3 Common Behaviors That Put Your Good Credit at Risk
Unless you plan on paying cash for a home, car, or other significant expense, you'll need good credit to secure favorable financing. Your credit health will influence interest rates, repayment terms, and even loan approval. While many people focus on building good credit, few recognize the need to actively protect it.
Here are three behaviors that could harm the credit you've worked so hard to build.
Friends or family members with no or poor credit may ask that you cosign on a financial contract. It could help them access private student loans, housing, or another need. Before you choose to lend your name and credit to help someone else, understand the risks before signing your name on the dotted line.
When you cosign for someone else, you typically:
- Become responsible for the loan if the other person fails to repay it as agreed.
- Experience a dip in your credit score since the additional debt load affects your credit utilization ratio which is a significant metric of credit scoring.
- Increase your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) which may make it harder to secure favorable credit terms for yourself.
If you cosign for someone, ensure you have a plan for dealing with the situation if they become unable or unwilling to live up to their financial responsibility. The cosigned debt shows up on both their credit report and yours. Missed payments or collection activities will harm your score even if you agree that the other person will make the payments.
Not Monitoring Credit
Relying on the results of periodic credit applications to signal changes in your credit health could be a mistake. Don't wait for a credit denial or a credit approval with a high interest rate to alert you to possible signs of trouble. Errors in your credit report can negatively affect your credit score in the same way as accurate negative information. Inaccurate data can occur when:
- Creditors or lenders report incorrect information to a credit reporting bureau.
- Someone uses your personal information to open accounts without your permission.
- Credit reporting bureaus mistakenly apply credit activity to your file that belongs to someone else with a similar name or Social Security number.
Skipping a regular review of your credit history reports also gives crooks more time to damage your credit. The longer you ignore your reports, the more credit accounts fraudsters can open using your personal information. Check your credit at least once every 12 months by requesting free copies of your Equifax®, Experian®, and TransUnion® credit history reports from AnnualCreditReport.com. Follow the dispute policies of each bureau to have inaccurate data removed.
Failing to Update Contact Information
You put your good credit at risk when you don't notify your creditors of name, phone number, mailing address, or email address changes. As a result, you could miss critical loan updates, such as minimum payment increases or creditor address changes. Sending payments for less than the required amount or to the wrong address may take a while to discover – and hurt your credit.
Old contact information also provides another opportunity for bad actors to steal your identity and sell it on the dark web. For example, if mail is delivered to an old address, someone could open it and use the information to access your accounts, change passwords, and drain your funds.
Building good credit is only part of what it takes to achieve financial well-being. Protecting your credit is another. Fortunately, maintaining a healthy credit profile is largely within your control.