Borrowing

3 mistakes you may not realize could hurt your credit

Ivana Pino@ivana_pino
Twenty/20

You may know that making late payments or running up high balances on multiple credit cards can lead to bad credit. But there are several less well-known mistakes you can make that can have a real impact, too.

In order to build and maintain good credit, you have to be proactive. Here's how to fix three surprising issues that may be dragging down your score.

1. Not building credit early

One in three Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 don't have a credit card, according to a report from Creditcards.com. That's a mistake, says Ted Rossman, an analyst at Bankrate.

Your credit history—which tells a potential lender the age of your oldest accounts and how you've managed those accounts over time—factors into your credit score. If you've only had a credit card for a short time, your limited credit history can work against you.

If you're just starting out and you don't yet have a credit card, you should consider opening a low-fee card with a high approval rate for people with shorter credit histories. Card comparison sites like CreditCards.com or WalletHub.com have tools to help you find contenders.

2. Not having enough credit cards

Your credit utilization rate, or how much credit you're using compared to how much credit is available to you, is the second most important factor when determining your credit score. That's why having a few credit cards works in your favor.

"It can actually help to have more cards open, because you have more credit available to you [and] you have a longer history—as long as you're not running up big balances," says Rossman.

On average, people have two to three credit cards, according to Creditkarma.com. Rossman says most people don't need any more than that.

It can actually help to have more cards open, because you have more credit available to you, you have a longer history, as long as you're not running up big balances on this card.
Ted Rossman
Bankrate Analyst

3. Ignoring errors on your credit report

Your credit score is based on information in your credit report, and those aren't always accurate: One in four U.S. adults has an error on their credit report that could affect their score, according to a 2013 study conducted by the Federal Trade Commission.

Even a small difference in your score could prevent you from getting the best rate on a mortgage, credit card, or other loan—and cost you thousands of dollars. That's why it pays to check your credit report for accuracy at least once a year, says Rossman.

"Check your credit report: You can get it for free at Annualcreditreport.com, " says Rossman. "You can get it once a year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies."

The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives consumers the right to report and dispute any credit report error, but it can take months to go through the process and see the results in your score. That's why it's important to look at your reports and clear up any errors well before you make any big moves that hinge on your score, like applying for a loan or renting an apartment.

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