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What affects your credit score?: Things That Can Hurt Your Credit Score

What affects your credit score?: Things That Can Hurt Your Credit Score

Credit Card Related Issues

Credit cards are powerful financial tools, but if mismanaged, they can significantly impact your credit score. Here’s a look at common credit card issues that could potentially hurt your financial reputation.

Credit Utilization Ratio

The credit utilization ratio—how much of your total credit limit you're using—is a critical factor in credit scoring. Ideally, keep this ratio under 30% to maintain a good credit score. High utilization suggests to creditors that you might be over-reliant on credit, which can lower your score. Regularly monitor your credit balances and try to pay down high balances before the billing cycle closes.

Key Takeaway: Maintaining a low credit utilization ratio demonstrates to lenders that you manage credit responsibly, positively impacting your credit score. Contrastingly, having high credit utilization could do the opposite and hurt your credit score. 

High Balances on Your Credit Cards

Carrying high balances relative to your credit limits on one or more cards can be seen as a red flag by credit bureaus. This not only affects your credit utilization ratio but also indicates potential financial stress or mismanagement. Aim to pay off high balances promptly and avoid spending near your credit limit on any card.

Key Takeaway: Keeping your credit card balances low not only helps in reducing interest charges but also boosts your credit score by showing fiscal responsibility. Keeping balances low can also help you improve your credit score. 

Using the Wrong Credit Card

Not all credit cards are suited to everyone. Using the wrong card—for instance, a high-reward card with fees when you rarely meet the usage requirements—can cost you more than the benefits received. Also, applying for several cards in a short period can lower your credit score due to hard inquiries from credit bureaus. Choose a credit card that matches your spending habits and financial goals.

Key Takeaway: Select credit cards (even if you have multiple credit cards) that align with your financial behavior to maximize benefits and minimize costs, thereby protecting your credit score. Being careful with your line of credit and ensuring you don't need to have higher credit limit is important. 

Credit Report Concerns

Understanding your credit report is essential to managing your financial health effectively. Here, we'll explore common issues that can negatively impact your credit score and provide actionable insights to avoid them.

Checking Your Credit Report

Regularly checking your credit report is crucial to ensure accuracy and identify any discrepancies that might affect your credit score. An error on your report, like a wrongly reported late payment, can significantly lower your score. By law, you’re entitled to a free credit report annually from each of the major bureaus in India—CIBIL, Equifax, Experian, and CRIF High Mark. Review your report carefully and dispute any errors promptly.

Key Takeaway: Frequent monitoring of your credit report helps you catch and rectify errors quickly, maintaining a healthy credit score.

Credit Inquiries Impact

Every time you apply for a new credit line, the lender conducts a "hard inquiry" which can slightly lower your credit score. If multiple inquiries are made within a short period, it can give lenders the impression that you are in financial distress, potentially leading to further reductions in your score. To minimize the impact, limit new credit applications to when absolutely necessary and try to do rate shopping within a short window if you must apply for multiple loans or credit cards.

Key Takeaway: Minimizing hard inquiries can preserve your credit score and reflect responsible credit management.

Old or Inactive Credit Cards

Contrary to what many might think, closing old or inactive credit cards can actually harm your credit score. These cards contribute positively by extending your credit history and increasing your total available credit, both of which are beneficial for your credit score. Instead of closing these accounts, consider using these cards occasionally for small purchases to keep them active, ensuring they continue to contribute positively to your credit length and utilization ratio.

Key Takeaway: Keeping old credit cards open and occasionally active can bolster your credit score by preserving your credit history length and utilization ratio.

Fun Fact

Did you know? The length of your credit history can contribute up to 15% of your FICO score. This is why older credit accounts are valuable, even if you don't use them frequently.

Credit Score Factors

Understanding the intricacies of what affects your credit score is vital to maintain and improve your financial standing. Here, we’ll explore how different factors can either bolster or bruise your score.

Effects of Credit Inquiries

When you apply for new credit, lenders perform a hard inquiry to check your creditworthiness, which can temporarily lower your credit score. If you're shopping for a car loan or a mortgage, consolidate your inquiries within a 14-45 day period to minimize the impact, as most credit scoring models treat them as a single inquiry.

Key Takeaway: Limit the number of hard inquiries to essential applications only, as excessive inquiries can signal financial distress and lower your credit score.

Your Credit Mix

The types of credit you hold — whether they're credit cards, mortgages, car loans, or personal loans — play a crucial role in determining your credit score. A diverse credit mix can enhance your credit profile because it shows you can handle different types of credit responsibly. However, it’s not wise to open different accounts merely to improve the mix; rather, it should naturally evolve with your financial needs.

Key Takeaway: Maintain a balanced mix of revolving and installment credits to positively influence your credit score.

Impact of Credit Limits

Higher credit limits on your credit cards can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, they reduce your overall credit utilization ratio—a key factor in credit scoring—when balances are kept low. On the other hand, having access to too much credit might tempt you to spend more, potentially leading to higher balances and hurting your credit score. Always use your credit responsibly, regardless of your limits.

Key Takeaway: Manage your spending habits and keep your balances low, ideally under 30% of your total credit limits to boost your credit score.

Managing Credit Responsibly

Responsible credit management is crucial for maintaining financial stability and achieving your long-term goals. This section explores how disciplined credit use can protect and enhance your credit score.

Maintaining Good Credit Score

Maintaining a good credit score is like nurturing a garden; it requires attention, care, and regular monitoring. Ensure timely payments, keep balances low, and manage credit accounts wisely. A good score reflects well on your financial health, opening doors to lower interest rates and favorable loan terms.

Key Takeaway: Regularly check your credit report for inaccuracies, make payments on time, and manage credit balances to maintain a healthy credit score.

Avoiding Credit Card Debt

Credit card debt can quickly spiral out of control due to high interest rates. To avoid this, use credit cards strategically; charge only what you can afford to pay off each month and utilize less than 30% of your available credit limit. This not only keeps debt manageable but also positively impacts your credit score by showing lenders your responsible usage.

Key Takeaway: Keep credit card utilization low and pay off balances each month to avoid interest charges and maintain a good credit score.

Using Credit Wisely

Using credit wisely involves understanding the terms of your credit accounts, choosing the right credit products for your needs, and avoiding the temptation to overspend. Educate yourself about different types of credit and their uses. For instance, using a rewards credit card for everyday purchases can be beneficial if paid in full monthly, whereas using credit for unplanned expenses can lead to debt.

Key Takeaway: Select credit products that match your financial goals and budget, and use them to your advantage without compromising your financial health.


Q: How often should I check my credit report?

A: It's advisable to check your credit report at least once a year to ensure there are no errors or unrecognized activities that could affect your score.

Q: What is considered a good credit utilization ratio?

A: A good credit utilization ratio is 30% or less of your total available credit, as this is viewed favorably by credit scoring models.

Q: How can I improve my credit score if it’s low?

A: Start by clearing any outstanding debts, reducing your credit utilization ratio, and ensuring all future payments are on time. Additionally, avoid opening new credit lines too frequently.

TL;DR: Managing credit responsibly involves maintaining a good credit score, avoiding excessive debt, and using credit wisely. Adopt these practices to safeguard your financial future and keep your credit score high.

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