Understanding your credit can feel like doing calculus—confusing and over your head. Because of this, many people simply neglect it altogether, pretending it doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, this can have a major and lasting impact on your finances for the rest of your life.
Did you know more than a quarter of Americans say they’ve never checked their credit report? This is troubling, because your credit report might contain a black mark against you that’s actually an error. Here are three sneaky things that could be hurting your credit, that you can fix in a matter of minutes.
1. Incorrect Information
Everything from your name to your address plays a role in ensuring your credit report is accurate. If you have a common name, for example, the wrong address could signify a case of mistaken identity, or worse—stolen identity.
Ensure that everything on your credit report is accurate, including your social security number, past jobs and places of employment.
But wait! I pay all my bills! Not so fast. We’re talking about unpaid bills you might not know about, or accounts that have been marked delinquent in error. Gyms, cable companies and the like are notorious for leaving accounts open when they should have been closed, sometimes for years! Those seemingly unpaid balances could be hurting your credit score.
If you find an open or delinquent account that should not be on your report, be sure to contact both the creditor and the credit bureau to let them know about it. Often this just takes a phone call or two and a few minutes of your time to resolve.
High credit card balances.
Even if you pay your credit card bill on time every month, its high balance could still be hurting you if it’s too close to the limit. As a rule, you should shoot for the balance on all of your cards to be no more than 20 to 25% of the credit limit. If you’re a responsible spender and don’t live beyond your means, you could call the credit card company and ask for a higher limit. This will reduce your debt-to-credit ratio, provided you don’t use it as an excuse to spend more.
Don’t let these unnecessary factors harm your credit score. The only surefire way to make sure they don’t is to check your credit report regularly!