7 mistakes that trash your credit (page 2)

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Let credit cards collect dust
Consumers shouldn't necessarily close their credit accounts, but burying cards in the backyard or hoarding them in a shoebox in case of an emergency also may backfire.
Creditors are loathe to let just anyone have vast sums of potential money at their fingertips. Lately lenders have taken a use it or lose it attitude -- preferably lose it.
Consumers encounter two pitfalls if a

Let credit cards collect dust

Consumers shouldn't necessarily close their credit accounts, but burying cards in the backyard or hoarding them in a shoebox in case of an emergency also may backfire.

Creditors are loathe to let just anyone have vast sums of potential money at their fingertips. Lately lenders have taken a use it or lose it attitude -- preferably lose it.

Know Your Credit Score

There's no better time than now to get your credit score!

Get It Now: See Your 2010 Credit Score
Credit Center: Get Credit Advice

Consumers encounter two pitfalls if a creditor closes an account for nonuse: The available credit is pared down and that account no longer contributes to their credit history.

If an open account is unused for a long enough period of time, the company can stop reporting it to the credit bureaus. If the account goes unreported, that account is not contributing to your available credit, which affects your credit utilization ratio.

The FICO score isn't an award or demerit system, but a predictive score that tells lenders what you might do in the future.

"The FICO score looks at how recently the information was reported, so, if say, a credit card trade line (credit card account) hasn't been reported in X number of months, then we will not include that information for certain calculations, basically any calculations that look at dollars," says Barry Paperno, consumer operations manager for Fair Isaac and head of myFICO.com's consumer education and advocacy.

Run up high balances

If using too little credit sends up red flags to lenders, using too much credit sends up road flares and fireworks.

Like Goldilocks' preference for porridge and sleeping accommodations, lenders want to see people use credit just right -- not too much, not too little.

Gail Cunningham, spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling in Silver Spring, Md., says that the FICO score in particular favors lots of credit that is not utilized too little or too much.

"The FICO '08 score does want to see a lot of credit, but it would rather see many low balances on several cards rather than one large balance," she says.

This can be damaging even to cardholders who run up a high balance every month on one card and then pay it off each month. The FICO score does not take those payments into account.

"For instance, charging $8,000 one month, pay it off. Then charge $10,000 the next, and pay it off. The model does not recognize that -- it just reads that you are constantly carrying a large balance," Cunningham says.

Thirty-percent of the FICO score looks at the amount borrowers owe and then compares it to the amount of credit they have available. This utilization ratio gets unpleasantly skewed when you owe more than 30 percent of what is available to you -- particularly if one card is at or near its limit.

And it's not only irresponsible or desperate spenders who have damaged scores because of large balances relative to their credit limits. It can happen to anyone who carries a balance if a lender decides to chop your credit limit -- in response to market conditions, for instance.

Your Credit Score Can Cost or Save You Thousands. Know Where You Stand.
Get Your 2010 Credit Score

To prospective lenders who view your credit report, it appears that you've maxed out your credit cards rather than keeping what was previously a low balance relative to the credit limit.

Apply for new credit repeatedly

New credit doesn't mean just a shiny new credit card stretching out your wallet; it means a lower credit score -- at least in the short run. The reasons are twofold.

First, new credit accounts lower the average age of your credit history.

"Say you've had one credit card for 20 years and then five others that you just got because you went to five different stores over the holidays and they offered you rebates to sign up for a card," Opperman says.

"The credit score is going to take the one account you've had for 20 years -- 240 months -- and the five accounts that you've had for one year. That's five accounts times 12 months and it would then average all of those accounts together so it only looks like you've had credit for four years," she says.

New credit doesn't mean just a shiny new credit card stretching out your wallet; it means a lower credit score -- at least in the short run. The reasons are twofold.

First, new credit accounts lower the average age of your credit history.

"Say you've had one credit card for 20 years and then five others that you just got because you went to five different stores over the holidays and they offered you rebates to sign up for a card," Opperman says.

"The credit score is going to take the one account you've had for 20 years -- 240 months -- and the five accounts that you've had for one year. That's five accounts times 12 months and it would then average all of those accounts together so it only looks like you've had credit for four years," she says.

Also, applying for credit causes a hard inquiry on your credit report. The alternative to a hard inquiry is a soft inquiry, which is what would happen if you pulled your credit report.

Inquiries aren't extremely damaging to a credit score, but multiple hard inquiries in a short period of time can raise lenders' eyebrows, because of that whole reeking-of-desperation-thing, or possibly being up to something illegal. Most banks or credit card companies try to avoid consumers in these scenarios.

However, credit scores do take smart loan shopping into account. When shopping for products such as auto loans or mortgages, consumers are not dinged for each individual auto or home loan-related inquiry within a 45-day window.

Experts recommend doing all comparison shopping within that period of time if possible to minimize credit dings.

More from Bankrate.com

-- 10 habits that lead to debt disaster
-- How credit scores set your mortgage payment
-- Do's and don'ts of establishing credit
Read Full Story

Find a Home

Buy
Rent
Value
Powered by Zillow

People are Reading