5 Common Credit Mistakes

Woman using credit card to shop online

Staying alert and prepared can help you avoid some of the most-damaging credit mistakes. And if you do blunder despite your best efforts, knowing how to clean up after yourself can shorten the time it takes your credit to recover.

1. Mixing personal relationships and finances.

For example, co-signing an auto loan or mortgage for a friend in need may seem like a nice thing to do. But will the relationship survive if your friend defaults on the loan and your credit score suffers because of it? Many experts say that a marriage is the only point in life in which a personal relationship and financial one should converge.

2. Not paying bills on time or at all.

This is pretty much the worst credit mistake you can make. Your payment history is a major factor in determining your credit score. Missed or late payments show up on your credit report and can linger there for years, dragging down your score - and your ability to secure future credit at good terms.

3. Over-shopping for credit.

Of course it makes sense to look for the best deal whenever you're spending money. But over-shopping for credit by making a large number of applications in search of the best terms can impact your credit score. Too many inquiries on your credit report can negatively affect your score.

4. Abusing your credit cards.

Running up the balance on your credit cards not only causes you to pay a lot of interest, it affects your credit utilization ratio. Keep in mind your standing balance, compared to your maximum limit. It is a key factor in determining your credit score.

5. Checking your credit only once a year.

You probably know you're entitled to a free peek at your credit report from all three major bureaus once a year. But checking your credit infrequently can be a costly mistake. Monitoring your credit can help you catch errors or evidence of identity theft, assess what steps you may need to take to improve your credit score, and give you a better idea of how likely you are to get new credit with good terms. Yes, you'll have to pay to monitor your credit, but that expense may seem minor when compared to the potential costs of this common mistake.

While some of life's biggest lessons are the ones you learn the hard way, credit mistakes have consequences such as getting hit with high fees or reducing resources, due to a lower score. Ultimately, this makes it difficult for you to secure financing when you really need it.To avoid credit mistakes, never allow yourself to be pressured into making a big financial decision before you have the chance to learn all the implications. Whether it's accepting dealer financing for your new car or co-signing a college loan for a loved one, every decision deserves careful consideration. Monitor your credit regularly, use credit wisely and take steps to protect your score.