Have you ever been surprised by a drop in credit score? When you’re working on building your credit history, a drop in your FICO® score can seem like a real setback. It's never too late to take control. Examine the factors you can change and avoid these common mistakes.
Late or missed payments
Not only can late payments add up to late fees, they can also make your credit score drop. Depending on the scoring model, payment history can account for 35% of your credit score.
Increase in credit utilization
Relying on credit more often can be a slippery slope. When the balances on your credit cards begin to creep up, it could send your credit score on a downhill slide.
Most experts recommend using 30% or less of your available credit. Keep in mind that changes to your credit limit can affect your score.
Excess credit inquiries
There are both soft and hard credit inquiries, and both can have varying impacts to your credit score.
- Hard inquiry: A hard inquiry takes place when a financial institution checks your credit while making a lending decision and requires your permission. Hard credit inquiries are usually reflected in your credit score. While one or two inquiries every once in a while might not be noticeable, multiple applications over consecutive months could potentially drop your score.
- Soft inquiry: Soft credit inquiries occur when a person or company is checking credit for reasons other than new financing, such as for a background check or for updates on an existing account. Soft inquiries should not affect your credit score.
Not monitoring your credit score or report
Keeping an eye on your credit score or report can allow you to catch problems early. If you notice your credit score going down and you know you’re not at fault, you could be the victim of identity theft. You can request a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from annualcreditreport.com.
If you suspect you’re a victim of identity theft, report it to the Federal Trade Commission, and they’ll provide you with an identity theft report and recovery plan. You can also contact the credit reporting agencies to place a fraud alert or freeze on your accounts.
Maintaining a solid credit score can help you qualify for financing with lower interest rates. Knowing what makes up your credit score and what can make it drop can take the mystery out of credit management.
Ready to get in the driver's seat?
See if you prequalify for financing.