Protect Your Credit Score – Avoid These Common Errors

Two of the most common credit mistakes appear at first to be smart moves:

• Closing Credit Card accounts you aren’t using
• Avoiding having any credit cards at all

It doesn’t seem sensible, but it’s true. In order to have a high score, you need to have plenty of credit available – credit that you aren’t using!

The Fair Isaac Corporation’s credit scoring system says that having low credit balances compared to the amount of credit you could be using makes you a good credit risk. This is based on percentages, so if you had $20,000 available and only used $5,000 it would show that you used only 25% of your available credit – but if you closed some accounts and now had only $10,000 available, it would show that you are using 50% of your available credit – and thus lower your FICO score.

Similarly, having no credit cards not only means that you have no ready credit available, but offers no verifiable record of your payment history. Never mind that you’re so careful with money that you either pay cash or go without. That kind of responsibility doesn’t count in the world of credit scoring.

Creditors want to know that you pay your bills on time, so having a couple of credit cards that are in good standing shows your financial reliability.

High Credit Card Balances are the next mistake. According to Fair Isaac, your balance should never be more than 30% of the credit limit on any one card. So avoid the temptation to move all your high interest balances over to a low interest credit card – unless you can do it and still stay under the 30% mark on the low interest card.

Perhaps the most dangerous mistake of all is Co-signing for loans. You do it to help a friend or family member, but that act of kindness can come back to bite you – hard. Not only do you add debt to your credit report, the fact that the person couldn’t get credit without a co-signor means that there’s a good possibility that they aren’t responsible with money – and that before long, late payments will begin to show up on your credit report.

Late payments will drop your score a full 100 points – and that could mean the difference between you being able to qualify for a loan or not. At the very least, it will mean that when you need personal credit, you’ll pay higher interest rates.

Unless you’re co-signing for a child who is living with you and you can not only monitor bill paying, but pay the account yourself if your child doesn’t – just don’t do it. Letting a friend or relative ruin your credit is not a good way to maintain a good relationship.

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Disclaimer: This information has been compiled and provided by as an informational service to the public. While our goal is to provide information that will help consumers to manage their credit and debt, this information should not be considered legal advice. Such advice must be specific to the various circumstances of each person's situation, and the general information provided on these pages should not be used as a substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.