Sneaky Things That Can Ruin Your Credit Score

Don't let these little-known mistakes damage your credit.

No matter if you’re renting in San Jose, CA, or Austin, TX—your credit score will matter. There’s no getting around the fact that landlords and apartment property managers can put a lot of weight on that one number when determining whether you can handle making your monthly rent.

But you may not know why your credit score is so dismal, especially when you’re trying to play it safe and maintain credit worthiness by paying your bills on time and in full. Aside from forgetting to pay bills, what can ruin your credit? If you’re on top of payments, why is your score still lacking?

If you’ve checked your credit score only to find yourself shocked and dismayed by the result, your score may be suffering from one of these sneaky things that can ruin it.

5 Credit Score Pitfalls to Avoid

1. Generating too many inquiries

Shopping around before choosing an institution for a car loan can help you find the best rate—and that can translate into thousands of dollars in savings (if not more!) over your loan’s lifetime. But while you may be saving, it’s best to use moderation. Here’s why.

When you receive a quote on interest rates, lenders pull a hard inquiry that shows up on your credit report. If you request these inquiries over a period longer than 14 days, each quote shows up individually. When you’re comparison shopping for a loan, gather your quotes in a short period (ideally within two weeks). That way, your credit will take less of a hit.

2. The little things can add up

Unpaid bills from a variety of sources can cause your credit score to plummet if they’re unresolved. Think that library late fee or medical invoice from 15 years ago doesn’t matter anymore? It could, if the library system turns that account over to collections or marks it as “delinquent.”

In most cases, this is an easy fix and just a matter of settling the outstanding payment. To check for these issues, pull a credit report—you can get one for free each year from the three credit-reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax).

3. Incorrect information

Let’s get real: You’ll probably want to pull your credit report for more than to see if you owe your librarian a few bucks. Errors occur and businesses make mistakes. If your credit report is harboring incorrect information about your financial records, this could drag down your credit score. If your report has an error, call the credit bureau that issued the report and file a claim. Correcting errors can be long and arduous, but it’s worth the effort.