Top 10 Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Credit Score

Your credit score plays a crucial role in your financial life. It’s not just about getting loans; it can affect everything from interest rates to job opportunities. Understanding what can harm your credit score is essential for maintaining good financial health. Here are ten common mistakes that could ruin your credit score and tips on how to avoid them.

Late Payments

Photo by

Late payments can significantly damage your credit score. Your payment history is a key factor in calculating your credit score. Even a single late payment can cause a noticeable drop in your score. Lenders report late payments to credit bureaus if they’re more than 30 days late, and these can stay on your credit report for up to seven years.

Prevention Tips:

  • Set up automatic payments to avoid missing due dates.
  • Create reminders for upcoming bills.
  • Contact your lender if you anticipate payment difficulties—they may offer solutions like payment plans.

Recovery Steps:

  • Make overdue payments as soon as possible.
  • Check your credit report to ensure accurate reporting.
  • Consider talking to a credit counselor if you struggle with debt management.

High Credit Utilization

Photo by Pixabay

Credit utilization refers to the percentage of your available credit you’re using. High credit utilization can signal financial stress to lenders, significantly impacting your credit score. It’s recommended to keep your utilization rate below 30%.

Management Tips:

  • Pay down balances regularly.
  • Request higher credit limits but use the extra credit sparingly.
  • Spread out charges across multiple cards.

Recovery Steps:

  • Focus on reducing debt quickly.
  • Once balances are lowered, your credit score can improve as the new, lower balances are reported.

Defaulting on Loans

Image by Raten-Kauf

Defaulting on a loan means failing to make required payments. This severely impacts your credit score and can lead to legal actions such as wage garnishment or asset seizure. Defaults stay on your credit report for up to seven years.

Prevention Tips:

  • Communicate with your lender if you anticipate missing a payment.
  • Create a budget to prioritize debt payments.
  • Seek advice from a credit counselor.

Recovery Steps:

  • Address the debt immediately—pay off or negotiate a settlement.
  • Rebuild credit with small, manageable lines of credit.
  • Monitor your credit report to ensure the default is removed after seven years.


Image by Tumisu

Bankruptcy provides relief for those who can’t repay their debts but comes with severe credit consequences. A bankruptcy can stay on your credit report for up to 10 years and drastically lower your credit score.

Post-Bankruptcy Tips:

  • Develop a budget to avoid future debt.
  • Rebuild credit slowly with secured credit cards or small loans.
  • Monitor your credit report for improvements.

Recovery Steps:

  • Stay disciplined with spending and borrowing.
  • Consider a credit-builder loan to show responsible credit use.
  • Seek financial counseling for long-term planning.


Photo by Anna Shvets

A charge-off occurs when a creditor gives up on collecting a debt after prolonged non-payment. This does not mean the debt is forgiven and can significantly damage your credit score.

Management Tips:

  • Pay off or settle charged-off debts.
  • Keep other accounts in good standing.
  • Regularly review your credit report for errors.

Recovery Steps:

  • Develop a repayment plan for outstanding debts.
  • Consider a secured credit card to rebuild credit.
  • Stay vigilant about your credit usage.


Photo by Flickr

Foreclosure happens when a lender takes control of a property due to missed mortgage payments. It can drastically lower your credit score and remains on your credit report for seven years.

Post-Foreclosure Tips:

  • Review your credit report for accuracy.
  • Focus on rebuilding credit with on-time payments.
  • Consider secured credit cards or credit-builder loans.

Recovery Steps:

  • Develop a financial plan to manage future credit.
  • Monitor your credit score and report progress.
  • Seek financial advice if necessary.

Debt Collections

Image by Shameer Pk

Debt collections occur when a creditor turns over an unpaid debt to a collection agency. This can significantly drag down your credit score.

Handling Debt Collections:

  • Verify the debt for legitimacy.
  • Negotiate with the collector for a payment plan or settlement.
  • Pay off the debt to improve your credit score over time.

Recovery Steps:

  • Monitor your credit report regularly.
  • Dispute any inaccuracies.
  • Consider professional financial advice.

Frequent Credit Applications

Image by Tammy Duggan-Herd

Frequent credit applications can lead to multiple hard inquiries on your credit report, which can lower your score.

Best Practices:

  • Space out your credit applications.
  • Rate-shop wisely for loans to minimize the impact.
  • Regularly check your credit report.

Recovery Steps:

  • Pause new credit applications to let your score recover.
  • Make timely payments on existing debts.
  • Wait for inquiries to age.

Closing Credit Accounts

Image by

Closing credit accounts can affect your credit utilization ratio and the length of your credit history, both of which can impact your credit score.

Considerations Before Closing:

  • Evaluate the impact on your credit utilization ratio.
  • Assess the age of the account.
  • Consider the mix of credit you have.

Recovery Steps:

  • Monitor your credit score after closing accounts.
  • Keep active accounts in good standing.
  • Consider opening a new account to improve your credit mix.

Errors on Credit Reports

Photo by PhotoMIX Company

Errors on credit reports can range from minor inaccuracies to major discrepancies. Regularly reviewing your credit reports is essential to catch and correct errors.

How to Fix Errors:

  • Obtain and review your credit reports.
  • Dispute any errors with the credit bureau and information furnisher.
  • Provide supporting documentation for your dispute.

Recovery Steps:

  • Follow up on disputes to ensure corrections are made.
  • Keep records of your disputes.
  • Stay vigilant and check your credit reports regularly.

Maintaining a healthy credit score requires vigilance and proactive management of your financial habits. By understanding and avoiding these common pitfalls, you can protect your credit score and enjoy the benefits of financial stability. Regularly monitor your credit report, manage your debts responsibly, and seek professional advice if needed to ensure your credit remains in good standing.