Your credit scores can have a huge impact on your finances, as they are a major determining factor for getting approved for loans or new lines of credit. That’s reason number one as to why you should know where your credit stands. (If you don’t you can find out now — Credit.com offers two free credit scores, which are updated every 14 days.) Beyond simply getting approved, keeping your scores as high as possible can help ensure that when you go to get a mortgage for your dream home (or any kind of loan), you’ll see good terms and conditions paired with that loan.
Everyone knows that your credit score will take a hit if you’re late paying your credit cards or skip mortgage payments. However, there are some things that could be dinging your scores that may not seem like they should matter — but they do.
Let’s take a look at these five easy-to-forget things that can hurt your credit.
1. Library Fines
While holding onto that copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird” for a few extra weeks may not have seemed like a big deal at the time, it came at a cost. And if you opted to ignore that fee, you may be in for a surprise — not paying your library fine could wind up hurting your credit scores. Libraries can send overdue fines to collections, and then you’re in trouble. The New York Public Library’s policy on fines states: “The Library is obligated to attempt the recovery of all outstanding debt and/or library materials. To that end, borrowers with fines or fees of $50 or more are subject to contact from a collection agency. A non-negotiable collection fee will be applied to the account of any borrower who reaches this threshold.”
Moral of this story: Turn those books in on time! Or at least be sure you pay your fines.
2. Parking Tickets
Like library fines, cities and towns are more frequently turning unpaid parking tickets over to collection agencies, and that can have a huge impact on your credit score. In Houston, Texas, not paying your parking tickets on time can earn you a delinquent fee after 30 days, and you’ll be hit by a $30 fee and wind up in collections after 90 days.
3. Setting Up Your Cable
When you move to a new place and want to get cable, the company may run what’s called a hard inquiry on your credit. Hard inquiries are made when you’re actively seeking credit, whether it’s for a student loan or a mortgage. Sometimes this can extend to when you get HBO, as it’s a way for a company to see if you’re truly able to take on a new financial obligation. Remember: Inquiries don’t have an extremely long-lasting impact on your scores. In fact, according to credit bureau Experian, inquiries “have minimal impact on credit scores, and that impact is even less after three to six months.”
4. Renting a Car
As with setting up your cable, some car rental companies will do a hard inquiry on your credit if you’re renting with your debit card, and that could hurt your credit score. It’s also important to make sure you pay all of your fees and fines — whether from accident damage, returning the car without enough gas, or extra fees that weren’t covered by your insurance company (if they’re covering your rental) — so the outstanding balance doesn’t land your account in collections.
5. Your Gym Membership
From automatic payments that get declined when your credit card information changes (like if you have to close an account that’s been hacked) to cancelled contracts that wind up in collections, your gym membership could be hurting your credit scores. Be sure to pay attention to the conditions in your contract concerning late payments, fees for cancellation, or what happens when you put your membership on hold. Otherwise, it won’t just be your body that needs to get in shape.
Already Forgotten One of These Things?
Hey, it happens. We understand. If you let a gym membership, overdue library book, or something else cause your account to end up in collections, all is not lost. The first step is to get the debt paid off. (Note: If you’re being hounded by debt collectors, it’s important to make sure they’re doing everything by the book. You can read this guide, which will help you understand your debt collection rights.)
Remember: Simply paying off your credit account won’t remedy your credit immediately. Having an account in collections will damage your credit, as can late payments, but take comfort in knowing that they have less impact as they get older. That said, you’ll want to take a look at your credit and see how it was affected. Make sure you review your credit reports for any problems you may need to dispute (you can find out how to dispute a problem on your credit report here) or anything else you may want to do to fix your credit.