Many consumers have likely heard about the biggest ways they can damage their credit score, such as by missing a scheduled payment or by carrying too large a balance from one month to the next. However, there are other ways consumers can inadvertently see their scores slashed that may not occur to them.
For instance, one of the biggest mistakes that consumers who are working to improve their credit rating may end up making is closing their credit card accounts, according to U.S. News and World Report. The problem with this mistake is that it seems like a great idea: After taking months or even years to reduce an existing balance to zero, closing out the card might help avoid the temptation of using it again.
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But this is actually a bad idea because one aspect of a credit score that many consumers may not know about or consider is that the average length of time they’ve held their various accounts is a major part of a credit rating. Therefore, shutting one down, especially one that’s existed for a long time, will actually hurt their rating.
Another mistake many people make that may seem to have nothing to do with their credit is not filling out the right forms when they move, the report said. For instance, this might lead them to miss their credit card bills, which may still be sent to their old address. An easy way to avoid this is to either get statements sent via email or make sure to fill out a change of address form from the post office.
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Sometimes, having a credit card with no limit can be problematic as well, because unless the card is specifically reported as being so, it might have an adverse effect on a consumer’s credit utilization ratio, the report said. For instance, racking up any kind of balance on this card will be applied to the credit utilization for their other cards, boosting it unfairly and thus lowering their score significantly.
It’s important for consumers to review the terms of any credit card they open to understand how the account is reported to the credit bureaus, so that they can better manage their finances in a way that will improve their credit standing over time.