it up-to-date to ensure that you do not have any erroneous information on your credit history and that you get all of the credit for on-time payments that you deserve too.

7. Not Continuing to Pay a Charge You’re Disputing
Many people are surprised that your credit score can be negatively affected by not paying a debt that you are disputing. You need to be careful and continue to pay at least the minimum monthly payments on debts, even the ones that you are disputing. You are still responsible for the debt until the creditor has relieved you in writing of that responsibility.

Lenders and the credit bureaus expect you to continue to pay an item that you may be challenging on your credit card statement until they resolve it. Continue to pay these debts until you have written confirmation that you have won you dispute. You will need this paperwork and documentation in case you find a disputed charge on your credit history.

8. You Forget You Have Some Accounts
Have you ever received a call from a collection agency for a long lost TV cable or telephone bill? You’re not alone. It happens more than you think, especially with the amount of moving that young Americans are doing now.

You should ensure that you have closed all of your accounts for television, cable, phone, internet, electric, water, and the like after you move. You should also keep the proof that you have properly closed those accounts for at least a year until you check with the credit bureaus that those accounts are not negatively affecting your credit score and credit history.

9. Cosigning a Loan with Someone
You should avoid cosigning a loan with someone at all costs. There is little upside to cosigning a loan, even for a loved one.

When you cosign for a loan, you are accepting responsibility that the person will pay that debt. That payment – or non-payment – will be annotated on your credit history. And, if your loved one misses a payment or stops paying the loan altogether, your credit score will take a hit.

10. Avoiding Using Credit Altogether Will Hurt Your Credit
It sounds counterintuitive. But, not using credit will hurt your credit score. And, that may be okay! It all depends on your goals and financial beliefs.

Your credit score is a calculation on your creditworthiness. And, the bureaus base it solely on how well you have used debt in the past. If you don’t have any debt or credit cards, then your credit score will be low.

A low score is fine until you need to borrow money for something like a car or a home mortgage.

11. Generating A Lot of Hard Credit Inquiries
There is a difference between a hard and soft credit pull. And, you need to know the distinction and how the two types affect your credit score.

When you shop around for quotes on loans to get the best interest rate from lenders, you’re a savvy consumer. The credit bureaus don’t penalize you for shopping around. Instead, they view several similar credit pulls in a short timespan as one. These pulls are typically only for items like cars and home mortgages.

The first pull on your credit score will be a hard credit pull, which will show up on your credit report and affect your credit score. The others are soft as long as they are taken out in a narrow time span.

If you are applying for multiple new credit cards, each of those will be a hard credit pull that will reduce your credit score. Soft credit pulls have little or no affect on your credit score.

12. Not Paying Your Library Book Fines
Not paying the fines you get from returning library books late seems like a trivial matter. And, it is. But, if you’re not careful, eventually it can impact your credit score.

I typically don’t mind overdue fines for library books. I look at it as a donation to a charity. But, eventually, libraries will be forced to turn over your non-payment of fines to a collection agency. It is the same for your parking fines.

And that’s when it will start to affect your credit score. You can bank on collection agencies reporting your non-payment of these fines to the credit bureaus. They use this as another strong-arm tactic to enforce payment. Don’t let this trivial matter be a blemish on your good record.

13. Having Only Credit Cards In Your Name
The credit bureaus care about the type of debt you have when they calculate your credit score. You need to have a mix of different types of credit and debt to have as good a score as possible.

Credit cards are only considered one type of debt. You should consider looking for a mortgage or car loan to boost your credit profile. Department store credit cards are sometimes considered differently by the credit bureaus than regular credit cards.

While this is only a small factor accounting for 10% or so of your credit score calculation, it can hurt your score if you only have credit cards in your name.

It’s often easy to understand what can ruin your credit score. The big things like missing payments on your loans or borrowing too much money based on your income level will hurt your credit score after lenders report them on your credit report. But, there are a quite a few other truly scary things that can ruin your credit too that we don’t always think of because they are often bizarre, small, or infrequent.

You’ve worked hard to build a credit score that you can be proud of based on your outstanding credit history. Guard your reputation and reliability with lenders. Don’t let errors, omissions, inaccuracies, or poor decisions ruin your credit.

What has surprised you on your credit report? Tell us in the comments below!

About the author

Hank Coleman

Hank Coleman is the publisher or the popular personal finance blog, Money Q&A. He’s also a freelance journalist specializing in retirement planning, investing, and personal finance. You can also find him on Twitter @MoneyQandA.

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